Moving to England! Help us make our UK renting experience go as smoothly as possible.
After hearing some horror stories about letting agents, I've looked at online rankings and gotten some advice from friends. I feel forewarned, but not exactly prepared. What else can/should we do for the renting experience to go off without a hitch, from the actual finding of a place, to problem-free living and leaving with all our deposit? I'm sure there are plenty of things we would know if we were local, that are completely escaping us now!
My partner and I (currently living in the US and Sweden respectively) are moving to Cambridge in October. She has a postdoc lined up with the university. We've used Rightmove
and the Cambridge University Accommodation site to narrow down our price range and the areas where we would like to live, and have a shortlist of preferred flats and houses. We're both flying over next week for a couple of days to try and secure a contract, so we have someplace to live once her job starts up. She can't stay, since she has visa paperwork to do in the US, whereas I could go back to sign contracts and pay deposits fairly easily. Under UK law, we count as civil partners.
What I would like input on is the actual process of picking a good place and securing such a contract with the least amount of hassle.
Some examples of the questions I don't have any answers for yet: How far in advance should we contact letting agents when we want a viewing? Is it possible to sign a contract the same day you view a property? What should we always consider, apart from the rent, council tax and energy costs? In places with just a washer, where do you dry your clothes? (In Japan, the answer would be "on the balcony", but those seem much rarer in the UK!) Oh, and - what's the difference between central gas heating and gas rad heating...? Is one much better than the other?
Please regale me with your horror stories and share your good advice, so we can avoid ending making ourselves miserable and instead get the best new (rental) home we can!