London is one of those cities that’s famous the entire world over, and that people have had a lot to say about for centuries now.
It was all the way back in 1777 when Samuel Johnson famously quipped that “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.”
Today, the city is more packed than it’s ever been, with staggering numbers of people making their way between it’s transport hubs a daily basis, mostly using the Victorian-era tube network.
A lot of people end up living in London for work, and other people move to the city first to attend one of its many universities, and then just find themselves hanging around for a while. If you’re planning a move to London in the near future, there are certain things that you really need to know about renting property in the city, so that you’re not taken for a ride, or caught off guard.
After all, London is a notoriously expensive place to live, so that alone should give you some pause for thought.
Here are some things to know about renting property in London.
The area you will be living in matters a lot
London is by no means a single homogenous area, with a single homogenous community. Instead, the city sprawls over a vast area of land, and over the centuries it has come engulf and assimilate smaller towns and settlements on its outskirts.
Today, a journey across London on the Central Line from West Ruislip to Epping will take almost an hour and a half – and that’s on a high speed underground train, not subject to the traffic that clogs up the streets above.
The point here, is that London is big, and different districts, neighbourhoods, and areas have completely different characteristics, completely different crime rates, completely different communities, completely different transport links, and all the rest.
Before you rent a property in London, it’s extremely important that you do your research and investigate everything you can about the specific area you are thinking about renting in.
Be sure to check up a crime map of the city. Certain areas are hotspots for criminal activity, whereas areas just around the corner may not be.
Understand that, if you’re moving to London because you want to experience the side of the city that all tourists know and love (Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, and all that stuff) you will have to live in specific areas. If you find yourself renting a property in Stepney, in East London, you’re going to have none of that “vibe” in your immediate surroundings.
There are plenty of shady, exploitative “private landlords” and small agencies to look out for
London is full of people, full of properties, and full of people looking to rent properties. What’s more, a lot of those people will move between different accommodation on a regular basis.
This means that there is a huge housing market in London, with plenty of legitimate and upstanding agencies and companies operating there, such as Redrow. Unfortunately, there are also a huge number of shady, exploitative, and scammy “private landlords” and small “agencies” you need to watch out for.
Before you make any agreement, or move in to any property, investigate the agency or individual you’re going to be renting from online, and be sure that you’re not reading reviews that they bought.
As a general of thumb, you want to avoid anything that doesn’t involve proper paperwork, like the plague. Definitely don’t go for any offer that require you to pay your monthly rent in cash, rather than via bank transfer.
Also, always be sure to get a copy of your contract to look over in advance, and make sure that you inspect it in some detail. There could be clauses in the small print that could put you in a very bad situation, which would be much better avoided.
In addition to all of that, keep in mind that the city is full of flat shares, where large flats or houses are rented out to multiple different people on a room-by-room basis, generally with common bathroom and kitchen facilities.
This arrangement might work for you – especially if you are planning to move into a property with friends. If you’re wary of living with strangers, however, make sure that you understand the specific arrangement at play before you agree to move in.
Transport links are a big deal – pay attention to them
As mentioned above; London is a massive city, and even when using the tube, it can take a pretty long time to get from one place to another.
It’s also worth remembering that London’s Tube network was originally established in the Victorian era, and has been expanded dramatically since that point, meaning that there are not just one or two metro lines to know your way around – but rather a huge spiderweb map that you have to come to terms with.
And then, there are some areas you can’t reach directly by Tube, but which need you to get to via overground train, or bus.
Finally, the times at which these different lines, and public transport services run, differ.
The upshot of all of this is that, before you rent a property in London, you need to pay very close attention to what sort of transport links are to be found in that particular area. If you don’t do your research in this regard, properly, you may find that you end up in a place where it’s very difficult – if not impossible – to actually spend a night out on the town on a regular basis, if you plan on staying out past 10 o’clock.
Properties will tend to go very fast, but try to avoid being pushed into a decision on the spot
Properties in London are often snatched up in a hurry, which is generally pretty useful for the people who are renting those properties out, as it means that there’s a lot of pressure for prospective tenants to make snap decisions as to whether or not to accept a contract.
One situation you might find yourself in, is being “accidentally” double-booked to view a property with another person, or people, just to heighten the sense of urgency and to drive you to make a hasty decision.
It’s important (even though you might miss out on some properties) to allow enough time for this process to play out, and to not allow yourself to get pushed into making a decision on the spot. Doing so likely means that you’re going to overlook important details (and significance problems) with the property, and perhaps the contract, too.
There’s always something to do in the city – but peace and quiet isn’t on the cards
London is one of those cities where there is just about always something to do (other than in the very early hours of the morning.)
Whether you enjoy clubbing, fine dining, spending time on the river, checking out art galleries and museums, visiting the theatre, or doing any number of other things, London is full of opportunities for entertainment if you’re only willing to take the initiative.
On the other hand, peace and quiet are not really on the cards if you live in London. You will never be far from a lot of other people, traffic, and the highly built-up and urban nature of city living. If a Zen existence is important to you, London may not be the place to pursue it.