How to avoid the many pitfalls of renting in London

Authenticme By Authenticme, 4th Oct 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Property & Real Estate>General

A summary of tit bits I have collected from my years of renting in London, how to weed out the dross and land a comfortable pad!

Renting in London

This article's long been in the pipeline, and may read more as a vent than advice. I've decided to put pen to paper, to help any unsuspecting young-uns (or older-uns) embarking on renting a place in London. Oh I can see you now, Loot in hand, pen poised. Stop! Step away from the Loot. Put down your pen. And definitely get up from surfing the net if you're on the gumtree. Log. Out. (this will make sense once you read point one below..)

Phew, that was a close one. In typical blog fashion, I will now put down some bullet points on advice for renting. The list isn't exhaustive, but is based on my experience. Like bad haircuts, I have experienced a catologue of dodgy rental properties, truly.

1) Don't rent from a private landlord unless it's someone you know. So my experience goes like this. I arrive, out of breath but optimistic, to a viewing for my first studio. You know the story, trendily tiny, hardly any space to swing a cat, but that step you just 'have to take'. Well, it wasn't glamourous, let me tell you. And I ended up listening to Kylie's 'Confide In Me' on a loop from my neighbour through the huge gap in my door. Anyway, so I arrive, to be greeted by the smiley, deceptively upbeat estate agent (think the scene in Gavin and Stacey where the shower hose is in the kitchen). He swiftly shows me round the 'space' ( a loose term), assuring me it's a 'great room', before I find myself signing the paperwork, then hoiking my large suitcase across London to move in several days later. Night one. The sofa bed collapses beneath me. No joke. I turn it over to find the frame is broken and concealed with tape. The fridge whirs noisily which I have to switch off. The saniflow in the bathroom goes off intermittedly. My nerves start to fray. Mr Shiney estate agent would NOT live there himself. So beware of private landlords. By the way they did replace the sofa,with a lumpy unsightly blue thing which I promptly sent back.

2) Don't rent somewhere on a main road. Okay, before that my VERY first rental near the 'family nest', was through an estate agent, but, alas, it was on a main road. I moved into the place - a nice, modern studio with a great kitchen, all spanking new - I was so excited by the oven, geeek! I didn't have any furniture so made do with an airbed initally - not comfortable by the way but all in the name of optimism. Cue traffic: Vrrrooom, vrroooom, even the best earplugs weren't going to shut out that noise. And the building shaking was not conducive to a good night's sleep. Let's just say I didn't last long and flew back to the nest.

3) Get to know who the other tenants are in the building beforehand if possible. I moved into a short let in Baron's court which seemed very reasonable, okay a bit of a dive but it 'would do' so to speak. Not long after my Mum had seen me off, I heard voices outside my door. I edged it open to see a swarthy looking man chomping down his dinner on the top step of the staircase, beans as I remember, with his door wide open. I could see what looked like two convicts inside, sharing a room. Grim. I moved out the next day, lucky escape (another private landlord by the way)

4) If you advertise for tenants, try and find out as much as you can about them. I moved into one flat which I had found, and advertised for the other tenants. One of them lamented how she had had her wallet stolen, so needed the money lending to her for the deposit. A few months later, after I had decked out the flat for her with tinsel, etc for Christmas, I left for the holidays. I arrive back to find, no word of a lie, my leather jacket and favourite top missing from my wardrobe! Now this is really the part you couldn't write. When I had moved out - let's just say I didn't last long after that- I googled her. There was a page someone had written about her on Myspace, saying how this girl would steal things from your house if you lived with her. I am NOT joking!

5) Try and go for purpose built. I have now lived either above or next door to two djs, which sounds cool, but can be a bit tricky when you want a nice quiet read (who am I kidding, a nice quiet movie). And the sound of a crying baby through your floorboards will push you to your limit. I can actually hear the downstairs tenant snoring where I live now - you get the idea.

6) Avoid council flat blocks. I once moved into a short let (see a pattern? - I travelled a lot in my 20s) - to find that the flat under me had parties every night. I borrowed some construction site ear muffs in desperation - they didn't shut out the noise. I moved out of course.

7) This sounds obvious, but go for gas central heating. My current place doesn't have it, only electric heaters. It's Dickensian - I have to wear a hat inside! (and three layers come winter). Not great, but maybe a good incentive to crack open some exercise dvds?

8) Get somewhere with constant hot water. Immersion boilers are expensive and not ideal. I'm all for cold water toner, but am not an eskimo. Or living in the 1800s.

9) Go to a viewing during the day. That way you'll see how light or dark the place is - light and sunny is far better than dark and dismal. Just saying (hope I'm not depressing you). Plus if it's sunny, it'll stay warm during the day once summer is over - genius. And your laundry is far less likely to smell of cheese off the airer.

10) Watch for damp - sniff for it, that is (subtly rather than on all fours). At one place my mum moved into, they had painted over the mould- unbelievable! I once lived somewhere damp and had a chest infection for months. It's not worth it! A hacking cough is not sexy.

I hope those points and anecdotes are useful. Another thing is of course the area and in an ideal world an accessible tube. I always say you can tell a lot about an area by going into the local supermarket and looking shiftily at the clientele. Although you may get followed by a security guard - what is it with them following people round? Also chat to the locals- one area I nearly moved to, a woman told me, 'don't move here, you'll get shot'.So I cancelled my viewing pronto. Do your checks on the area, don't take the estate agent's word for it that it's safe - they are just doing their job - some of them barely.

Happy hunting! (mwaaahahahahahahhhhhh - only joking)

Oh and by the way, if you're being duped, don't be shy about contacting environmental health. They'll probably have too many cases, and too few staff, to actually do anything any time soon but at least you've had your say. Apparently we have 'the right to peaceful abode'. Yeah right, I prefer the advice 'London is noisy' - it's more honest!


Renting, Renting A Room, Renting Flats, Renting From A Private Landlord, Renting Studios

Meet the author

author avatar Authenticme
I'm an actor, musician, teacher and life coach. I will be publishing articles related to those topics, as well as common interest topics

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author avatar Rose*
27th Dec 2013 (#)

I think you need to save up and buy a house! Seriously, that's why people are so eager to buy - renting is always a nightmare.

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