Renting A Property In London As An Expat

The ins and outs of renting a property in London: the documents you need, your rights as a tenant and tips on finding a good rental property.

Renting a property in London is not easy, especially if you are a new arrival in the country – you don’t know the areas, aren’t sure about the procedure, and most of all, you are worried about getting it wrong!

This guide will give you some tips to keep in mind when looking for property to rent in London.

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How expensive is it to rent in London?

It is expensive! London is one of the most expensive cities in Europe when it comes to renting.

Rent will be your main expense, no doubt about it. On average, Londoners spend around 50% of their income on rent.

What documents do I need to rent a property in London?

Legally speaking, a passport and visa are all that you’ll need for a landlord or agency to check your immigration status.

Depending on the kind of visa you hold, they may also ask for other documents — so having a work visa means presenting an employment contract as well.

Financially, you’ll have to prove that you can afford to pay the rent for the property over the period stipulated in the contract. Usually, it means that your monthly income has to be at least 2.5 times more than the monthly rent.

Other employment and banking documents you should prepare are previous payrolls and banking transactions.

If you’ve only recently opened a British bank account, you can show transactions from your foreign account.

A letter of reference from your employer in the UK, which contains the terms of your employment, or a letter from your previous landlord or employer will be helpful as well.

Do I need a job to rent a property in London?

You actually can rent in London without a job, as long as you can show you can afford it. After all, landlords want the assurance that their tenants can pay their dues on time.

Because of this, you may need to show more letters of reference and bank statements as proof of your financial means.

Another possibility is that a landlord might demand a bulk downpayment of up to six months’ worth of rent in advance. In yet other cases, they may demand a guarantor.

How is rent paid?

Paying rent is quite straightforward. This is generally done at the beginning of the month, but monthly collection can also be set on the date your contract was signed.

In terms of how you pay it, it’s typically done through a bank transfer if you’re directly renting from a landlord. But if you’re renting through an agent, there are more options — such as online payments or credit card payments.

The agency might also ask that you have a standing order with the bank, which is when you let the bank pay them a set amount regularly. This is to ensure an automatic payment every month.

How to protect yourself as a tenant

When you enter a legal contract, you’re agreeing to terms and conditions as to how you use and maintain the property, such as paying rent and bills on time and reporting any repairs needed.

However, you also get rights as a tenant that your landlord or agency must respect. It’s important that you know these rights since the violation of any of them is a legal offense.

Things you need to know:

  • The maximum deposit your landlord or agency can ask for five weeks’ worth of rent if your annual rent is less than £50,000 or 6 weeks if over £50,000
  • Some of your landlord’s legal obligations include carrying out repairs and maintenance. Tenants should not be paying out-of-pocket for these works.
  • If you share the house with other renters (renting a room in the house, for example), your landlord must hold an HMO license (a house in multiple occupations). 
  • If you are signing a long-term contract (over three months), your landlord or agency cannot charge you any administration fee, guarantor check fee, reference check fee, credit check fee, etc.
  • Your landlord must ensure your home meets electrical and gas safety standards and give you copies of electrical and gas safety check reports.
  • Your home energy efficiency rating should be E or higher. Landlords cannot rent the property with an F or G energy rating.

You should also be on the lookout for other possible issues, such as harassment and illegal evictions.

Some actions that can be interpreted as harassment are cutting off electricity and repeatedly entering your property without giving proper notice or asking for your permission.

Meanwhile, examples of illegal eviction include changing locks and not being given the required degree of notice to leave the property (which is two months).

If you find that your rights aren’t being respected, you should contact tenants’ rights groups or a lawyer in extreme cases.

How to find a good rental in London

The London rental market can be competitive because of the high demand.

This is especially the case during the summer months since more people are looking to rent at this time.

There are a few reasons for this — fresh graduates relocating for new jobs, students looking for a place to move into before the start of the semester or internship, and families and corporations tend to relocate during the summer months.

So if you’re planning to move during the summer, you should start looking early.

If your schedule is more open, the autumn and winter months should be key considerations.

Autumn months, especially, give you a lot less competition than in summer months — so much so that you can try making an offer below the asking price and securing a lease at that rate.

London has a variety of places you can look for property in.

It’s worth researching different areas and not discarding them only because they are too far from the center of London. Central locations are the priciest ones, while the outlying boroughs, particularly those located to the east of the city center, can be very affordable.

London rental market is very competitive. Make sure you have all the necessary documents before you start searching actively so that when you find something you like, you can make a move quickly and beat your competition.

Renting in London – summary

Starting to rent in London as an expat can be hard work. After all, you’ll need to find a property that you can afford in a location that you like. You also have to produce documents that prove you have the money to pay for it. But once you get settled, you can focus on getting used to your surroundings and enjoying the city.

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Reese Jones
Naomi Keller

Naomi Keller is a freelance writer and photographer based in Ohio, the USA. She loves travelling and has visited and stayed in many different countries around the world including the UK. Naomi aims to be a digital nomad someday. In her spare time, she likes going on walks and helping her mom with the garden.

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