Renting a Flat in London

Who is Involved. How the Process Works. How much it costs.

Looking to rent a flat or a house in London? Learn who is involved, how the process works and how much it costs. Want to learn more about moving to and living in London? Find everything you need at

How the Process Works

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How much it costs

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To rent a flat listed at £250 per week you will need to pay £2,883 in cash* before you move in. See how to calculate the total cash you will need below...

Holding Fee

A fee you pay when you make an offer on a flat / house to show you are serious about the offer.

You will get the fee back if:

  • Your offer is not accepted
  • The landlord backs out before the lease is signed
  • Or if everything is successful and you sign the lease

You WILL NOT get the holding fee back if:

  • Your reference checks are not approved
  • If you decide to remove your offer

If the landlord accepts your offer, this should secure the flat for you although landlords can still back out any time before the lease is signed if they change their mind or if they end up getting a better offer. Landlords are supposed to commit if they accept the offer but there are no regulations preventing them from backing out and there is no cost to them if they do.

Admin Fees

These are fees paid to the estate agent for managing the lease and other administrative activities. Sometimes these fees include the reference checks fees and sometimes reference checks are charged separately.

Security Deposit

A deposit you pay when you move in to pay for any damages to the property or the furniture within the property while you live there‭.‬ The landlord is required to hold the deposit in a special account‭ (‬learn more here‭).‬ When you move out any damage to the flat‭, ‬missing furniture, cleaning requirements or unpaid rent will be deducted from the security deposit

You will have to transfer the deposit to the estate agents before moving in‭ (‬so make sure you can access the cash‭).‬

First Month's Rent

Most landlords will require you to pre-pay the first month's rent before you move in‭.‬ A month after you move in you will then pay rent for the next month and pay each month until the end of the lease‭.‬

Listing Fee

This is the fee paid to the estate agency for listing and showing the property‭.‬

Occasionally the landlord passes this fee onto the tenant but you can often negotiate to have the landlord pay or to split the fee if they ask the tenant to pay this.

Salary vs. Rent

Most estate agencies‭ (‬or the reference companies they work with‭) ‬have a minimum salary vs‭. ‬rent requirement‭ (the requirement can often be that your rent cannot exceed 30-50% of your salary). ‬The specific requirement varies from estate agent to estate agent and depends on your type of employment and salary level‭. ‬If you do not meet this requirement‭, ‬you can pay an additional deposit to make up the difference‭. ‬It's a good idea to ask the estate agent what their‭ ‬requirements are before viewing a property‭.

Who is Involved

Estate Agents

What they Do: Estate agents manage the selling or renting of a property. They are hired by the owner of the property and therefore are incentivised to rent a property for the highest price they can.

When you use them: If you want to rent or buy a flat or house, you will have to interact with estate agents. When you find a property you like, you call the estate agent listing that property and book an appointment to view it.

What you should know: Estate agents only represent specific neighbourhoods. If you want to view properties in multiple neighbourhoods, you will have to work with different estate agents (even if they work for the same company). Each estate agency only lists certain properties available in a neighbourhood so even in one area, you will have to work with multiple estate agencies. Let the fun begin!

Estate agents in the UK don’t have a great reputation and are known for showing properties outside of a person’s budget in an attempt to get a higher commission or they list attractive properties on their websites that are no longer available.

Search Agents

What they Do: Property agents work with multiple estate agents to show you several properties within a short period of time (sometimes one day). They work for YOU not for the landlord and help you through every step of the process from finding the right neighbourhood to negotiating the lease to getting the keys.

When you use them: If you (or your company) can afford them, you should hire one. Having someone who knows London working for you takes a lot of the stress out of finding a place to live and settling in.

What you should know: You should still do your own research on the different neighbourhoods to find ones you might be interested in. Don’t just rely on the search agent’s advice.

On the day of viewings you will focus on one, possibly two, neighbourhoods so you will need to focus your search areas (although they will help you with this).

They typically charge 1 months rent as a service fee and often have a minimum fee of around £1,500 (but it depends on the agency).


If you can affored to hire a search agent, do it. Having someone else manage the estate agents and finding a place to live in one day is priceless. Email Mat at London Relocation (our favourite search agency) to learn more.

Reference Companies

What they Do: Reference companies check your employment status and previous landlord references to ensure you can afford the rent and have a good track record with your previous landlords. The estate agents you work with will have a specific reference company they work with.

When you use them: After your offer has been accepted, you will fill in a form at the estate agent’s stating your employment details and previous landlords’ contact details.

What you should know: If you do not pass the checks, you will not be able to sign the lease and you will likely not get your holding fee back.

If you are new to the UK, they may only check your employment status and salary so it’s a good idea to have a letter from your employer stating this. If you are a student or are looking for a job, you are unlikely to pass the reference checks without a UK based guarantor.

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What they Do: Someone based in the UK who agrees to pay your rent if you are unable to pay

When you use them: If you are a student or are looking for a job in the UK, you will almost certainly be required to have a UK based guarantor.

What you should know: Typically to qualify as a UK based guarantor the person must own a house / flat in the UK, have a salary of certain threshold and be willing to sign a document stating they will be responsible for your rent should you be unable to pay. ­­­

If you do not know someone in the UK who can or is willing to be your guarantor, you will be asked to pay several months rent in advance (often up to 1 year).


Usually flatshares do not require you to have a guarantor so if you need a guarantor and don't have one, a flatshare might be your best option. is one of the most popular flatshare websites. You can browse what's available for free or sign up for a subscription for access to properties earlier.


Do your research, be prepared to see a lot of flats before finding the right one and narrow your focus to a few specific neighbourhoods.

Get a bank account and transfer the money you will need for the fees and deposits as soon as possible. Find out more about how to get a bank account at

London neighbourhoods can be very different during the day and at night. Make sure you visit the neighbourhoods you are interested in both during the daytime and at night.

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