London is a popular destination for tourists, but it’s also a great place to live. There are many work opportunities, a great transport infrastructure, and multi-ethnic neighbourhoods where people from all over the world can find a happy home.
Once you have decided to relocate to London, finding suitable accommodation will likely be high on your to-do list. In this blog post, we are going to look at everything expats need to know about renting a flat in London.
Where to Live in London for Expats
If you have a job already lined up, this will probably dictate where you live in London, although it’s worth pointing out that most neighbourhoods are easily accessible by public transport, so don’t feel like you need to live close to where you work.
Rental costs in London are higher than any other city in the UK. London is not the most expensive city in the world in terms of rent, but it isn’t cheap. The recent pandemic caused rental values in London to decline sharply, as many tenants moved out of the city, but the most popular areas are still expensive. In addition, the overall market is also showing signs of recovery as foreign investors move back in.
Data published by Savills indicates rental prices surged by 2.9% in September, with prime locations seeing rises of 3.6%. The most popular areas have enjoyed rental price rises of 6-7%. In addition, flats are now in short supply, so demand is pushing rental prices back up once again.
Where Is the Best Neighbourhood to Stay in London?
Before you start looking for a flat to rent in London, think carefully about your budget and commuting time. The closer you are to the centre of the city, the more expensive properties will be. Rental properties that fall within Zones 1 and 2 on the Underground network are more expensive and demand will be higher. Once you get farther out, rental prices are cheaper, but commuting time is longer. It can take more than an hour to travel in from Zone 6 during rush hour, so bear this in mind with narrowing down your search areas.
Renting a Flat in London – The Most Popular Areas
Camden is a more bohemian part of London, with quiet leafy streets of terraced houses. There are lots of hip bars and restaurants, music venues, and boutiques. Camden Market is famous for vintage fashion, and if you enjoy cycling, there are plenty of cycle paths in the area. This area is more popular with younger expats and creatives.
Hampstead is a good choice if your budget is higher. One benefit of renting in Hampstead is its proximity to several good schools, which makes it a popular area for affluent families. Hampstead Heath is nearby, so you have easy access to wide-open spaces for dog walking and exercise. Central London is a short commute, but this is reflected in the above-average rental prices.
Wimbledon is very multicultural and popular with expats and there is a variety of housing options to suit all budgets.
Clapham is popular with younger expats due to the vibrant entertainment options in the area. Clapham Junction railway station provides easy access to Central London and the south of England. There are also plenty of green spaces in Clapham, so it is suitable for families.
Stratford property prices are cheaper because it’s further out of central London, but the area has had a major revamp in recent years and it’s popular with expats.
Leyton is also cheaper than other areas, so it’s another good option if you are on a tight budget and you should have no problem finding a furnished apartment for rent in London.
Expats working in the media industry will love Hoxton and Shoreditch, thanks to the hip, cosmopolitan vibe. There is plenty of charm in this neighbourhood, as well as coffee shops and trendy eateries.
Wealthy expats tend to gravitate to the affluent areas of West London, including Knightsbridge, South Kensington, and Chelsea. Rental prices here are higher than in all other areas, but if you want a luxurious flat in an exclusive area, this is the best neighbourhood in London for expats with a large budget for housing.
Fulham is popular with families and there are some lovely Victorian properties available. Commute times are relatively low and there are some excellent international schools nearby.
Notting Hill is another popular, bohemian area worth checking out. Flats tend to be smaller here, but there are plenty of restaurants, bars, and green spaces on offer, as well as the Portobello Road Market.
If you are looking to rent a property in London further out, look at properties in Shepherds Bush and Hammersmith.
Once you have decided where to start looking for properties, there are a few more things to think about. Firstly, are you planning on living in London short term or long term?
London Furnished Apartment Rental for Foreigners
Short-term lets are used for property rentals of up to six months. These are popular with expats on a temporary contract or if you want to settle temporarily while searching for an area you like. It is usually easy to rent an apartment for three months in London. Short-term lets usually come fully furnished, which is perfect if all your furniture is currently in a shipping container. This type of rental also includes utility costs in many cases, so it’s easier to budget.
Rentals for six months and longer are classed as long-term leases and are typically shorthold tenancies, which offer protection to you and the landlord. These rentals are usually unfurnished, but you can also opt for a furnished flat for rent in London if you choose. The downside of signing a long-term lease is that you will be charged if you need to move out early. It’s important to make sure the lease contains a break clause in the event your circumstances change before the lease expires.
Landlords normally ask for a security deposit. Deposits are now capped and can be no more than the equivalent of five weeks rent. However, this only applies to properties where the annual rent is £50,000 or less, so it might not be applicable to high-end flats in more affluent areas.
The security deposit is designed to protect landlords in the event a property is damaged. Deposits must be placed in a registered deposit protection scheme. This prevents the landlord from holding on to a tenant’s deposit for no reason.
You may also be asked to pay a holding deposit to secure a property. If you are asked to pay this, the letting agent or landlord should stop marketing the flat to other tenants immediately. Any money paid over as a holding deposit will then be deducted from your security deposit or first month’s rent. However, if you change your mind about renting the flat, you will forfeit the holding deposit.
It is customary for letting agents and landlords to ask for references and run credit checks before they offer expats a tenancy agreement. If you are relocating to London from overseas, this might be a sticking point in the process. You may be asked to produce a bank statement and employer’s reference as well as a passport for identification purposes.
Some letting agents and landlords may ask for a rent guarantor, and if you can’t supply suitable references, you will struggle to find a rental in London without a guarantor. Expats moving to the UK after receiving a job offer from a UK employer shouldn’t have too many difficulties, as their employer will supply references and may act as a guarantor.
How to Rent an Apartment in London without a Work Contract
If you are moving to London to find work, be a digital nomad in London, rent a secondary home in London, and perhaps be closer to family and loved ones, consider asking a relative or friend to act as a guarantor.
Budget for Letting Agent Fees
Letting agents are a quick and easy way to way to find a suitable rental property in London. They work with many landlords and can help you with the paperwork needed to finalise a tenancy agreement. It’s sensible to approach a few letting agents to see what properties they have available. Let them know what budget you are working with and verify they are used to dealing with expats.
Make sure your budget allows for the fees associated with renting a property in London. As well as a holding deposit and rental deposit, there might be other fees such as an inventory check and a fee for processing references. Check all the paperwork you receive so you know what you’ll be charged at the beginning and end of the tenancy.
Always work with a reputable agent when searching for rental properties in London. Be wary of dealing with landlords direct, via email and text message, as this is how scammers operate.
If you want to book corporate apartments for business travel, contact the UpperKey today.