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Moving to London (Part III): Documentation 

After sifting through what probably feels like hundreds of properties, you’ve finally viewed a home that makes you shout – “this is the one!”. The good news is that the end of your property search is finally in sight. Having reached this exciting stage in your search, the final steps ahead are to make an offer that the landlord will be willing to accept, and to submit all the relevant documentation to rent the property.

Submitting an Offer

Submitting an offer is just that – an offer. This shows that you are very serious about committing to the home, but it is no guarantee of securing the property. Considering the competitiveness of the London rental market, there are often several applicants placing an offer for the same property at one time, and the landlord has final discretion on who they will choose. It is therefore crucial to put your best foot forward to make your offer stand out, unless you’re willing to let that property go. Here are some tips to help you make the most competitive offer you can: 

  • Be quick: landlords give preference to first offers over later offers. At SearchSmartly, we help you make the most competitive offer possible by providing you with an offer form early on in your search journey. This form includes all the relevant information landlords may ask for and prepares you to put your offer in as soon as possible.  
  • Stick to asking price: try not to negotiate too aggressively, especially if it is a busy period in the market such as summer. Most properties in London go at, or even above, the asking price. Your offer is therefore going to be less successful if you try to negotiate a lower price. 
  • If you are going to negotiate pricing, a rule of thumb is that most landlords will not go below 5% of the asking price. Consider the prices of similar properties in terms of quality, location and number of bedrooms to come up with a sensible offer before negotiating.
  • Paying upfront: offering to pay several months rent in advance can make your offer more competitive. It can also give you some negotiating power for a lower rent. 
  • Furniture: ensure that any requests regarding furniture are included in your offer, such as asking for a specific piece of furniture to be replaced or added. If you ask for such additions, be aware that the landlord may ask for a higher rental price. 

With multiple applicants vying for the same property, there is a risk that you will miss out on your ideal home by not having your documentation ready, allowing another applicant to get their offer accepted first. The following sections outline all the relevant paperwork you will need in order to avoid such a situation. Some documents can take some time to gather, so starting early is always advisable! 

It is also important to remember that the documentation stage of your property hunt is not just for the landlord to check that you are a suitable tenant. As a tenant, you have certain legal rights in the UK, and now is your chance to ensure that the tenancy agreement is complying with the law. Make sure to read the written tenancy agreement carefully before signing. 

Proof of Identity:

 First and foremost, landlords must check whether the applicant is legally allowed to rent in the UK. By law, applicants must be aged 18 or over and have the right to rent (either by way of British citizenship or through a relevant visa). In order to prove this, you may be asked for: 

  • Passport or driving license 
  • Proof of current address e.g. a utility bill 
  • Visa / associated documents to prove right to live in the UK (if coming from abroad) 

Proof of Income or Guarantor: 

Eligibility to live in the UK is not sufficient to rent a property. Landlords also will ask for evidence that you are able to meet the monthly rent of the property, normally through having annual earnings of 30 times the monthly rent (sometimes 36 times the monthly rent). For example, if your rent is £900 per month, your annual income must be at least £27,000. If you are sharing with more than one person, it is your combined income that would have to meet this requirement. Documentation to prove this could include:  

  • Recent pay slips 
  • A letter from your employer confirming job title, salary and length of employment  
  • Current employment contract 
  • Tax return for the most recent tax year 

If you are self-employed, it is likely you will be subject to stricter checks. This could include: 

  • Three years’ worth of income evidence 
  • Bank statements 
  • Company details (if you work for your own company) 
  • Invoice records 

Referencing: 

Landlords may also require a character and/or employment reference in order to ensure that you are a reliable and suitable tenant that the landlord is able to trust with their home. This could include:

  • A letter attesting to your character from a former landlord, former flatmate or school
  • A reference from your employer both supporting the suitability of your character and your income

If unable to provide a reference from your landlord, a useful alternative could be to prove that your deposit was fully refunded or to present your previous tenancy agreement and rent receipts.

The method by which landlords and agents require references differs. Some may ask for a written reference, in which case you could ask your reference to write a letter, others may use an external referencing company who will ask for your reference’s contact details in order to get in touch with them directly. 

Deposits: Always agree on the terms of your contract before you pay for your deposit, and ask for a receipt for any money paid. There are laws in place to protect your deposit: 

  • It must be refundable 
  • It must be protected in a Deposit Protection Scheme 
  • It cannot be worth more than 5 weeks’ rent (for properties with an annual rent of up to £50,000) or 6 weeks (for properties £50,000 or more). 

Once the holding deposit (equivalent to one week’s rent) has been paid, the landlord or agent should remove the property from the market.  

Landlords may ask for more than one type of deposit:

  • A security deposit (5 or 6 weeks’ rent): this is held for the duration of your tenancy. Any damages made to the property will be deducted from this deposit. If no damages are made, this will be returned to you in full at the end of the tenancy. 
  • A holding deposit (1 week’s rent): this is paid at the offer stage in order to ensure you are a serious applicant for the property. It effectively reserves the property for you, and will be refunded to you once the offer is accepted. Some landlords take the cost of this off the subsequent security deposit once contracts have been signed.

Other costs: Always ensure you check all costs involved before signing any agreement: 

  • Rent price: although the rent price is advertised, it is worth double checking what the monthly rent is. You can also ask the landlord whether the rent is negotiable or not. 
  • Bills: confirm whether bills are included in the monthly rent. If not, you can ask for an estimate of how much bills may be and which energy rating the property has. Properties with energy ratings of A or B for example will cost less than those with C or D. All properties advertised on SearchSmartly have this information at the bottom of the page. If bills are included, remember that you do not have to stick to the same energy provider that the landlord has chosen – you are able to change if you wish. 
  • Council tax: properties in the UK are subject to council tax. Certain groups may be exempt from paying, such as households where all tenants are students, so it’s worth discussing at the viewing.

Overall, documentation is a vital part of the property search process and is often the last hurdle standing between you and your new home in London. Although it may seem complicated, our team here at SearchSmartly are here to make the process as stress-free as possible. From the moment you submit your first viewing request, after filling out your search requirements here, our agents will support you through the process and answer any questions you may have. 

Ready to move ahead with the next steps in your property search journey? Why not explore other parts of our guide and find out how to search for a property, make a viewing and move in.

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