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Housing in the UK

Everything You Need to Know about Finding a New Home

When moving abroad, apart from your visa or work permit, the next important thing you will have to consider is what type of accommodation in the UK best suits your needs.

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Finding adequate housing in the UK is a difficult aspect of relocating you will have to face. Depending on the time of your stay, the number of people that will be living with you, and your budget, you will have to decide whether you need a long- or short-term rental, or a furnished or unfurnished apartment or house. If you are staying long enough you may even consider buying a house. In the UK, there are many different types of houses, such as cottages, detached, end of terrace, flats, semi-detached, and terraced. Prices will vary depending on the city, area of your choice, and the type of house you go for. In this section, find all the information you need about houses and apartments for rent and sale in the UK.

Short-Term Rentals

You can find temporary rentals on platforms like Airbnb, Homeaway, VRBO, TripAdvisor, Homestay or Booking. Apartments for rent short term lease usually come furnished and are a lot easier to secure. You may want to resort to this alternative if you still have to wait for your shipped goods to arrive and/or want to take your time to find the best permanent accommodation for your needs.

You can also find these types of rentals in more informal markets, such as Gumtree or Facebook groups, but this comes with a risk, as many people are illegally subletting properties. For example, it’s common for renters to temporarily sublet their places when they go on holiday, even if their lease agreement states that they cannot do this.

What Documents do You Need to Rent on a Short-term Basis?

Generally, you will only be required to have a government ID, and a verified account on the platforms.

What is the Average Price of Short-term Rentals in the UK?

As a general rule, a short-term tenancy is generally for a period of under six months. Tenancies offered for sixmonths to a year are usually marketed as medium-term, and anything over a year is considered a long-term let.

Even though they are usually more expensive than their longer-term counterparts, short-term rentals make sense in many situations. For example, you may need accommodation while finalizing a property purchase or might want to rent temporarily while shopping around for something permanent. These properties are furnished and can be rented for short periods or on a monthly basis. Just to give you an idea of the differences in prices, according to the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) the average price for a single night in a home listed on Airbnb in London is 137 GBP (176 USD). On the other hand, the median for long term rentals in the capital is 1700 GBP (2,200 USD), making the average price per night 56 GBP (72 USD).

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Renting a House or Apartment

Knowing precisely how to rent a house or apartment in the UK is essential. Here, you can find out all the thingsyou need to know to guarantee you will live in your UK dream home. Although a large amount of rental properties are available, the market has huge variations in price, which mainly depend on the location. For example, properties in a sought-after area in London can be 100 times more expensive than the same kind of property in the north of England.

Renting in the UK as a Foreigner

You will probably be unfamiliar with the system and you will have to consider different factors upon deciding where to live: the length of your stay in the country, the types of houses you are interested in, budget, commute, cost, if you want a furnished or unfurnished space, an apartment or a house, etc. Renting will give you the freedom to test out different places if you don’t find something that suits you the first time around. Flexibility will make the process much smoother. You can start your search abroad, navigating the many websites where you can find properties, and research cost and availability.

As you will probably have your hands full with the relocation process, we can take the weight your shoulders with our Home Finding service. Whether you are looking for a short or long-term solution, we can help you find the accommodation best suited for your needs.

How to Rent a House or Apartment in the UK?

If you plan on relocating to the UK temporarily, a rental will be your best option. Finding a house for rent is faster than one for sale, and landlords are responsible for most of the property’s upkeep. They have a legal duty of care, meaning they must guarantee that the rental property is maintained to a certain standard. They are mainly responsible for repairs to:

  • the structure and exterior of the property (e.g.walls, windows, external doors and stairs);
  • drains, gutters and external pipes;
  • basins, sinks, baths and toilets;
  • gas appliances;
  • electric wiring heating; and
  • hot water.

It has the added benefit of allowing you to check out different areas to find what suits you best.  If you plan on eventually buying property, it’s a good idea to rent first, and get to know your new surroundings better. After living there for a few months, you will get better sense of how everything works, allowing you to make a more informed decision when acquiring property.

Average Rent in the UK

How much is rent in the UK? Rent prices per month vary greatly depending on the region. For instance, in Greater London it’s around 1,700 GBP (2,200 USD), much higher than the national average of around GBP 1,000 (USD 1,300 USD). In London itself, the minimum rent prices per month for the same size house is around GBP 1,000 (USD 1,300) on average, while a house in the higher end of the spectrum will cost you around 13,000 GBP (17,000 USD). Moreover, a furnished flat can cost up to 20% more than an unfurnished flat.

Rental Process and Rules

Once you find a place you like, the next step in is to sign a rental contract. Most contracts are for a semester or a year, at the end of which you can extend your stay. Read your contract it carefully. You will be asked to pay a security deposit (usually equivalent to a month’s rent). You may also be asked for the following requirements and documents for renting:

  • Proof of ID
  • Proof of legal work permit/visa
  • Proof of earnings
  • Letter of confirmation of employment from your employer
  • Copy of employment contract
  • References from previous landlords

Rental Contract and Deposit

Your rental contract should have the following information:

  • your (and your landlord’s) name and contact details;
  • address of rental property;
  • dates of beginning and ending of rental contract;
  • rental fees with payment dates;
  • dates and frequency of rental review;
  • security deposit and conditions for getting it back;
  • deposit protection scheme (your landlord is legally obligated to place your rental deposit in a DPS);
  • extra fees, if any;
  • who is responsible for which type of repairs; and
  • subletting rules.

Before you move in, make an inventory of items in the house and their condition. This way you will make sure you get your deposit back when you leave.

As a tenant, you will have rights and responsibilities. When you rent privately, you have the right to live in a place that is safe and private, and to be protected from eviction or rent that isn’t fair. In turn, you have the responsibility to take care of the property, and pay the rent you have agreed on. Your landlord has the right to check your visa and other documents, have a tenant who takes care of their property and assumes the cost of damage done to it, but also has the responsibility of providing proper contracts, and keeping the property up to code. To be thoroughly informed of your rights, you can familiarize yourself with the legal guidelines for rights and responsibilities for tenants and landlords.

Paying for Utilities

Lastly, as a tenant, you will most likely be responsible for paying your utility bills. Some of them might be paid in the rental price but you will have to take care of the rest. Make sure to consider these payments in your monthly budget. For more information on UK Utilities, read our dedicated section below.

Buying Property as a Foreigner

How does a foreigner buy property in the UK? This is a question that those planning on relocating indefinitely will have in their minds.  This will add that there is an added layer of decisions to make; you might want to buy a house.

You will firstly need to define a few basic aspects, like the type of property you are after, your budget, and if you fulfill the requirements. To help you start making decisions, here you will find all the necessary information regarding buying a home in the UK.

Types of Property in the UK

As with rentals, the types of property for sale are around eleven:

  • Flats: i.e. apartments.
  • Two-level flat: i.e. maisonette or duplex.
  • Studio flats: combines a kitchen, bedroom, and living space in one open space.
  • Converted flats: typically an older house, split into smaller flats.
  • Detached houses: single houses which are not connected to another house or building.
  • Semi-detached houses: coupled together with another dwelling via a wall on only one side.
  • Terraced house: attached to other houses on both sides.
  • End of terrace: at the end of a line of terraced houses. This has very similar properties and features to a semi-detached house.
  • Cottage: seen in more rural areas; on farms and in the countryside.
  • Bungalow: single-storey house, also detached from other houses.
  • Mansion: typically consists of multiple large rooms, many floors, large garden, etc.

Types of Property Ownership

If you are buying a house in the UK, it is essential that you know that there are two fundamentally different forms of legal ownership: freehold and leasehold. The former means that you own the building and the land it stands on outright forever. The latter means that you just have a lease from the freeholder to use the home for a number of years; often 90 years to 120 years, and as high as 999 years.

Requirements to Buy a Property

The average UK house price as of November of 2019 was around 230,000 GBP (300,000 USD). Prices in London average 475,000 GBP (600,000 USD). There are no legal restrictions for non-residents to get mortgages or buy property. You might want to consider enlisting a specialized state agent and/or lawyer (solicitor or conveyancer) to help you through the process. Contact InterNationsGO! to get connected with the best in the field. Our experts will help you find and secure the perfect home.

Process & Steps for Buying a House in the UK

First, you will need to show proof of one of the following original identity documents:

  • Your signed passport
  • Driving license
  • Freedom Pass (for disabled residents or those that are 60 or over)
  • Residency permit or Alien Registration Card

You will also need to prove your address by providing one of the following documents, among others:

  • Recent utility bill (three months old)
  • Mortgage statement
  • Credit card statement
  • Phone bill dated within the last six months

Additional Costs when Buying Property in the UK

Some of the costs you will have to cover when buying a house include:

  • Stamp Duty: for properties over 125,000 GBP (160,000 USD)
  • Mortgage and mortgage deposit
  • Legal fees
  • Land registry fees
  • Moving costs from abroad

How do I Find a Property to Buy in the UK?

To find property for sale, search reputable real estate agents, real estate websites, and classified websites or print. The advantage of an agent is that they can do the scout work for you. Check what services and fees they charge beforehand. Before viewing a place, make sure you know what is important to you (e.g. how many rooms you need, whether you want a garden, etc.) so that you can find what you’re looking for.

Guide to Buying a Home in the UK

The process of finding a home usually takes a couple of months:

  • Know your budget and make sure you are not making offers out of your means.
  • Once you make an offer, the seller will be responsible for writing the contract.
  • Hire a solicitor or conveyance to represent you in the process.
  • Arrange a property survey to make sure the asking price is fair (the average cost starts at 250 GBP (300 USD)).
  • Finalize your offer (adjust it and the mortgage if you find issues during the survey).
  • Check the contract that the seller has drafted, make sure it includes all important information and details.
  • Once the contract is signed, the seller will receive payment and you will be the owner of your home.
  • Your solicitor will register the sale with Land Registry and pay Stamp Duty if applicable.

To learn more about buying or renting property, check the comprehensive UK government website. You can use the Government Property Finder to discover government-owned property, buildings or land in the UK that you could acquire.

Does Buying a House in the UK Give the Right to Citizenship or Permanent Residency?

Last but not least, many people wonder whether buying a house in the UK gets you a visa or citizenship? The answer is simple: acquiring property in the UK will not get give you either. However, if you are willing to invest 2 million GBP (2.6 million USD) into the UK economy, you will be able to attain a UK Tier 1 investor visa, which will allow you to eventually apply from British citizenship.

Utilities

If you are renting property, chances are that your new place already has utility companies (gas, electricity, water, etc.) associated with it. Frequently, the previous tenant will let them know they are leaving, but it will be relatively easy for you to reconnect or continue with the service provider, or you can simply choose another one if you wish. You will most likely be responsible for transferring the services to your name and checking meter readings periodically.

If you are buying property in the UK, you will have to arrange your own utilities. The easiest way to do this is to use a free utilities connection service, such as pleaseconnectme.co.uk.

Utility Companies

In terms of utilities, when moving to a new home your main concern will be Electricity, Gas and Water.

Electricity and Gas

There are around 70 different energy companies in the UK market. Just a few years ago, only six major companies supplied the majority of homes. These were:

  • British Gas
  • Scottish Power
  • Npower
  • E.ON
  • EDF Energy
  • SSE

Why did this happen? Long story short, Ofgem, the energy regulator, encouraged new entrants to compete against the “big six”. The aim was to give consumers more choice and promote healthy competition.

Some of the new companies are:

  • Ovo Energy
  • Shell Energy
  • Octopus Energy
  • Bulb Energy
  • Ecotricity

In the UK, there are two types of meter:

  • A standard meter: displays numbers in dial or digital form. You will be billed either monthly or quarterly.
  • A prepayment meter: it is a ‘pay-as-you-go’ system often found in rental properties. Basically, you pre-pay for your energy, usually by inserting money or a smart key/card that you will need to top up with credit.

If you have a standard meter you will need to take a meter reading and submit it to the supplier to your chosen provider when set up your account.

Water

The water industry is privatized in England and Wales, but public in Scotland and Northern Ireland. This is one of the easiest utility bills to set up. Each area of the UK has just one supplier, so you will not have to do research to decide on the best deal.

There a few basic steps to follow:

  • Find your supplier.
  • Contact your supplier.
  • Verify if you are on a metered or standard tariff.
  • Choose your payment option.

Required Documents for Utilities

For your utilities in general, there are no required documents, but you will need to provide the following information to your supplier:

  • your name and address;
  • moving date;
  • new address,
  • telephone number;
  • email address;
  • your bank details; and
  • meter reading – if applicable.

Things to Know:

  • Electricity in the UK is 230V (50Hz). Check if your appliances are compatible. To use appliances that are compatible with this voltage, you will just need to buy an adapter. But, if your device runs on a lower voltage, you will also have to use a converter to prevent overheating. Even if your home country uses lower voltages, always remember to verify if your device is dual voltage. Look for a 110-240v label or sticker before purchasing a converter.
  • Plugs have three flat rectangle pronged outlets, unique to the UK and Ireland, meaning that you will probably have to get adaptors.
  • The market is privatized and there are six main utility companies (and several smaller ones). Combining gas and electricity accounts will lower your rates. You can use sites dedicated to compare rates, such as ukpower.co.uk
  • Water is privatized in some areas of the UK and public in others. You will have to use your local water company. You can find your supplier here.
  • Water is potable but some people choose to filter it. Why? Simply because safe water doesn’t always mean tasty water. For example, Londoners might tell you about the particular taste of the capital’s hard water, which has a high number of dissolved minerals, predominantly magnesium and calcium, ultimately affecting the flavor.

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Internet and Cell Phones

One of the things that people urgently need when moving abroad is the ability to stay connected. Knowing how to get a SIM card and an internet provider, although seemingly minor, will be a priority.

How Get a SIM card?

Phones in the UK use the GSM standard. If your cellphone is compatible with GSM all you will have to do is switch your SIM card for a British one. Otherwise, you will have to get your phone unlocked or purchase a new one in the UK. You can access SIM cards in any shopping center.

Main Cell Phone Companies

  • Carphone Warehouse
  • O2
  • T-Mobile
  • Vodafone
  • Orange

You will have to decide on a contract or a pay-as-you-go deal. Not all expats can get contracts as you have to provide proof of employment and  proof of address, and pass a basic credit check.

Main Internet Providers

The major internet providers and the main reason why they are known are:

  • Virgin Media Broadband: Speedy internet.
  • Plusnet: Reliable and
  • EE Broadband: Competitive packages.
  • BT Broadband: Added extras.
  • Sky Broadband: Consistent performance.

Watching TV in the UK

As for TV, there are several providers in the the UK. Before hiring one, check their availability as some services are not found countrywide. This can be done by checking the TV postcode.

If you are feeling homesick and want to know how to watch your home country’s TV, your best bet will be to use a VPN (virtual private network) service to stream shows from abroad without having your stream blocked outside of the permitted location for streaming.

But, if you want to watch embrace the culture and watch UK Television, you will have to get a TV license.

You must have a UK TV License if you:

  • watch or record programmes on a TV, computer or other device as they’re broadcast
  • download or watch BBC programmes on iPlayer – live, catch up or on demand

A TV License costs 154.50 GBP (200 USD) for both homes and businesses.

Do you want to relocate? If you have never moved abroad, the process will be overwhelming, and if you have, you know the burden that lies ahead. Whatever stage you are at, InterNations GO! can help you with a complete set of relocation services, such as home finding, school search, visa solutions, and even pet relocation. Our expert expat team is ready to get your relocation going, so why not jump-start your move abroad and contact us today? Best to start early!

Updated on: May 11, 2020

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