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Please help with the details of renting a flat in London.
June 7, 2006 4:39 PM   Subscribe

Please help with the details of renting a flat in London.

I am moving to London in September and in a couple of weeks time will be in London and want to find and rent my flat then. I have lived in London previously for a period of two years so know the area I want to live in and what the prices are (so I won't die of a heart attack) but I have never actually rented a flat myself. Please help me with all the necessary info/details beforehand so in a period of one week I can rent something (which will make my life so much easier in September.) If I find something that is available in July or August - I don't mind paying the extra rent when I'm not there, I'm really looking for ease here.

So - some questions: I am Canadian/British citizen but have a UK bank account, so I assume writing cheques on that will be fine. But how much is usually asked for upfront?
Is there such a thing as a damage deposit in UK tenancy laws?
What should I know about leases?
What should I ask about what is included (heat, electricity etc.)?
What should I know about council taxes?
What should I know about references and what is my best bet here?
How long is it generally before my submitted application will be accepted?
I'm a student, but with good references and lots of funding - am I going to have a problem with people not wanting to rent to me?

What else am I not considering or need to know in order to rent quickly? I'm currently browsing Loot, Gumtree, Primelocation, Find a Property - any other good sites? Should I bother with a letting agency?

Huge thanks in advance.
posted by meerkatty to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
You'll get ten different answers from ten different people, but here's my take.

Deposits are often 1 to 2 months' rent. On top of this you will pay a month in advance. On my house it was 1.5 months' rent as a deposit. You'll get this back when you leave (no interest, sadly) minus any amounts for damage caused/repairs required.

Council tax is not included in most rents and you will be required to pay it. This varies from between £700 per year to about £2000 per year, and goes by bands from A to H (I think?), A being cheapest. This will certainly add a nice chunk to your rent!

You should definitely ask about what's included although the default for your own place (not sharing) is that nothing is included. If you're in the same building as the landlord, it's likely you'll get something included.. or if you share a bathroom with other properties, for example. Some cramped places will do this.

It can take a while getting references checked. Some people will take ages, some will not be so bothered. It took me and my girlfriend over three weeks to get this done though and we lost the property we wanted in that time (but got a better one!).. start that process quickly.

Another place to try looking is RightMove.co.uk. I think a letting agency can be good because they're a better ass to kick if things go wrong, whereas landlords can disappear to Monaco for months at a time.
posted by wackybrit at 5:01 PM on June 7, 2006


If you're a student and you live in a flat with only other students you're all exempt from council tax.
posted by cillit bang at 5:08 PM on June 7, 2006


September is the worst time to look for a flat. I'd suggest going at least 2 weeks before you need to, MINIMUM, to do your flat search.

You can look for a place with an agent or without one. There was a previous metafilter question on this - about a guy's sister looking for a place. Read up there, I suggest.

But to your questions:


I am Canadian/British citizen but have a UK bank account, so I assume writing cheques on that will be fine. But how much is usually asked for upfront?

Usually first month's rent and a security deposit. I usually write "e-cheques" for rent.

Is there such a thing as a damage deposit in UK tenancy laws?

Yes. Usually one month's rent.

What should I know about leases?

Check out this link.

What should I ask about what is included (heat, electricity etc.)?

If you're looking at renting from a private person, maybe some utilities will be included, but it isn't likely. My utlities were gas, electric, water, internet, phone. I went to my borough's governmental site to learn what my options were for each of these.

What should I know about council taxes?

They're expensive! (Again, please refer to the previous post by the Spanish guy and his sister) But if you are a student and you live with entirely students, you don't have to pay them. You send the council varification from your university.

What should I know about references and what is my best bet here?

My landlord wanted UK references, which I didn't have. I gave the phone/addresses of my last 2 US landlords. They never called though. Oh, I also showed them my student loan statement that I had a ton of moola in the bank.

How long is it generally before my submitted application will be accepted?

Application?

I'm a student, but with good references and lots of funding - am I going to have a problem with people not wanting to rent to me?

No way!

What else am I not considering or need to know in order to rent quickly? I'm currently browsing Loot, Gumtree, Primelocation, Find a Property - any other good sites?

Craig's List too.

Your university may have some sort of site. Please refer to the University of London's site that I listed above. People really won't start seriously looking until August, likely.

Should I bother with a letting agency?

I did, but I found most of them to be assholes.

Personally I think that you should look for a place that is on a bus line to your university. If you let us know which one it is, I can help you figure out boroughs to look at. I lived in Islington until this week and I loved it! It was fun, exciting, close to central London, and on bus lines on my way to school (Uni. of London SOAS).

My e-mail is in the profile if you want to ask more.

Similar question from a few weeks ago.

posted by k8t at 9:13 PM on June 7, 2006


Oh, and rents are often cited in pounds per week.

I paid 140 pounds a week for a NICE HOUSE in zone one with my own bedroom and a shared bathroom. Most of my friends found this a bit expensive. Most of my pals (students) were paying 100-120 pounds/week.

Again, if you want to send me a private e-mail with your details, I'd be happy to e-mail it around to my classmates.
posted by k8t at 9:14 PM on June 7, 2006


And another point. If you went to undergrad in Canada you may be accustomed to a certain level of service and responsiveness from your university. UK universities are NOT well organised or well managed, by and large, compared to North American universities.

So many things are totally disorganised -- for example, I was a student and a part time employee. The university couldn't seem to understand this and I had so many different cards for different things.

I only mention this because you shouldn't expect your university to pop out a "she doesn't have to pay council tax" letter in a day. My housemates and I had to wait months.
posted by k8t at 9:24 PM on June 7, 2006


Check out MoveFlat, which has loads of nice people on it and is free to list and browse. Avoid Loot, there are some really nasty places on there. Don't live further out than Zone 2/3 or further away from a train/tube stop than 10 minutes walk (doesn't seem like much, but after a year of living in a house that was up a massive hill and fifteen minutes walk to a train station, I was heartily sick of the 30-40 minutes added to my commute every day).
posted by Happy Dave at 1:38 AM on June 8, 2006


^ actually that's not a totally reliable rule of thumb. I live in Zone 5 and it only takes me 25 minutes to get bang into the centre of London on a fast rail link.

I rent with a small independent local lettings agency. If you can find one in your chosen area that's been there for forty years they'll probably be ok. Anything agency that's a member of a chain with massive glass windows YOU MUST AVOID. (This holds true for pubs as well as letting agencies.)

You say you know where you want to live; I'd recommend going to that area and picking up the local paper. This is a useful list of locations and comparative prices, although it's a bit out of date and there's some completely inaccurate descriptions (eg. Park Royal is so far wrong it's almost right again)
posted by randomination at 2:17 AM on June 8, 2006


You also may want to consider living in your university's dorms.

While it may sound unappealing, it is REALLY CHEAP.

My uni's dorms were 120 pounds/week for a single bedroom and bathroom with a kitchen shared with 5 other people. They were only grad students, so ages ranged from 20-30.

As I mentioned, I paid 140 pounds/week. Plus utilities it ended up being WAY more than that. So therefore the dorms are a lot cheaper. They were also a lot closer to the university.

The ones that are for my uni also have spots open in the summer.

Click here for more info
.
posted by k8t at 3:17 AM on June 8, 2006


Avoid Foxtons at all costs. They will screw you in every way possible for the duration of your tenancy.
posted by influx at 4:54 AM on June 8, 2006


Thanks everyone for your help. I go to Sussex (and did my MA at KCL, so am very well acquainted with the complete chaos UK universities try to pass as functionality), but will be living in London so uni dorms are not an option - and I am too old and cranky to share! Will check out the additional links and keeping my fingers crossed that I will find something in a couple of weeks time.
posted by meerkatty at 6:22 AM on June 8, 2006


How are you going to get to Sussex?
posted by k8t at 3:25 PM on June 8, 2006


you will probably be asked to pay one month's rent plus a deposit. the maximum deposit you can be charged, by law, is 6 weeks' rent; you will probably be charged this maximum sum. heat and electricity will be included in the rent only if they are supplied as a communal service to all the folks in the house/block; this is relatively unusual in UK, so be prepared for the hassle of putting all the services into your name, and then taking them out of your name when you move out. you will have to pay your council tax or, in a shared flat, your share of it.
posted by londongeezer at 3:47 PM on June 8, 2006


Thanks londongeezer.

k8t - I'm going to take the train. I only have to be on campus once a week or less. I have lived in Brighton previously and as it is possibly the biggest shithole on earth, I refuse to do it again. Small towns + meerkatty = bad news. Thanks for all your suggestions.
posted by meerkatty at 5:23 PM on June 8, 2006


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