Advice about living in, visiting or
moving to the UK
Whether you’re going to be renting just a single room or an entire flat; you will either be renting directly from the landlord, or through a letting agent. A letting agency manages rental properties on behalf of landlords and landlord simply manages their own property - some landlords even appoint letting agencies to help them find a suitable tenant but manage the tenancy themselves.
Both options have their pros and cons and your renting experience can be very different depending on which option you take.
As an expat, or just as a first time renter, you may not be familiar with the rules and regulations of renting in the UK, so it’s important to understand the differences between both options and the fees you are expected to pay.
RENTING THROUGH A LETTING AGENCY
Using a letting agency will definitely save you time as they will have many rental properties on their books and arrange viewings at those that suit your requirements. Agents also deal with all aspects of the tenancy quickly and efficiently so you simply just have to move in.
You must be aware that letting agencies will charge a fee for their service though. Many agents will not mention their fees on their online advertisement, which can be very misleading. It’s a good idea to contact the agency first and enquire about their costs, as many agencies fees will vary. The fees are not refundable and are used to cover admin costs such as drawing up the contract, carrying out credit checks and auditing inventory etc.
Most letting agencies will also charge you a fee to renew or extend your contract, so ensure that you ask about this fee prior to singing a contract, especially if you are a short term tenant.
Letting agencies tend to have many rules and regulations, and while this safeguards you as a tenant, some rules may be unnecessary and restrictive. They also might be under pressure from the landlord to quickly occupy the rooms which may then reduce the time spent sourcing the most suitable and compatible tenants.
If you do decide to use a letting agent, it’s probably a good idea to book a time to meet current tenants to get an indication of who you will be living with. It’s also a great opportunity to ask them questions about the agency and find out if there are any issues they are not happy with prior to you singing the contract!
■ Will save you time & more variety of properties
■ Guaranteed protection of deposit & refund
■ Admin fees/costs involved
■ Strict rules
RENTING THROUGH A PRIVATE LANDLORD
Renting a property through a private landlord can have appealing advantages, such as fewer (or no fees) and a less stringent application process. In most cases, landlords are satisfied with recent pay slips to confirm your income, a reference from either your employer or previous landlord and just to know that you will be suitable for the house and existing tenants.
Landlords may have more relaxed rules and, on the whole, tend to be more flexible than letting agents. This all sounds very well; however, you must be aware that some landlords might not be 100% reliable and complaint with the rental legislation, this could lead to tenants not being protected should things go wrong.
You must ask your potential landlord which deposit protection scheme they use and also ask current tenants about their rental experience. You must also ensure that you thoroughly check over the room you will be renting and also the house or flat for existing damage or missing items. These must be clearly listed on the contract so that your landlord does not deduct this from your deposit when you exit the contract.
■ Less rules and more flexible and personal
■ Less or no fees
■ Landlords tend to find more compatible tenants
■ Uncertainty of bond refunds
For more information, please see: A guide to renting in the UK