So You Want to Live and Work in the UK: Finding a Flat, Part 2

For the previous posts in this series, please see So You Want to Live and Work in the UK: Finding Work on Tier 5So You Want to Live and Work in the UK: The Visa, So You Want to Live and Work in the UK: Circular Finances, and So You Want to Live and Work in the UK: Finding a Flat, Part 1.

So now that you have a good idea of the neighbourhood you want to target, it’s time to view some flats and make an offer.

Sourcing and Arranging Flat Viewings

Email, call, and walk-in to the letting agencies in the neighbourhood that you are targeting. You will receive many calls and emails for a few weeks, but it’s ideal to book in as many viewings as possible in a short period of time so that you have a good frame of reference for comparison of rates and the kinds of flats that are available to you within your budget. If you see a flat that you like that meets all of your criteria, jump on it and make an offer, or it may be gone by the time you get around to it.

Making an Offer

The process of making an offer is fairly informal. Nothing is binding (for either parties) until the physical letting agreement has been signed, so keep this in mind. There have been cases where landlords have re-negged or asked for a higher price because of competitive bidding. Be wary and know that nothing is confirmed until the agreement has been signed.

Typically, the process works as follows:

  1. You view a flat that you like.
  2. You contact the agent you viewed the flat through to verbally make an offer. They will either provide you a template to fill out, or you should send them a word document via e-mail with the following details:
    • Proposed start date of tenancy
    • Length of tenancy, and break clause stipulation (rolling or one time): standard lease break clause is 6 months (i.e. you can give the notice period that you’re moving out after 6 months)
    • Price: stated in per week terms
    • Special conditions: i.e. furnished or unfurnished, bathroom to be repainted, etc.
    • Full names, occupations, and indication of full time or contract employment status
    • Mobile number, email address
    • Photo ID (passport) & proof of address
  3. The landlord will either accept, reject, or counter-propose your offer. If the landlord counter-proposes you, you should ensure that you like the flat that much to accept his / her conditions.
  4. Once the landlord accepts your offer, you will need to put in a holding deposit so that the agent will stop showing the flat to other prospective tenants. The holding deposit can vary in size, but it was 2 weeks’ rent for our flat, was deducted against the security deposit after our offer was finalised, and was non-refundable should we have changed our minds.
  5. Following this, you’ll then need to transfer 1 months’ rent in advance and a security deposit upfront. The security deposit is usually equivalent to ~6 weeks rent, but some landlords will ask for more. If it is any more than 6 weeks’ rent, do ask the agent and understand why that might be. Also ensure that you get a Deposit Protection Scheme reference number for your deposit, as this will ensure that your deposit is protected should any conflicts or disagreements arise over deposit deductions at the end of the tenancy.
  6. Once the deposit has been paid, you’ll need to submit copies of your passport and visa. Then, the necessary background, credit, and reference checks will take place. This is where an ex-pat new to the UK could run into some issues. Given that you will have had no tenancy record in the UK, either one or more of the tenants entering the agreement will need to make a monthly salary equivalent to 1.5 – 2x the monthly rent and he / she will assume the rental risk as a lead tenant, or the landlord will require a guarantor living in the UK to agree to take on the risk of your lease, should you default on the lease. Again, this is where you’ll have to rely on the support of family  and friends. This is also a sensitive area because it revolves around salaries and asking someone to be legally liable for your debts in a worst case scenario. Hopefully, you’ll know someone. If not, you may have to go down the path of finding a place to rent via a private landlord, where the requirements will not be as stringent. See OpenRent, Gumtree, or Spareroom for private landlord options.

Assuming the above steps have been sorted and you’ve passed the checks and made all payments, you’ll finally get to review a lease agreement! Before you sign your lease agreement, even if you are not a lawyer, make sure you take the time to read through the entirety of the agreement; the language is generally comprehensible, and it is in your interest to make sure that the terms laid out in the agreement match the offer. You should especially pay attention to clauses that pertain to the end of the lease, dispute resolution, and landlord responsibilities for repair. If you have any clarifying questions at all, do go back to the agent before you sign – better safe than sorry.

After you sign and the landlord(s) countersign(s), the keys should be yours! Within a week of moving in, you may receive an inventory report to sign off. This inventory report is important because it documents the state of the flat when you move in. You should check the report with care before you sign it and ensure that what it states is detailed and accurate; fill in any gaps where appropriate. It also doesn’t hurt to take pictures of your flat at this time, as this will help you down the line if there are any disputes. Make sure you submit your version of the inventory report on time, or else they may disregard your comments if you leave it too late.

Good luck with finding your dream flat!

Have thoughts to share on your experience? Leave a comment below.

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So You Want to Work and Live in the UK: The Visa

Since moving to London, many people have asked me about the process of getting a visa and moving here. I’m hoping that this blog series that I’m embarking on will give you a good foundation for deciding whether or not this is the right move for you.

Please note that this information is current as of 18/08/2015. Please consult the gov.uk website for the most up to date visa information.

As a Canadian, the easiest path to make a crack into the UK market is through the Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) Visa. The requirements are none too stringent. You are eligible as long as you:

  • are aged 18 to 30
  • don’t have any children or dependents
  • have £1,890 in savings
  • have certain types of British Nationality or are from Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Hong Kong*, Republic of Korea*, and Taiwan*
  • meet the other eligibility requirements

*You need to be sponsored if you’re from Hong Kong, the Republic of Korea or Taiwan.

A couple of things you should know about the visa:

Visa Validity:

  • The visa is non-renewable – you can only apply for and be approved for this visa once, even if you have multiple nationalities. Once your 24 months is up, you must leave the country.
  • The visa entitles to work or study in the UK.
  • If you turn 31 while you’re in the UK, you can stay for as long as your visa is valid.
  • Important: Note that the date you state in your application as your intended date of arrival is the date that your visa will begin. Make sure you time this appropriately to maximise the amount of time you’re working / studying in the UK so that you don’t waste time on your visa not in the country.

Fees:

If you’re still reading, then that’s pretty much all you need to know. The documents you will need to have to apply are:

  • a current passport or other valid travel ID
  • a passport size colour photograph
  • a bank statement showing you have at least £1,890 in savings
  • your tuberculosis (TB) test results if you’re from a country where you have to take the test

You’ll also need a page in your passport that’s blank on both sides for your visa, and you’ll need to provide a certified translation of any documents that aren’t in English or Welsh.

Finally, some practical notes from personal experience. Note that my application was before the health surcharge was enforced. I applied for the visa online and had to go in to the Toronto UK Visa Office subsequently to give biometrics and submit some of my documents in person – it was quite a bit of a wait during the weekday. Once submitted, it took no longer than 1.5 weeks to get approved. Your passport gets sent to the UK consulate in New York for processing, but they DHL the passport back to Toronto, so it should physically arrive quite soon after your visa is approved. Note of caution – they never notified me by phone or email when my passport had returned from New York. After 4 weeks of furious waiting after my visa was approved, I decided to drop in to the Visa Office in Toronto, and sure enough, my visa was there. Keep this in mind if you’ve already been approved and haven’t heard from the Toronto Visa Office.

I hope this guide helps you navigate the process, and I wish you the very best as you take the first step in embarking on an exciting journey! My own journey began with this step, as getting that visa in my passport made things very real for me. I haven’t looked back since.

Click Here to Apply

Bonus – if you’re 25 or under, do get a 16 – 25 railcard to save 33% on your train journeys (regional trains outside of London; for example, to places like Cambridge, Oxford, Windsor, Edinburgh, etc.).

Share your visa experiences in the comments, or check out the next blogs in the series: So You Want to Work and Live in the UK: Circular Finances or So You Want to Work and Live in the UK: Finding Work on Tier 5.