How to rent a house in London


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  • Post last modified:February 18, 2024
  • Reading time:9 mins read

We know how hard it is to find a new home, especially after moving thousands of miles across the ocean to a smaller, less familiar, much more tea-obsessed country.
We’ve heard all the horror stories about London rent prices and experienced quite a few of them ourselves. The best way to avoid your capital city catastrophe is to arm yourself with knowledge – which is why we’ve put together the only guide you’ll need.
Maybe all you want is a room somewhere. Or perhaps you’re after a Richie Rich-level property. But whether you’re looking for a Kensington townhouse or a City apartment with five other people, we’ve got you covered. Stick with us, and you’ll soon be living the lovely London life.

How to rent a house in London

Calculate your budget
Work out how many bedrooms and bathrooms you need
Decide which area you want to live in
Peruse property sites to find out prices and energy bill estimates
Contact agents to set up property viewings
Choose the one you love
Agree on rent, deposit, contract length, and move-in date with the landlord
The process is practically identical to the above when renting your apartment in London: decide your budget and area, set up viewings, choose a property, then sort out the details. But if you’re deciding between a house and an apartment, be aware there are a few significant differences. For example, a house will probably suit you better if you want pets. Most apartment landlords don’t allow tenants to keep animals, while other apartments are too small for a rambunctious puppy or kitten.
You’ll also get more privacy if you rent a house. Apartment buildings may have their security – including a porter at the door if you’re looking for somewhere fancy – whereas if you rent a house, you’ll have to purchase your alarm system. The most important variable is you, though. Make a list of what you want out of your new home, and find a place that meets those criteria the best and feels the most like home.
It may not sound right, but it’s true: renting doesn’t just involve paying rent.
So before you dive headfirst into your wonderful new life in beautiful, bustling London, make sure you’ve considered all the expenses you’ll face.

  • Deposit
    When you eventually find your home – where you’ll build the foundations for your new life in this historic city – you’ll have to pay a deposit. The Tenant Fees Act 2019 means you’ll be asked for a maximum of five weeks’ rent if your annual rent is under £50,000 ($64,700).
    If your tastes are slightly more expensive, and your annual rent is above £50,000, you can expect to pay a maximum of six weeks’ rent. Your landlord is legally obliged to put your deposit in a government-supported tenancy deposit protection (TDP) scheme within 30 days of receiving it from you.
    This scheme will protect your money during your stay on the property. And the good news is, your deposit is refundable in full, as long as you:
  • Keep to the terms laid out in your contract
  • Pay your rent and bills
  • Don’t damage the property significantly (a quick tip: encourage the landlord to explicitly write into your contract that wear and tear is acceptable)
    Furthermore, once you’ve told the landlord you want to rent their property, it’s normal for them to request a holding fee while you sort out all the details. Once you’ve signed the contract, that fee will be absorbed into your deposit and will ideally be returned to you at your tenancy.
  • Agency Fees
    These payments, also known as letting fees, are now banned in the UK. As of June 2019, these extra fees (which had previously risen to as high as 20% of the rent) must be paid by landlords instead – so don’t worry about hidden costs.
  • Monthly Costs
    You’re prepared to pay the rent. You’ve even set aside some of your salaries to pay for food, drink, toiletries, new clothes, and fun.
    This puts you ahead of most renters, but there are yet more costs to consider before you throw yourself a budget completion party.
  • Council Tax
    Unless you’re a student, you’ll need to pay for this. Council tax can range from $54 to $404 per month, so it’s important to know how much it will cost in advance.
    After all, that’s a difference of $4,200 over the course of a year. First, find your potential new home’s local council and its council tax band. Then visit your local council’s website, find out what they charge, and set up a direct debit to make sure you always pay on time.
  • Energy Bills
    You need water, electricity, and gas to live with a basic degree of comfort. We know humans are needy like that.
    You can expect to pay $118 per month for electricity and gas, while $40 should be enough to cover your water usage. So set aside at least $158 every month, depending on where you plan to live.
  • Contents Insurance
    The landlord is responsible for the building as a structure (as long as you don’t take a flamethrower to it), but you’re accountable for your belongings – so get them insured!
    If you do, it should cost an average of $209 per year, according to the Money Advice Service – or just $4 per week. Look around the room and mentally calculate how much your belongings cost. That’s a good deal.
  • TV License
    If you enjoy watching live TV or BBC iPlayer, you need a TV license – and until Killing Eve is available on Netflix, it’s hard to justify not getting one. If you have a TV or other screen which plays in color, a TV license will cost you £154.50 ($200) per year, while if you – like 7,161 others in the UK – own a black-and-white TV, you’ll pay £52.
    Be Realistic With Your Budget
    To work out your budget for rent, consider your wage and expected monthly expenses, and leave some extra – you don’t want to be caught out.
    Do Due Diligence On Your Preferred Areas
    Whether that means checking the transport links to see how long your commute will be, seeing how highly rated the schools are, working out how many good pubs or clubs are within a 10-mile radius, researching everything, and seeing the area for yourself.
    Use Official Companies
    There are so many good sites and estate agents who will ensure you don’t get screwed over. If you go through Craigslist or a similar route, you’re relying on individual strangers – which mean risking everything blowing up in your face.
    Keep Your Head On A Swivel
    The process of renting a place can be easy and convenient, or it can be complex and taxing – but either way, you need to keep on top of everything. We recommend making a spreadsheet of all your potential new homes.
    Be Prepared For The Process To Take At Least A Few Weeks
    You don’t just walk into a new home. To be sure, it takes time and effort to lock down your rental property, so give it at least a couple of months. You don’t want to be left with no place to live because you started too late.
    Create A Peaceful Atmosphere
    Naturally, you’d like to start on the right foot with your future housemates, whether they’re friends, strangers, or your spouse and kids. So make sure you’ve all agreed on who’s taking which room, who needs to use the shower when, and what cupboards are communal.
    If someone’s taking the smallest room, maybe they should pay less rent – and if so, how much? Do your kids need separate rooms, or can they share? Make sure to work all of this out before you move in. And if you haven’t met before, maybe go for a drink before you start living together to find out if you all get on (at least to a vaguely acceptable level).
    Decide Whether You Want To Rent A Property For A Set Period
    There are two choices for finding a property to rent in London: agree to a fixed-length contract (usually a year) or get a rolling contract that you can choose to end each month.
    What you go for will depend on your circumstances – again, it’s a question of whether you’re looking for a temporary place or a long-term home – but you should be aware of both options. Now you’re ready to take the final step: visiting the best rental websites for finding a place of your own in the capital.