Things to know when renting a house in London for international students
1. An overview of renting in London (UK)
Starting a new life is not easy, especially in a foreign country like the UK (United Kingdom). No matter how much effort you put into research and preparation, there are probably times when you find yourself struggling with actually living the life in such new environment, which includes meeting your most basic needs - foods, clothing, transportations, the list goes on ... One of the major difficulties that many international students often encounter is renting a house in London, UK.
With more than 10 years living in the UK, starting as an international student till I had a job and settled down in London, I am more than happy to share with you tips on finding a house to rent for international students in London, UK
There is a significant difference in London housing’s rent and that across other Zones
The house price in london, as in Vietnam, tend to vary in different regions. But overall, rent in London is the most "expensive" in the UK, ranging between £600-£1200/month. This is a huge trouble not only for many international students but also for the locals.
ONE OF THE COST SAVING SOLUTIONS that many international students apply is to rent a house in the OUTER ZONES and travel by subway. You can save a lot of money while still enjoying the convenience of public transportation.
In London - UK, you can find varying rental prices across different Zones. There are a total of 6 Zones divided in the form of a circle. The central area is Zone 1, followed by Zone 2 -3 - 4-5 - 6, the further away from the center, the lower the rent will be. Zone 6 is considered the suburb of the city.
Zone 1 has famous places as follows:
- Buckingham Palace: is recognised around the world as the London residence and administrative headquarters of the monarch of the United Kingdom, the focus of national and royal celebrations.
- The British Museum: is a public institution that exhibits remarkable collection spans over two million years of human history, art and culture.
- Museum of London, Natural History Museum London, The National Gallery London...
- University of London, King's College London…
The housing market in London is similar to that in Ho Chi Minh city, rental prices in District 1 - the CBD of Ho Chi Minh city - are many times higher than other districts such as District 7, Nha Be, Hoc Mon, Cu Chi... However, transportation in the suburban zones in London is always easy thanks to the convenient public transport system. In addition, not only rents are high in central London but house prices in Zone 1, 2 can also be up to millions of pounds, especially at locations near famous places such as Kensington Palace, Hyde Park or the City of London area.
ANOTHER OPTION TO SAVE MONEY for international students is to SHARE A ROOM. It is not too difficult to find cheap and safe shared accommodation. However, it is necessary to choose reputable websites, groups or agencies that help minimize risks and problems later on.
2. Housing to rent options for international students in London (pros and cons)
2.1 School dormitory
Dormitory - is considered a safe choice for many new and inexperienced international students. Most universities in the UK will provide dormitories for students and the dormitory will be located on or near the campus to ensure convenience for students in commuting.
- The location is always close to the school, ensuring convenient transportation for students.
- The room is fully-furnished with all necessities (electricity, water, Internet, beds, wardrobes, etc.).
- Food is included in your bill, 6 dinners and 1 brunch weekly.
- 24/7 safety and security for students is put in place.
- There are always staff to assist with any issues during your stay.
- The quality of dormitory rooms in London is always quite good.
- Dormitory is an ideal place for students to interact and adapt to an international environment, to learn and understand new cultures.
- The cost is quite cheap (the rent of the school's dormitory in London is about £400 - £800/month).
- Some schools only allow students to stay in their first or last year of study.
- Dormitories may close in the summer, students will have a hard time during that time
- No personal space, many dorms have strict curfews.
- Many students are not familiar with using the same kitchen, toilet, bathroom, laundry, dining area... this is a big obstacle for introverted and meticulous students.
- There is supply shortage as the number of available rooms exceeds the number of students in need; thus, many students have to search for other alternatives.
- It will be a big obstacle for those who start to live independently. Because the cultural environment is far different from Vietnam.
2.2 Private dormitory
In London, private residence halls are not much different from school dormitories. In terms of quality facilities, equipment and utilities, they are sometimes better than the school's. And the rent of a private dormitory in London is quite high from £600-£1000/month, although the time can be more comfortable, there is still not much private space, the location is not exactly close to the campus nor convenient for commuting. Therefore, private dormitories are often not a preferred choice of students.
Homestay is one of the most popular forms of renting in London. Rents range from £900-£1200/month if you live in Zone 1-2 or £600-£900/month if located in further zones like Zone 3,4 or 5.
This form is often chosen by native speakers or international students who are under 18 years old, not yet legally eligible to sign rental contracts, or those who want to learn the culture and quickly integrate into the local life.
Advantages of this form:
- The host serves basic needs such as: cooking (all meals of the day), cleaning the room, washing clothes...
- Students get chance to participate in activities with family members
- It is an effective way to learn and exchange cultures with native speakers, improve understanding and have many extremely interesting experiences.
- It allows students to get a piece of your own space.
- Students must comply with all requirements and regulations set forth by the host.
- Cultural barriers will be a big obstacle if you are slow to adapt.
- Many unfriendly hosts will put you in trouble.
- Some places are more expensive than dorms, but it still depends on the area and location.
2.4 Renting a whole house
Choosing rent a house in London is the last choice for Vietnamese students. Rent a house, live together, and split the cost per capita. Like dormitories, homestays and other forms of accommodation, renting a house in London still has its own pros and cons.
- Freedom: this is the biggest advantage of this form. Although they have to live with many people, students will not be subject to strict regulations like dormitories at school nor homestay.
- Cost savings, depending on the number of people and the location of the house, the cost will be different, but in general renting a house is still economical, everyone will share rent, gas, electricity and water, even food.
- It is a good chance for students to practice living independently as an adult, get used to managing costs and be responsible for all things that might arise in terms of technical maintenance and repairs, organizing your own dwelling, cooking, house chores, transport means...
- The guide to find a house to rent in London or find a roommate to share a room in London can be found here.
- Safety and security: Because it is a private house, there will be no management, security staff like in a dormitory, or homestay.
- If you are looking for a roommate, you need screen their profile carefully to ensure the safety of your property
- If you are the one to hire, you must carefully study the legal information because you take main responsibility should there be any disputation later
3. Notes to take when renting a house in London
For Vietnamese students who have just arrived in London or those who are living in a dormitory and want to find a house to rent, or share a room in a whole house in London, you need to pay attention to the following basic issues: (these are the most important notes in finding a house to rent in London that I want to share with you)
3.1 Monetary cost vs time cost
Cost is the most important issue when choosing rent ahouse in London, which is considered the most expensive place in the UK and rents can vary quite a bit between Zones, cities and regions.
- Room rates in a whole house: £300-£500/month in small cities, and £600-£1200/month in London
- For apartments in London (rent a flat in London) , the average rental cost is about:
- 1-bedroom apartment in the city center area : £1,750
- 1-bedroom apartment outside the city center: £1,230
- 3-bedroom apartment in the city center: £3,300
- 3-bedroom apartment outside the city center: £1,980
You are required to choose one of two criteria, either cost savings, or travel time savings. For renting apartments and houses far from the center, it is possible to save up to 40-50% of the rental price compared to the center, but conversely, commuting will take longer. But from my experience, in London as well as other cities, there are public transportation such as buses and subways, so you don't need to worry too much about travel time.
Some forms of public transportation in London
- By underground: This is the most popular form of transport in London, used by many international students and local residents. With the exception of public holidays and Sundays, subway in london usually run from 5:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
The train lines are clearly shown on the map (you can get a free map at the station, or at the tourist center) and easily distinguished by different colors.
Train tickets shall be purchased in weekly/monthly packages. If you have not purchased a package, you must buy tickets at the automatic counters before boarding the train. Below are London underground fares 2021 for your reference
- Traveling by bus: the disadvantage of this form is that it is slower than the subway and higher chance of traffic jam. Like Vietnamese buses, buses in London are also a form of request stop - wave your hand to stop the bus.
Buy tickets right on the bus or at agents, stations, automatic ticket counters.
Regular fare: £1 per trip in zone 1, 70 pence per trip in other zones
3.2 Pay attention to the terms in the contract
If it is your first time renting a house in London, I strongly advise you to find out as much information as possible to avoid problems later, when you accidentally violate any terms you will have to pay in money, a lot of money and legal involvement.
Summary of "bloody" notes when renting a house in London:
- The first thing is still to READ THE CONTRACT TERMS CAREFULLY. No matter how long it is, just take time to read - understand - clarify all the terms in the contract.
- By law, you will have to pay a deposit of rent to secure the property for the landlord. However, after 10 years of living in London, it will be very difficult for you to get your deposit back or get a full refund. The landlords often deduct many unexpected property depreciation expenses.
- Contract time: Please consider carefully how long you plan to stay to negotiate.
- Look carefully at the rental price on the contract to clarify which costs will be included and which costs are not. Normally, the rental price will not include bills (electricity, water, gas ..)
- There is a type of insurance called “insurance to protect your belongings” that helps protect your property from theft, fire, loss or accidental damage. Read carefully and ask the landlord about this section, in some cases insurance costs are included in the rent.
- Unlike in Vietnam, the rental price in UK offered by the landlord has been market-surveyed, you cannot "bid" or negotiate further.
When you receive a house and start moving in:
- Check the overview and details of the equipment as well as the facilities to see if they are full and complete as shown in the handover table, or if there are any damage or problems.
- All information exchanged between you and the landlord, including payment documents, need to be kept in detail and dated.
- Maintain the property in good condition as it is initially handed over to you. This is the most basic issue to note while you are renting a house in London, as the compensation cost will be very large if there is any damage.
- Be sure to remove all property and return it to its original condition before handing it over to the owner and moving out.
In general, if you are a new international student in London and want to rent a private house for a comfortable and safe life. Use brokerage services at agencies in Vietnam.
Firstly, you are thoroughly consulted and most enthusiastically taken care of and shared with experiences and notes.
Secondly, you can easily rent good places with transparent information, well preparation and avoid problems later on
Lastly, consulting at brokerage units is completely FREE, you may wonder why, it’s because the broker only takes commission from the landlord, and never collects any fees from you whether you agree to rent or not..
Why choose a Vietnamese broker? Because UK brokers may charge a “consultation fee” whether or not you can rent a house.
4. Parents' concerns
Studying abroad is a way that many Vietnamese parents nurture their children's future. However, in a completely new environment, not only international students but also parents are very worried. Especially with those who have been well raised by their family since childhood, thus have not yet been able to live independently.
But there are things that even with money, a lot of money, parents cannot guarantee for their children. For example, parents cannot give up all their work to accompany and take care of their children.
The ability to integrate means being able to adapt to a new environment depends on the ability of each child. There are students who can completely live in the school dormitory, but there are those who want to live independently, some of them do not. But if you have a safe and convenient living environment, it will definitely be better for you. Renting a house or even buying a house in London is not too difficult for many families who can afford to send their children to study abroad.
After a while, your child will adapt to the new environment, but before letting them start a new journey, parents should find a trusted agency to choose the safest, most comfortable place for their children.
The worries of students and families can be all solved only by contacting Arental, a Vietnamese real estate agent specializing in UK properties. We have an office in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and a representative office in London, UK. Arental will accompany and bring you the most suitable living space on your new path.