Relocating to London? Top Tips for Expats Looking to Rent in London

August 26, 2021
Tips For Renting In London

Are you thinking of moving to London for a new job, as a student, or with your family? It can be an overwhelming process, so I wanted to share the most important parts of the renting process in London, and what you as an ex-pat need to know before moving to this fabulous city.

Where to Live

Deciding where to live can be the biggest challenge.  London is a great city with many incredible neighbourhoods. 

If you’re looking for edgy and cool, you may want to consider Camden or Angel or around Shoreditch and Islington.


If you’re in finance or banking in the city you may want to be able to be close to work in Shoreditch or around London Bridge. 


If you’re in the legal profession working close to the courts of justice, then perhaps around Holborn or Bloomsbury makes sense. 


If you’re French and want to be in close proximity to French schools, restaurants and cinema, then perhaps South Kensington is for you. 


If you’re American and want to be near the American School in London, then St. John’s Wood or the surrounding areas of Swiss Cottage or Maida Vale might be right for you. 


And the list goes on and on! So obviously determining where you want to live relative to work and school will be critical. 

What’s Your Budget

Of course, all of this may get tempered by the next criteria which is Determining Budget.  If you are moving from anywhere besides Monaco or Tokyo, you’ll come to quickly realise that London is an expensive city and your budget may not go as far as you might think.  Also, you have to be prepared for smaller spaces. 

If you’re looking for a 2 bedroom flat, I think you’ll definitely need to be ready to shell out between £1500 – and £3000 per month depending on location. 

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If you’re relocating as a family and want some of the popular areas like Chiswick, Fulham or West Hampstead, you’ll probably need to budget about £5,000 per month if not more. 


Also, homes and flats may be older than what you’re used to. For example, many rented properties have original bathrooms that still have 2 faucets in the sinks or separate kitchen from living rooms, as well as lights for bathrooms being outside the bathroom. More of London’s quirks in another article!

Furnished or Unfurnished

You need to know that many properties in London will come furnished, though you’ll still have options for unfurnished, in some cases.  I’m not sure that statistics exist for the number of furnished versus unfurnished, but my experience has been that about 60% of the properties on the rental market are furnished versus about 40% unfurnished. 

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This means if you’re making a move to London and your company is paying to ship over your stuff, just note it may impact your options.  Also if you have big US sized furniture such as beds and sofas, it may also be a real challenge to find an unfurnished property that will have good room dimensions. 

Travelling to London with a pet

The next thing to consider is if you have a pet, you will definitely reduce your options by about 50%.  Many buildings or converted terrace properties, their leases prohibit pets. So regardless of whether your landlord may be okay with it, the building rules may restrict it. 


The government is considering rules that may change this, but just know that you can definitely find properties where pets are permitted, but it may make your search a lot more restricted. 

Making an Offer and Tenant Referencing

This may come as a surprise to many foreigners but you can negotiate your rent here.  Many tenants and especially during the lockdowns of 2020 were able to secure properties below the asking rent.  And it is the norm here to try to negotiate if the market and demand permits. 

Another component of an offer may be a break clause. So while typical lease terms are 12 months, you can ask for a break clause starting from month 6.  If you as a tenant ask for it, it is likely that the landlord will ask for it on their side as well.  The advantage of a break clause obviously will be to give you flexibility say if you are in a precarious job situation or fear you may not like the area or the flat. 

For tenant referencing, in order to pass, it is based on obviously verifying income and identity.  As a new arrival to the UK, that may be hard to do especially if you don’t have a bank account.  But in order to get a bank account, you need an address and obviously, you won’t have an address which is why you’re looking for a home!  So be prepared to not pass tenant referencing. 

Some people moving over with work contracts may be able to get around this through proof of employment, but that won’t be the norm.  If you’re not able to pass tenant referencing, most landlords will accept 6 months rent in lieu of passing referencing.  So this means you need to be prepared to have that much money to pay upfront.  You’ll also likely need to pay up to 5 weeks deposit for most rental amounts but up to 6 weeks for high-value rental transactions.  This should be kept in a government-approved deposit scheme such as Deposit Protection Scheme. 

Once you’ve passed tenant referencing and your funds are in place, make sure to thoroughly read your lease and know your rights and restrictions.  Prior to check-in most landlords or their lettings agent will order an inventory check-in report which is conducted by a third party and documents the state of the property at the time of handover.  Also, meter readings are taken which makes sure everything is ready for your utility bills.  With that, you can take possession of the property. 

Additional Costs to Pay

While we discussed budget earlier, that was merely for the rental amount.  In addition, be prepared to pay utilities as well as council tax.  Consider council tax similar to property tax in America and it’s paid to the borough for public services such as trash collection, street lights and other council services.  Another expense you should budget for is tv license which is about £10 per annum.  Even if you don’t have a TV, if you use a computer or device to access the internet, you will need to pay this as it covers the cost of BBC the broadcaster. 

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So with that, that’s the highlights of what you need to know in order to rent a flat here in London.  If you have any questions or want to consider using me as your guide to navigating the process, please get in touch. 

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