Housing: Useful Things to Know

Temporary accommodation

Temporary accommodation is a great way of easing into a new relocation as it allows you to try living in different areas as you acclimate.

These properties are generally serviced flats offering housekeeping and utilities.

When relocating with a company you may have preferential corporate rates so it is worth checking with your HR department. Most temporary housing can be arranged from anywhere between one week up to one year.

Renting

The rental market in London moves very quickly. As a general rule you should start viewing flats 4–6 weeks prior to your moving date. It is important to choose your agent carefully. They should be a member of ARLA or NAEA, both of which are recognised industry regulatory bodies and provide recourse should things go wrong.

The rental market in Central London generally lists prices based per week, even if recently there has been a trend of listing prices per month. 

We recommend you allocate ample time for the home search process. If time allows reserve weekends for exploring possible neighbourhoods and getting to know the area which best suits your lifestyle. You may also want to re-visit an area at different times of the day to check for commuting time, traffic, airport noise, etc.

Once you have chosen a property you will need to work quickly with your agent to put in an offer. This should outline the terms under which you wish to take the property, rental price, length lease agreement and any special requests.

A standard lease is often one year, however many landlords find the prospect of a longer-term commitment an attractive option and as a result you may be able to negotiate your rental rate. You can also request that some clauses are written into your contract such as an ‘option to renew.’ This gives the tenant the right to renew the contract within certain guidelines. Some landlords may also consider a ‘break clause’ giving you the option to terminate a contract early (generally the earliest being after 6 months). These specific clauses have to be negotiated if desired.

Once the terms are agreed you will need to supply references and pay an administration charge to secure the property. The agent will usually request letters from your bank, employer, previous landlord and a personal reference in order to confirm you will be a suitable tenant and are able to meet the rental charges.

The landlord is also legally responsible for checking the tenant’s immigration status so do expect to be asked to provide your visa if you need one to live and work in the UK. Administration fees cover the agent’s charges for preparing the tenancy paperwork. These fees vary from agent to agent.

Once a contract has been signed you will then need to arrange payment of the initial rental fee. It is standard to pay a 6-week rental deposit plus the first rental instalment (often monthly or quarterly). These will need to be cleared funds in order for you to take possession of the property.

Usually the rental price advertised will not be inclusive of any utilities. As the tenant you will be responsible for gas, water, electricity rates and Council Tax.

The landlord’s agent will be able to produce contact details for the providers of all utilities for you to contact in order to register your details as the new occupant once contracts have been signed by both parties.

Be sure to include both partners’ names on the tenancy agreement. This is valid also for utilities as it will help to allow either party to speak to the service provider if needed and to register for parking permits, etc. as they will work as proof of address.

Council Tax

This is a tax levied on households by local authorities, based on the estimated value of a property (‘Bands’) and the number of people living in it. Most councils allow reductions for single occupancy which is levied at 75% of the total bill. Even if you are renting, you are responsible for paying the tax. Council Tax information can be found on each borough’s website. Households where everyone’s a full-time student don’t have to pay Council Tax.

Postcodes

Postcodes are the most important part of any address and it is essential that you become familiar with the postcode system. Whereas street names are in no way unique to any one area, full extended postcodes together with the house number will solely identify an individual address. So if you ever need to find an address make sure you have the postcode for it or you could end up totally in the wrong place. 

Each small section of London is allocated a 1-3 letter prefix that corresponds to its compass location and then a following number and 2 letters to distinguish it from adjoining streets within that area. A postcode starting with N means north, S means southE means east and W means west. So NW means northwest etc. All postcodes in London follow this pattern with the exception of EC and WC which mean Eastern Central (covering the City) and Western Central (covering the Strand, Holborn and Bloomsbury).