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United Kingdom (UK) - Renting Property

People who are relocating to Great Britain or Northern Ireland usually need to find accommodation as soon as possible. Renting in the UK is the most common option for expats, especially short-term residents. There are some important things that every expat should know, such as the legal framework for tenants, from letting agents to giving notice.

For those who are not familiar with the rental market in the UK and would like some guidance, the best choice is to go through a letting agent. It is important to check that the agent is officially recognized. There are two different types of tenancies in the UK: those with a defined end date, and those that people just renew month on month.

Before moving in, it is important to check the inventory of everything in the house and the condition of the items inside. This keeps tenants covered when asking for their deposit back. Inrecent years, the market for renting in the UK is growing. The British house-buyer’s motto was "my home is my castle", but more and more Brits are renting their homes today. The prices for buying a house in the UK started to normalize over the last couple of years, but they continue to rise sharply in the most attractive areas, especially London. Young people often face less job security and strict conditions for mortgage loans from banks in the UK. For expatriates who want to rent in the UK, this also means more competition in the property market.

Council Housing

Local authorities across the UK provide public or social housing advertised in council offices or on their websites. While people can apply for council housing even if they don’t live in the area, waiting lists are often extremely long. Preference is given to candidates in need, like low-income tenants, families living in cramped quarters, or the disabled. As new residents from overseas, expats will probably need to find their new home on the private market.

Letting Agents

On the private market, landlords have the option to advertise a property for renting in the UK directly, or by employing a "letting agent", a real estate agency. Anyone can become a letting agent, so additional caution is highly advised. It's smart to check if the agency belongs to a professional association, such as the National Association of Estate Agents or the Association of Residential Letting Agents. It is always expected to pay a commission, as well as additional fees for credit reference checks, for concluding the tenancy agreement, or for a property inventory check.

The Tenancy Agreement

When you find a home, it’s time to sign the tenancy agreement. These agreements should be studied carefully, even the small print. As agreements for renting in the UK can be made orally, but these are not legally binding, it is very important to get a written contract. Otherwise, potential future disputes with a landlord might be impossible to solve.

In general, the tenancy agreement should contain the following information:

- names and contact details of all parties involved
- the address
- rental fees
- how / when the fees should be paid
- when / how often the rent can be reviewed
- security deposit (four to eight weeks’ rent)
- deposit protection scheme
- conditions for getting the deposit back
- start date (and maybe end date)
- break clause (if applicable)
- extra fees (service charges, utilities)
- who is responsible for repairs
- whether you are allowed to sub-let

Responsibilities and Repairs

Everyone's main responsibility is to pay the rent on time, as well as all charges mentioned in the signed contract. If damage is caused by the tenant, it should be repaired by them. Future tenants should make a detailed inventory of the property they are planning on renting in the UK. This means listing all fixtures, fittings, furniture, and the state that rooms and items are in.

Tenants should know which repairs and safety checks their landlord is responsible for. Landlords usually have to maintain the building’s structure, exterior, and common areas. Moreover, they have to look after sanitary installations, pipes and drains, heating and hot water, electrical wiring and gas. It is also important to be provided with the latest Gas Safety check when moving in. Landlords should also ensure their property complies with fire safety regulations.

If tenants want to make any modifications to the property, they should first check if it’s allowed in the agreement. Otherwise, they may be responsible for causing additional damage. Notifying the landlord whenever anything needs repairing is always a smart choice. Even if the tenancy agreement doesn’t forbid keeping pets, tenants should always ask the landlord first, preferably in writing, to avoid further complications. That way, the pet cannot become a reason for eviction.

Finding property in the United Kingdom

Even if finding a place to rent in the UK is a straightforward process, it can be made more difficult by the speed at which the market moves. Expats should be prepared to act quickly when they see a free place they like, as the competition for good value rentals can be cut-throat. In some cases, it is necessary to commit to the property during the initial viewing to stay in the competition. A holding deposit equivalent to one week's rent is usually enough to secure the property while the rental agreement is sorted out.

When looking for a place to rent, expats should try to look into one of the following options:

- Local newspapers and magazines with private listings. Tenants are able to call the owner or landlord directly to arrange a viewing.
- Internet property have rental adverts. These are especially good for house-sharing options.
- Real estate agents are a good source of information and they can help when it comes to looking for a place to rent, but they always charge for their services. It is also important to be aware that UK real estate agencies do not generally share their listings with one another, so expats should check all the agencies in the area to find the best deal. The National Approved Letting Scheme's website has a list of approved agencies and landlords.

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