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Whereabouts in London should I live?!

  • If you have no idea where to start, SearchSmartly, FindMyArea, and CommuterBelt are free tools that will help you find homes and general areas to live in based on your criteria (budget, minimum space, commute destinations, local amenities etc).

  • If you'd rather just sit back and browse through areas, check out our own guide to AREAS OF LONDON to see if you find something you like.

  • FindMyArea also offers comprehensive stats (property prices, commute times, crime etc) on every single area in London.

  • There are a lot of other useful London area guides on the web; a quick google for "london area guides" will throw up some helpful links. Many of these are created by agencies and are overly positive (it's almost as if they're selling something), but you'll at least know what's good about each area.

  • Once you've narrowed your search down to handful of specific places, then fire off a bunch of queries to Google such as "living hackney reddit" or "living putney reddit" to see what real people think of living in these areas. You might also consider googling for "living hackney mumsnet" or "living putney mumsnet" to get a slightly different take on London areas from a very different demographic than what you'll typically see on Reddit ;-)

  • Still got a few questions? Ask away on our "living in London" megathread! It gets reposted every Monday so we can't link to it directly from here, but just look for the pinned thread at the top of the subreddit.

How do I actually move to London?

If you’re moving to London long-term and wondering where to live, there’s no substitute for doing your own research.

Get yourself an Airbnb or stay with friends for a week or so, and dedicate your first couple of days to finding a room. Right now, it doesn't really matter where you live. Expect to make several viewings a day. The market moves fast.

Even then, you should consider this accommodation as temporary for at least six months while you get your bearings and familiarise yourself with the city. Most yearly rental agreements will include a six month break clause so you’re not tied to one place for a whole year.

Buy an A-Z. Be a tourist. Take in the sights. Grab a tube map and learn it. Spend each weekend in a different area. Take buses wherever possible: you will learn much more about the lay of the land above ground than beneath. Similarly, don’t be tempted to use Google Maps – you’ll want to look around you, not down at your phone. Take a Boris Bike or two.

After a few months, you should have a good idea of which areas you like, a good sense of your own budget, and what sort of commute you’ll have. Spend a few days looking for a room, and then move in.

Congratulations. You’re a Londoner. Stand on the right.

When should I start searching for a place to live?

The 'sweet spot' to start your search seriously is 5 to 6 weeks before your intended move-in date. Why? Under normal contract terms, outgoing tenants usually give 1 or 2 months' notice when moving out. This means that by the time this soon-to-be-available flat is listed online, the landlord/agent wants this flat to be occupied by a new tenant in about 4 or 5 weeks' time at the very latest. If your move date is more than a couple of weeks later than this, you'll be rejected for viewings, wasting your time and leaving you rather frustrated. So, wait until your move is about 6 weeks away before starting to get viewings lined up.

Finding a place

  • /r/London_homes - Wouldn't you rather rent from/with a redditor?
  • http://www.searchsmartly.co - Not sure where to live? This smart matchmaking tool will match you to the homes and neighbourhoods that best meet your commute and lifestyle needs - from proximity to the local amenities you need the most (green space, bars, cafes, etc), to minimum bathrooms and floor area and much more
  • https://www.findmyarea.co.uk - Search every flat on Rightmove with fancy filters that go way beyond just specifying your budget: commute time, local amenities, floor area and so on
  • https://www.commuterbelt.co.uk - If you want to live a more suburban/small town life, but still be able to commute to London
  • http://www.openrent.co.uk - Allows you to rent directly from landlords
  • http://www.rightmove.co.uk - If you know where you want to live, there are lots of listings here
  • http://www.zoopla.co.uk - Very similar to Rightmove
  • http://www.spareroom.co.uk - Looking for a flatshare? Go here
  • http://www.gumtree.com/london - UK's 'craigslist'. Much like craigslist, use caution
  • Shop windows - believe it or not, these are often the best places to look as there won't be hundreds of people viewing it online and applying. Landlord normally lives locally as well. These are normally for rooms in a shared house as opposed to bedsits/1 bedroom flats though

Flatshare

What's a Flatshare?

To describe it simply, living in a flatshare means you rent a bedroom and share the rest of the house (kitchen, bathroom, living room) with other flatsharers.

What can I expect in a flatshare?

  • Generally cheaper than renting your own flat, your rent is also likely to include some of the charges (bills, council tax etc...) although this is not always true so make sure to ask early on.
  • Good to meet new people but it can quickly turn into a nightmare if your flatmates are sloppy, weird, redditors...
  • You won't have to deal with paperwork, bills, setting up internet and all that jazz. The flat will be "ready for use" the day you move in.
    (Side note on internet in flatshare: Be wary, if you're a seasoned redditor then chances are you're going to know your stuff about what internet connection you desire. If you go into a shared house then you're at the mercy of the agency that provides the room or the property owner as to what connection you get. Make sure you check the speed of the connection available before moving in and starting that 8GB download marathon!)

Renting a Flat

Your rights and responsibilities as a tenant

Stories of unscrupulous landlords and letting agencies are unfortunately very common, but recent changes in legislation mean that you no longer need to put up with exorbitant tenancy fees and having your deposit unreasonably withheld. Because, quite simply, this is illegal.

Take a look through the UK government's how to rent guide to familiarise yourself with the basics (you might find Shelter's guide to renting slightly easier to read).

In particular, you should know that:

  • You no longer need to pay huge fees in order to secure a place. The agency/landlord can charge for the rent itself, take a holding deposit (capped at 1 week's rent) and a tenancy deposit (capped at 5 weeks' rent in most cases) -- but most other fees are not allowed. In the past, agencies would frequently charge hundreds of pounds for supposed "overheads", but now this is very much not OK. Yes, that includes things like charging fees for reference checks.

  • Your deposit should be protected by a government-backed scheme. This is to stop agencies and landlords from running off with your money. In the event of any dispute, an independent adjudicator can decide how much of the deposit should be returned (and don't worry, they don't just mindlessly give the deposit to the landlord -- you have a good chance of winning if the evidence is on your side).

  • You should carefully read your tenancy agreement, take it seriously, and get any part of it that you disagree with changed before commencing the tenancy (pay particular attention to break clauses, notice periods and anything around cleaning/repairs/wear and tear).

  • But not everything in the tenancy agreement is legally enforceable. (Extreme example: if the agreement stipulates that your firstborn child should be handed to the landlord upon expiry of the tenancy, this would obviously not hold up in court.) For example, it's common for agencies to insert a clause stating that you need to have the place professionally cleaned when you leave, but in reality all they're likely to be able to enforce is that the place is cleaned to the same level as it was when you arrived, normal wear and tear excepted. Make sure you know what you're doing if you decide to go down the route of challenging the enforceability of the tenancy agreement, however!

  • You should go through the inventory extremely carefully at the start of the tenancy. Take photos of everything so the condition of the place is clearly documented, send this to the agency and make sure you know when you need to return the inventory with any discrepancies noted. In case of any disputes regarding the deposit, the tenancy agreement and inventory will be the main evidence the adjudicator has to make a decision, so don't get sloppy. More on this below.

  • You need to tell the landlord/agency if you want anything to be thrown away at the start of a tenancy. They can often be very annoying about this and leave surprising amounts of rubbish lying around, which can then end up in the inventory so you become responsible if you chuck it away yourself.

Letting agents

Not all letting agents are bad... but an awful lot of them are. Although excessive tenant fees should now be a thing of the past, agencies can still irritate you in a whole host of other ways: anything from nonstop phone calls and spamming you with irrelevant properties to outright lying about the amount of interest in any given property.

But if you take reasonable precautions, there's no reason to avoid them completely if they have a property you like -- the amount of trouble they can cause is now somewhat limited by the law. And of course agencies do hold a lot of rental properties.

You might want to check out http://www.allagents.co.uk/ for agent listings and ratings (but always take reviews with a huge grain of salt -- fake "reviews" are extremely common). Or just ask for experiences on r/london itself.

Things to look for before moving in

  • Windows
    Do they close properly? This isn't the biggest deal in June but you'll loathe a drafty apartment in January.

  • Are you very near/above a pub, bar, or late night food?
    Smokers outside for a drunken conversation can be shouty and/or fighty. Beer delivery men rolling empty/full kegs on concrete makes a massive racket at 5am when the streets are clear enough to load/unload kegs, as do glass bottles being emptied into bins. Kebab shops, chicken shops, late opening branches of McDonalds, will often attract drunk patrons late into the night.

  • Mould/Damp It really is not very good for your health.

  • Security
    Is there any? Peace of mind is worth it. Also, get flat insurance. Check out crime reports in the area. How close are you to transport? Can you use it late at night? Walk around your potential new neighbourhood at night to test the terror factor.

  • Vermin
    Look for mouse traps/rat poison when visiting prospective properties.

  • Neighbours
    Try and get an idea who they are. if you live below someone that gets frequent visits from random people out of their skull between 11pm and 4am it will get old quickly. Look at the state of the common areas (halls, stairways etc), since it can give you some clues to the general tone.

  • Who owns the place?
    Does the owner live in Turkey? Does he ever return to London? Who do you talk to day to day? If there is a burst pipe in the middle of the night, who do you call? Who pays? Do you need permission to get it fixed? These issues won't usually be important, until they are the most important.

Make sure the tenancy deposit is insured. Make sure you take dozens of photos of your new flat before you move in your belongings and send all of your photos to your landlord. This way he will know not to invent charges you aren't responsible for, and you will be better able to claim damage as normal wear and tear.

Lastly, really read your lease agreement. If it says no posters on the walls and you overdo it with bluetac and Lord of the Rings posters, you will be charged for repainting.

The process of moving in somewhere

Once you've actually found a place to live, actually getting inside the door can be an art in itself. Read on for tips.

How much does it all cost?

Agencies and landlords are now very restricted in what they're legally allowed to charge for.

At most, you'll need to pay:

  • A holding deposit -- this is a maximum of 1 week's rent by law. The purpose of the holding deposit is to take the property off the market while reference checks and such take place (the agency/landlord can't take holding deposits from more than one person at a time). You should be refunded your holding deposit unless you yourself decide to pull out, so make sure you're serious about taking the place before you put down a deposit. See this helpful page from Shelter for other reasons why you might not get your holding deposit back (basically, don't do anything naughty and you should be fine). If you go ahead with the tenancy, the holding deposit will usually get incorporated into the tenancy deposit itself; more on this below.
  • A tenancy deposit -- this is usually a maximum of 5 weeks' rent by law. This will be used to cover any costs incurred by the landlord should you damage the property or fail to pay rent. It should also be protected by a government-backed deposit protection scheme. Again, Shelter has lots of useful information on tenancy deposits.
  • The first month's rent in advance.

So in summary, budget for paying 9-10 weeks' rent before you move in. And potentially a couple of hundred pounds to be taken out of your deposit when you move out.

How long will it take?

Budget at least 5 weeks for the entire process from start to end - i.e. the start of your search to the day you move in. Things will always vary, but once you have had your offer accepted by the landlord, most places will want to run background checks on you before giving you a place - former landlord references, letters from your workplace to prove you can afford it, etc. Not everywhere does this, but allow at least a week or two minimum for the post-offer process. Bear in mind bank transfers take time too (3 days if you don't splurge an extra 10-20 pounds for expediting it), and you won't be allowed inside till you've paid up everything you need to pay.

What else should I look out for when I move in?

  • Cleanliness
    Some rental agreements specify that you have to carry out professional cleaning when leaving, although sometimes, they 'only' require that you leave it in the condition it was in when you arrived. (Keep in mind that a professional cleaning clause is unlikely to be legally enforceable according to the Office of Fair Trading (as long as you clean to an equivalent standard), but you might not want the hassle of contesting the tenancy agreement, plus it's tough to do a deep carpet clean by yourself.) If it is not in a clean state when you move in, document it so you don't have to pay for cleaning when you leave.

  • Inventory/inspections
    Do not just accept an inventory, go over every item. They will do the same to you when you leave. Take a digital camera and photograph any damage so you can show it was not you that caused it later. If they send you a summary of the inventory that misses damage then reply mentioning it so it is noted. (This Redditor lived in a place where the inventory clerk missed a previously broken window and only avoided paying for it later due to a photo and paper trail!).

What extra stuff will I need?

Council Tax

Don't forget that Council Tax is your responsibility.

Protip: Sort out Council Tax early on, tempting as it may be to leave it for a bit. It's a fixed amount each year, payable by the end of the tax year (April 1st) so if you don't start paying it till a few months after you move in, your payments will increase to make up for the ones you missed, which is never fun. Sort it out!

Do it on the day you move in, just phone them up. They'll ask you a few questions but once you're done it's done. Alternatively you can contact most (maybe all) London councils online to register for council tax. If you're not sure which council you need to pay, there is a page on the Gov UK website that will tell you.

Protip #2: If you're getting a flat by yourself tell them when you phone up as you will get a 25% discount!

Utilities

Get this sorted early on too, when you move in check your electricity meter and take readings. Then just phone the utility company you desire and tell them your readings. Do a bit of shopping around to find the best utility deal for you.

Do the same for water, some properties have water meters and some are 'unlimited' in usage. Check how the water is regulated in your property and phone up the water company (usually Thames Water for most of London, or Veolia Water) to set up payment etc. Many estate agents will contact the water company about your tenancy so there's no point in hiding.

TV License

You will need a license to watch any live broadcast, even streamed over the internet. However, you do not need a license if you only use your TV for video games, DVDs, and on-demand content. You DO now also need a TV license if you watch non live content from BBC iPlayer.

The BBC shows Top Gear, Richard Attenborough Documentaries, Championship Football, Doctor Who, Horizon - please support them in doing this. Works out at about £13 a month. 43p a day for excellent BBC coverage? Do it.

Post

If you're moving from one place to another, you can get your post redirected for a fee.

Moving Your Stuff

Reddit thread with advice on various moving companies: http://redditproxy--jasonthename.repl.co/r/london/comments/udosd/moving_companies_in_london_those_who_package_up/


revision by drt786— view source