What you need to know when renting in the UK

For those of you considering relocating to the UK, this provides information about the UK rental market, types of housing available, and utility and media information.

Please note that there is a lot of legislation involved in the UK lettings market, most of which is very out of date and inadequate, so be sure to speak to a property expert before you sign a tenancy agreement or hand over any money. Our Front Office Consultants and Personal Coordinators have a two-step validation process to make sure all tenancy agreements are legal and suitable for the tenant.

Rental market overview and regulation

The UK rental market may seem to be quite some way behind that of our European counterparts where renting is the principal tenure. The British have been obsessed with home ownership, fuelled by the introduction of the government's Right to Buy Scheme under the Housing Act 1980 which permitted council tenants to purchase their property from the local authority. This opened the floodgates to home ownership and as a result, the rental market was not able to develop; even today, the market bewilders expats, primarily because the Government does not wish to impede market growth by the introduction of what it refers to as "unnecessary" regulation.

Nevertheless, progress is being made and recently we saw the introduction of a compulsory Property Redress Scheme that requires all letting agents to sign up to one of three Government approved redress schemes so that tenants can have a formal route for making complaints. The only problem with this scheme is that it is not regulated - nobody is checking whether or not letting agents have complied with the legislation. So, be mindful that there are still rogue agents operating in the UK that have not subscribed to this scheme and you would be wise to avoid dealing with them.

All is not lost, however, because as well as the Property Redress Scheme, there are two authoritative bodies that set the standard for the UK lettings market: the Guild of Letting and Management and the Association of Residential Letting Agents. Membership to both bodies is voluntary, but if an agent has made the effort to subscribe to them (and there are plenty that have), you can be assured that they should be operating to a strict code of practice.

On top of this is the SAFE – Safe Agent Fully Endorsed – scheme - a mark denoting firms that protect landlords' and tenants' money through client money protection schemes. So if you have handed over any money to the agent and they go out of business, or mysteriously disappear, your money is safe.

Finally, a much welcomed introduction was that of the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) in 2007 which essentially protects the security deposit at the end of the tenancy. Historically, many landlords looked upon the security deposit as a source of extra income and made unfair deductions, leaving the tenant out of pocket. The TDS has helped put an end to that for predominantly private lets by providing a dispute resolution service which is for the most part free of charge for the tenant, though there are odd exceptions where a charge may be made - company tenancies, for example.

Housing types

The main types of houses in the UK are:

  • Detached (a house not joined to another house)
  • Semi-detached (two houses joined together)
  • Terraced (several houses joined together)
  • Flats (apartments)

In the large city centres, where space is at a premium, people tend to live in apartments, with terraced houses lining the immediate surroundings. In the suburbs you will find more recent housing, including the detached and semi-detached properties which generally always come with their own garden.

In most towns, you will find streets of older houses joined together in long row; these are called terraced houses.

Out in the villages, housing tends to be made up of detached and semi-detached properties, though you may come across modern apartment blocks and "mews", a term used to describe what is essentially modern terraced housing, though you will only find a handful of houses in a row rather than a half-mile long street.

UK housing is generally not very spacious. Visitors from some countries are often surprised at how small property is, but unless you are fortunate enough to have a substantial rental allowance, you will have to get used to the lack of space. As you move into the city centres you will again see a reduction in property size - there is a trade-off between floor space and convenience that can only be overcome by budget.

Furnished v. unfurnished

Generally, you will find no difference whatsoever in price between a furnished property and an unfurnished property. Some landlords will furnish a property to make it look more attractive to viewers, but bear in mind that if you don't want the landlord's furnishings they may charge you for removal by way of a rent increase.

There is no standard for what should be included in a furnished or part-furnished property. However, a fully furnished property should mean that you can move straight in without having to purchase any additional items. In reality, you may need to (or wish to) provide your own bed linens and towels. A part-furnished property should include a fridge and a cooker at the very least, but then again, remember there are no hard and fast rules. If you opt for an unfurnished property, you are expected to provide everything except floor coverings. One thing to bear in mind is that rental property in the UK comes with a fitted kitchen!

House v. apartment

This really depends on where you are looking to reside. If you prefer to live in a city centre, the chances are you will have no other choice than to rent an apartment, particularly in London. Most apartments that are available are either 1-bedroomed or 2-bedroomed; there are 3-bedroomed apartments available but they are certainly not as plentiful as the smaller ones. As for houses, they generally range from 2-bedroomed to 4-bedroomed, though you will come across the odd 1-bedroomed property, and larger properties are available if you search in the right areas - usually modern, executive housing estates or older properties in more upmarket areas.

Heating and hot water

Landlords have an obligation under a piece of legislation called the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to provide the facility for space and water heating in a rental property.

Heating is generally via a gas powered boiler that heats water filled radiators throughout the property, although in some houses and more so in apartments, heating is electric, using "storage" heaters, that charge up overnight, and standard, wall-mounted electric heaters. Heating in some villages and remote locations could be oil-fired.

Hot water is generally provided by two methods (unless you have an oil-fired system): hot water tank with immersion heater, or by combi-boiler. With the hot water tank, you set the times you want the water heated, e.g. morning and late afternoon, for example, and the hot water sits in the tank until you use it. The more efficient method is the use of combi-boiler, which heats water on demand. The only point to note here is that whilst you are running a hot tap, your central heating pauses until the tap stops running, which can be frustrating if you have just switched on the heating.

Media services

Landline, internet and TV services are widely available in the UK. There are a number of providers to choose from and you really will need to do your homework to work out which one is best for you. Celsium's utility and media team will be able to help you with this.

Mainstream services are English-speaking only, although the carriers do provide a small handful of foreign language channels. All providers offer a combination of telephone, internet and TV services and you find that by bundling the services with one provider they do work out slightly cheaper than buying them all individually.

It is usual for the tenant to cover the cost of installation of any services, though if the service has already been present, this will just be a one-off reconnection charge. In apartment blocks, you will not necessarily have a choice in which provider you use as many of them provide a communal service that he apartments can tap into.

Contact us

If you would like to discuss any of our services, or if you have any specific queries you need assistance with, please contact us using the following details and we will be happy to assist you.

welcome@celsiummobility.com       +44 (0)121 214 62044

Stuart Beaty
+44 (0) 121 214 6204

Shelley Lloyd
+44 (0) 121 214 6204