What to Have Ready
Although renting is not as legally or financially rigorous as buying a property in London, it’s still a competitive market. Make sure you are ready with everything that the landlord or letting agent will need, before you go on viewings. This way when you find a property to rent you can get signed up straight away, confidently knowing you have everything in place – making sure you beat others competing for the property.
ID You will need to prove who you are by supplying your original (not copies of) Passport, driving licence (if you have one), Visa papers if you are not a British national and perhaps some Utility bills (gas, electric, water or landline phone bills) that are less than 3 months old. If you only have these online, get them printed our or order a printed version of your most recent bill to be sent to you.
Bank Statements It’s usually common for landlords or agents to ask for your most recent 3 months of bank statements. Make sure you can print them quickly if you don’t have paper copies, or ask your bank to send you them through. If you are employed and your salary does not go straight into your account, or you have just started a job, you will have to produce payslips or a job contract as proof.
Referees You will need 2 people, based in the UK that can be contacted by email or phone to act as a ‘referee.’ All they do is provide a landlord or more usually an agent working for them with a description of your character. Landlords know that if you have a couple of respectable referees who say you are ‘a decent, professional person with good standing’ that you are more likely to be a good tenant.
Where you can, use referees that are professionally employed. Anyone who works for a large, well recognised firm is even better (it’s okay if you don’t know someone like this). These people could be family friends, personal friends, old colleagues or even an accountant or solicitor if they know you well enough (merely having had a professional relationship with them because you employed them for some work is not enough). Employees can ask managers or fellow colleagues, or even their HR department, who will have a record of your conduct. Students can ask University professors or tutors. Generally the referee needs to be based in the UK.
Credit Check Agencies or landlords will need to check your financial background to ensure you can pay the rent. They are trying to avoid those with a history of ‘not paying’ for anything – rents, credit cards, loans. An agency will probably run a credit check on you so if you think you have a record which isn’t clean, be prepared with honest answers as to why your credit history isn’t perfect.
Previous Landlord Reference If you have moved out of a rental property recently or are about to do so, ask for a reference from your Landlord (if you are about to move out it makes sense to ask for it before they have inspected the property on you leaving!). This is the most valuable evidence for a new landlord as they can always phone and check with your old landlord. Similarly if you are in student accommodation have the property manager or administration team write a reference for you.
Money! Deposit & Rent When you sign the contract for a new rental property you will have to pay: an admin fee for the checks described above, perhaps a small additional admin fee to the agency and more importantly your first months rent and deposit.
Deposits can range from 1 months rent to 3 months rent, for a regular 12 month long let. Usually this is 2 months. If any of your checks came through as less than satisfactory, the landlord will simply ask for a bigger deposit to protect themselves. Should they not want you as a tenant, you can always suggest leaving a bigger deposit to secure the tenancy, if you have the funds available.
International citizens, (i.e. not British citizens) may have to leave very large deposits or even pay the full years rent upfront. Although this sounds extreme, it is too expensive for a UK landlord to pursue a tenant for damages or non-payment if they run off abroad. So it makes sense that they would want more financial security. Increasingly parents step in and give large deposits to students or first time renters. If you can’t come up with a large deposit in advance and can’t convince a landlord to take you on with a regular 2 month deposit, rent a room for a few months or try a short let, then get a reference from there to use for a long let.
Guarantor Where the landlord does not feel you are able to pay the rent on your own, or where you have no history of renting or paying a mortgage (first time renters, students) the landlord often asks for a ‘Guarantor.’ This is simply someone who is in a financially secure position who promises to be liable for costs should you stop paying rent or damage the property.
Often this will be parents or relatives, however it can be anyone including family friends or even your boss or a colleague if they are prepared to financially guarantee you! Preferably, the guarantor lives in the UK. Should they live abroad, you likely will need to pay a big deposit or 3 – 12months rent in advance.