Wednesday, September 26The Voice of London

Renting in London: things you must know

When searching for properties to rent in London there are two paths you can go down, agencies and independent landlords. Here are our tips to get you by.

Words: Tiasha Simon, Karolina Zilenaite
Photos: Mariya Savova, Julia Tsilman
Video: Julia Tsilman
Credit: Flickr


You would think when going independently in terms of searching for houses everything would be smooth sailing, missing out on all those fees agencies like to charge, what could be better? Think again.

Going through room renting websites may have you wanting to crawl into estate agents and beg them to find a place to live. Anywhere. Just anywhere. The horrors of house hunting can chisel away at your sanity.

Bouncing between different websites for hours on end becomes a chore, and there are plenty of them to look at – spareroomeasyroomate, and weroom to name a few. How can it be so hard to find somewhere to live when you have all these sites to search? Easily.

There are an abundance of factors that cause house hunting to be such a mission, from rooms being out of price range, people simply not replying to the very worst- scams.

The first thing that should done when looking for houses is to have all your requirements listed and to make sure you have a clear picture of what you are looking for. Jumping in with the mind-set with “just a room is needed” will leave you with disappointment.

There are some obvious things that you can miss out. You would not think “have windows” would be a requirement. Do these landlords not care that room’s need ventilation? A room without windows is more like a cell.

Be sure to ask what furnishings are included, because the basics for you are not the basics for landlords. If a landlord can get away with it they will provide you with the bare minimum: a bed.

Once you have your requirements down, you may feel all is well. “Everything is set. Time to pick what I want.” Most likely not. Sorry to spew negativity, by all means this may not replicate within your searches, but when the filters of what you want are in places the thousands of rooms that the website boasts it has whittle down to the hundreds.

Hundreds you say? What’s wrong with hundreds of options? Something. Whether it’s the tenancy time, the deposit price, or the windows aren’t double-glazed; it is hard to find something that matches your requirements right away.

Also note, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers are everywhere.

Once a house share crops up that seems suitable for your needs it is more than tempting to want to snatch it right away; do not do this. House viewings are important. The landlord you are contacting may tell you there is a lot of interest in the room and it will be gone soon, but never cave into not viewing prior to moving in.

Want to save yourself time and travel money? Ask questions. Being new to the process of house hunting, you are most likely not going to know what to ask- everything is new- fear not, here’s what to ask.


  • What furnishings are included in the room?

  • What is the earliest and what is the latest move in date?

  • Where is the room located in the house? (Upstairs/downstairs)

  • Who does the current household exist of?

  • Do you accept young professionals?

  • What is the deposit price?

  • What is the minimum and maximum tenancy time?

If possible try to get the address before agreeing to view the property as Google Street View works a charm. When an advertisement says ‘five minutes away from the station’, they mean fifteen. Asking these questions will eliminate many of the problems that can be faced. It can save you walking for miles to a house that was supposedly nearby, a room located next to kitchen, and not being within the right age range for the household.

Be sure to look out for any signs of damp and mould, ask to view the rooms over again as sometimes a quick glance is not enough and if the current housemates are in, try to sneak in a view questions about the place and the landlord to them.

The worst that can happen is it’s not what you’re looking for or you’ll arrive at the house only to be text ‘someone who has just seen the property ten minutes ago now has the room and you cannot view it’.

You’ll get the hang of it, there are only so many times you can face disappointment before there’s a silver lining in a form of a roof over your head.


Things to pay attention to:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Renting a property through agencies is essentially safer and more reliable, since you’ve got everything on a paper with all the legal bits and pieces. Yet, the amount of viewings, information and low-key pressure estate agents give you, will be enough to make your head spin.

The start of looking for a property will be quite up lifting. The amount of available properties with your preferences ticked off and within you budget will be never-ending.

But there’s always a flip side.

Over time, as you’re piling up an impressive list of properties, the variety starts to seem too overwhelming. The deeper you dive into the endless pit of adverts, the less light you see at the end of it. Ignore old ads and grab new ones if you want to save time and unnecessary calls.

Don’t forget, only the lucky ones get their housing sorted out in one go. Be sure to look at the property search websites at least twice a day. The new ads are put up and gone real fast – first come, first served.

Once you’ve got your list of properties, it’s time to make calls. Depending on your situation — single, with a significant other or with others willing to share — any agent will ask you a few important details. They will heavily determine if you’re getting a viewing or not.

Number of people, annual gross and occupation — if you meet the requirements, you scored yourself a viewing. Your annual gross is very important, it has to meet or go over the minimum the agency has set up.

Along with that, the occupation of tenants is important. The ones in a full-time higher education get it harder. It’s just an unwritten rule. But if you have a professional living with you or you are a professional yourself, you should be fine.

Remember to do a thorough research on the areas you’d like to live in. It’s useful to look at Metropolitan Police crime figures and LocalStats for demographic info.

Before going to the viewings you’ve arranged, do another quick research, now concerning the area around each property. Re-read the descriptions — they have all the information needed (or most of the information that the agent will tell).

What you should ask is the size of the rooms, if it’s not on the advert. Sometimes they do put floor plan in an advert, sometimes they don’t. Or it doesn’t have the measurements, only the positions of rooms. Be mindful of that.

Going through various properties can be overwhelming. It is time-consuming, tiring and at the end of the day you will be confused. The trick is to assess the property critically and ask yourself some questions before putting up the offer.

Sometimes you will have to change your priorities or let go some of the preferences you’ve set up. There will always be one or two drawbacks (no private garden, no off-road parking, etc.). It will never be ideal; you will have to find a compromise — with yourself or someone else.

Once you finally put up an offer, there comes a load of paperwork and (never-ending) fees. That’s the price you have to pay when renting through agents. Quite literally.

It does depend on the property’s price and the agency when it comes to fees. But here are the main ones you have to know about:

  • Holding fee (~£500 – £700/ for a week)

  • Application fee (£50 and up)

  • Deposit (one or six month’s rent in advance)

  • Contract renewal fee (£60 and up)

  • Insurance fee (not necessary; no estimate)

  • Pet fee (not necessary; no estimate)

All of these fees will come together if you decide to rent through an agency. Unfortunately, it’s not inevitable. Nonetheless, it’s all an investment — the rent and bills you pay will go towards your renting history, which could be important in the future.