The Guide to Renting a Property in the UK

When relocating to the UK, finding the right place to live is likely to be one of the top items on your to-do list. The good news is that there’s a thriving rental property market with accommodation to suit all preferences and budgets, so it shouldn’t be too tricky finding the right place.

That being said, here at Remitly we appreciate that learning how renting works in a new country can be a little daunting. That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide to the whole process, so let’s get into it.

1. Finding the right place to live

The first step when renting a place to live is pinpointing a property that meets your budget and needs. Once upon a time, this would have been a tiring and time-consuming process, usually requiring you to visit letting agents in person to see what they have available. These days, things are a lot easier as you can do all your searching online.

Letting agents very often post the latest property listings on their own websites, so it could be worth checking these out. However, a more efficient approach is to look at sites that aggregate available properties from many different letting agents. This means you’ll be able to more quickly browse a much larger range of possibilities.

There are a number of aggregator sites available in the UK. The two most well-known sites are Rightmove and Zoopla, both of which make it very easy to look up suitable properties. You simply enter the town or city you’re moving to, then use the search filters to focus on places that meet your criteria. For example, you may want to search for all studio apartments that are furnished, based within half a mile of central Bristol, and have a price range of between £600 and £700 per month.

While Rightmove and Zoopla tend to be the first port of call for many would-be renters, it’s also worth looking at the third major player, which is OnTheMarket. Other sites that should be on your radar include OpenRent, Boomin, and Gumtree.

Many immigrants to the UK will be looking to share an apartment or house with others. After all, this is usually cheaper than renting an entire property, and it can be a great way to make friends and settle into a new area. SpareRoom specialises in linking potential housemates, and it works a little like online dating. You can create your own profile, complete with photos and a description of your interests, then search the property listings and drop messages to people who are looking for others to move in.

2. Viewing the property

While it may be possible to do virtual viewings through video conferencing tools like Zoom or Skype, it’s important to visit a potential property in person. This is the only way you’ll be able to properly check for possible problems with furniture, rooms, or the building itself.

You may be shown around by the letting agent or the landlord. If it’s a shared apartment/house, the current tenants will probably want to meet you and see if you’d be a compatible housemate. You should ask:

  • Which bills are included, if any
  • Which furniture is included (even if the room/property is listed as ‘furnished’, some of the items may belong to a tenant who’s leaving)
  • Whether you’re allowed to redecorate, erect shelves, and make other changes
  • Whether broadband is provided
  • Who the point of contact is in the event of an emergency, such as a leak or a malfunctioning boiler
  • What the household rules are – for example, are pets allowed?
  • How long the tenancy will be for, and whether it’s possible to arrange a longer minimum term if need be

3. Providing documentation

Once you’ve picked the right place and the agent or landlord has agreed, in principle, for you to move in, it’s time to get into the paperwork. There will be a tenancy contract to look over and sign, and you’ll also have to show a number of documents including:

  • A character reference from your current or last landlord
  • A reference from your employer, confirming your job and salary
  • Recent bank statements and/or payslips to prove you can afford the rent
  • Official ID, such as your passport
  • Proof of lawful immigrant status, such as a Biometric Residence Permit, to satisfy the ‘right to rent’ check in England

4. Paying your deposit and first month’s rent

To secure your rental, you’ll typically have to make two payments.

One is a deposit, which is usually equivalent to a month’s rent. It’s worth knowing that, by law, the deposit can be no more than the equivalent of five weeks’ rent if the annual rent is below £50,000, or six weeks’ rent if the annual rent is £50,000 or above.

The deposit will be refunded to you at the end of the tenancy, minus anything the landlord might keep to cover damage to the property, unpaid rent and other possible breaches of the tenancy agreement. In the meantime, your deposit must be kept safe with a government-approved deposit protection scheme. If, at the end of the tenancy, you believe the landlord’s request to deduct money from your deposit is unfair, the protection scheme will be able to act as an impartial adjudicator to resolve the dispute.

The other payment typically required at the start of your tenancy is the first month’s rent in advance. You may be asked to pay more in advance if the agent or landlord is unable to carry out a satisfactory credit check.

5. Things to keep in mind

Once your documents have been checked, you’ve made the necessary payments and have signed the tenancy agreement, you’ll be all set to move into your new rental property. Here are some extra things to keep in mind during the whole process.

  • Never sign a tenancy agreement with a current tenant, as they may be secretly sub-letting the property without the landlord’s permission
  • Your landlord must ensure there is at least one smoke alarm installed on every floor of their property which is used as accommodation. The alarms must be tested on the first day of your tenancy
  • Your landlord must arrange an annual gas safety check of all gas appliances, and provide you with a record of this check
  • Your landlord must also arrange an electrical safety check every five years, and provide you with a record of this check
  • Your landlord must give you at least 24 hours’ notice before they visit the property, and they cannot enter without your permission

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Further reading: The Guide to Renting a Property in Australia