expat life

Renting a home in the UK

8 Comments 17 August 2012

Interested in renting a home in the UK? If you’re an expat moving here you are so check out these top tips in this guest post…!


The rental market in the UK is good at the moment, meaning there are plenty of houses and flats up for rent. But then, you hear so many horror stories from tenants and landlords alike, about shady rental contracts, conniving landlords and all the other crooks and cowboys that go with it. For the most part, of all of these stories of heartache could have been avoided. Here are some tips for getting it right.

1. Know Your Market
Don’t just sign the first rental contract that is put in front of you, do your homework. Find out how much rental properties are going for in the area. Are you being ripped off or are you getting a good deal? What does the rental price include, such as utilities and furniture, and how much are people in the neighbourhood paying? Asking these kinds of question means that you are armed with information to get you the best deal.

2. Use a Reputable Rental Agent
This is one of the most important tips; agents are the independent voice and vehicle between the landlord and the tenant. By going through a reputable rental agency, you may be paying a little more, as they have to be paid as well, but you will have the peace of mind, for all parties, that there is accountability all round. If you don’t pay your rent, or the landlord doesn’t live up to his side of the bargain, there are serious consequences, and a solid rental agent will not hesitate to rope in the strong arm of the law if need be. Use a good local business directory to find trustworthy letting agents in your area.

3. Understand Your Contract
Rental contracts, whether provided by a rental agency or directly from the landlord, are a legal document. And a legal document is mostly jam-packed with all sorts of legal/rental jargon that makes little sense. So instead of looking like we think it is written in double-Dutch, we sign it. Big mistake; go through every inch of your contract with your agent or a contracts specialist who will be able to explain each and every clause to you, so that it doesn’t come back to bite you hard later.

4. Take Photographs
This is an important one, and a tip an actual real estate agent uses in all of their deals, whether it’s a rental or a property for purchase. The day you move in, before your movers get there, go in with your rental agent and take pictures of everything inside and outside. Take pictures of water features, plumbing, stoves, heating – you name it; take your time to do it. Give your agent a copy, keep a copy, and when you leave, do the same. In the event that there is a discrepancy in refunding the deposit, or something happens that the landlord said was you for your account, whip out the photographs to prove it was there in the first place.

5. Draw up an inventory
A lot of rental properties are let fully-furnished, and even though there may already be an inventory of items listed in the apartment, it is a good idea to do your own as well. Make sure your rental agent is present, two people are better than one after all, and make sure that the agent gets a copy. If there is anything missing right from the beginning, both the owner and the agent will be able to follow it up with the previous tenant immediately. Otherwise when your contract comes to an end, you could be liable for the missing item.

People who rent properties don’t own them but they do have every right to be treated well and fairly. Follow these tips and you should own more peace of mind!

These tips were kindly supplied by Harrison Murray estate agents during a telephone interview with Thomson Local, who have provided this paid for post.

Over to you readers, do you have any extra tips for expats arriving in the UK and planning on renting a home here?


Your Comments

8 Comments so far

  1. PushchairDad says:

    Taking photos is something I’ve always done, particularly of spots where something is obviously not right, avoids headaches when/if you move out later on. Asking neighbours and people you see on the street near your potential rental property is also a good idea… that way you find out in good time that ‘him at number 32 loves revving his motorbike at 6am’…

  2. Expat Mum says:

    As well as using a reputable agent, do whatever homework you can about the landlord. (Have they been in any disputes with former tenants? Are they good at keeping the property maintained etc. Do they have any legal issues pending against them?)

    Also beware of a scam that was very prevalent a few years back, whereby would-be tenants would look over properties, pay a fairly large deposit, only to discover that the “landlords” didn’t actually own the property and were never heard from again,
    The property in question (which they moved into) didn’t actually belong to the “landlords” and they(the tenants) were quickly evicted and homeless. (A real life example from a friend who works in the government Housing office.)

  3. Rachel says:

    Visit the property at different times of the day – property managers will often take you around in the daytime, when the kids are at school and everyone is at work. Often, especially in cities, parking can be a nightmare in the evenings, and you may find yourself on a very noisy school route.
    If you see anything that needs fixing, get it sorted before you move in – you have far more bargaining power before you hand over your deposit..

  4. Jenn says:

    Taking photos is key. Ditto reviewing the inventory (although the form we were given was 32 pages long and so detailed, I wanted to send the woman back to my own house (that I’m renting out) outside Chicago to do the same walk-thru inventory )

    Also — if you are NOT moving to a major city, do NOT assume that there are a lot of rentals available (if you are looking for more than a two-bedroom) and be prepared to look outside your search area or compromise. When we moved to the UK, we came for 7 days to have plenty of time to house hunt. In town, there was only ONE house available with the bedrooms we needed. ONE. Our expectations quickly shifted after 4 more days of nothing within a 40 minute drive.

    • Spalva says:

      Yes. We came for ten days, househunting along the lines to Liverpool St. We finally snagged a modern two-bedroom flat along the railway on the very last day we were here. We had to take it. I found househunting here very stressful. Almost every time before I could even take a look at a place it was gone (rented by someone else). Either that or the agent would tell me at the very last possible moment (read: after I had fallen head over heels for the place) that the landlord didn’t really want a family in his place.

      Now we’re in Essex, like you, but down south — and I’m not so sure we’re in the right place.

      • Spalva says:

        Forgot to add that we took this place for only six months so we could breathe and have a chance to find something better.

  5. Cathy says:

    What also needs to be taken into account is that you might not have a credit history in the UK to be checked, and that adds to the difficulty of being considered. Luckily we’ve been given some advice by local people about the local agencies. It has not been easy to find a house, and real estate agencies come up with very bizarre excuses why you’ve missed out on a house.

  6. Once you’ve signed all the paperwork and moved in KEEP COPIOUS NOTES OF EVERYTHING. Retain emails, keep notes of telephone calls, etc. And cannot emphasize enough, as others have above, to take photographs. We just finished successful arbitration with TDS thanks to our photographs and paper trail. Hate to say it, but there are a lot of dodgy lettings agents out there, even the large, well-known ones. Many of them *will* try it on.

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