It’s been nearly 15 months since I moved to London and I have had so many ups and downs in this eccentric, beautiful city. The main stress of London is your living situation. Because the demand is so high, many private owners and agencies can get away with so much more than in any other city in the UK and unfortunately, 80% of the time you just have to accept that. The rent (of a room in a house share) costs a fortune with the average being £550-£600 a month in zone 2/3 and £700 in zone 1- obviously depending on the type/age and size of accommodation.
That is the same amount you would pay for your own apartment or house in cities elsewhere in the UK, such as Birmingham. If you are moving to London from another country, I would recommend staying in an airBnB or hostel for a few weeks while you look for your place or find a short-term let. The main reason I say this is because the last thing you want is to secure a room without seeing it ( pictures are almost always deceiving) or meeting your flatmates/ landlord.
Top Tips in finding the right place
- Spareroom and easyroomate are the two platforms I used most, they had most of the ads I found on other sites. Get Early bird 2 weeks before you plan on moving – most people put up ads and want people to move in in the next week or so. It is a very fast turn around and it is always hard finding something a few months before! Does early bird really help? Yes! It allows you to contact the ads that have just been published before they are open to everyone else a few days after. And since it is a dog eat dog world, the first person to win the flatmate’s hearts win.
- Make sure you send enough details about yourself when replying to an add, this is basically like your CV. It is your first impression, update your profile and add a picture. Remember, they are looking for someone they want to live with.
- The difference between looking for a place outside London and inside london is that, in London, you don’t have the say on whether you get a room, the flatmates do. Finding a room in London is like finding a job and viewings are the first step in your interview process. Do not come off as a bitch/ psycho/ weirdo but also avoid fake smiles and laugh. I would suggest that you be yourself, but I don’t know if that’s a good or bad idea. When I was transitioning between the nightmare of my first place and my current “home”, I was on the hunt and homeless (on my friends couch) for 6 weeks. And I had 2-3 viewings a day! I had to start telling myself that it was them (the world) and not me, in order to get over the rejections I got.I mean I always thought I was a great, funny and caring person?
What to be aware of
- Every rental situation varies considerably. The safest way of doing things (although not necessarily hassle free) is to rent through an agent. I recommend checking the reviews of the agency as some are just as notorious as private owners. Always try and find out as much information as you can. If your dealing directly with the private owner make sure you find out if they actually own the property or if they are sub-letting. I found myself in a sticky situation when it turned out that the person who I thought owned the house was actually subletting it through an agency. While he was collecting rent from us, he wasn’t actually paying it to the agency which led to our eviction. It was a very stressful situation, especially when I was trying to tackle my work and finding a new home.
- Make sure you take pictures of the state of your room when you move in. Theoretically, when you move in, an inventory check should be undertaken by the landlord/agency. However, many overlook this. In order to protect yourself from the possible instance of your landlord blaming any damages on you, ensure that you take pictures of any current damages when you moved in.
- If there are any damages in the property or leaks that need to be fixed, make sure any communication is written (email or text) so that you can prove it if need be. That should be a general rule on any issues you encounter, all communication should be written just to protect yourself. No one can take your word for it without proof.
- Legally, your landlord/agency has to put your deposit into a protected deposit scheme and you should ask for proof that this has been done.
So now I bet your asking yourself if its even worth the hassle. YES IT IS, I am just trying to prepare you for the worst. I am now in a much better housing situation (although not perfect) and love my flatmates, sometimes it just takes a few bad situations to get to the good. However, I also know some people who have had no issues so you just might get lucky! Just always make sure you have everything you need to back you up should you ever come across a sticky situation.
Citizens Advice Bureau are the best people to call if you need advice and want to find out about your rights, they were so easy to deal with and informative. They gave me the confidence to deal with my dodgy “landlord” and to fight for myself.
I hope this was a useful start. Do you have any other living tips for new Londoners?
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