The majority of expats in the United Kingdom opt to rent rather than buy property. This is partly due to the temporary nature of expat assignments and also due to the high cost of housing, especially in the capital.

The process of renting property is generally the same throughout the UK, although finding property in larger, more populous cities is often much harder.

Types of rental accommodation in the United Kingdom

Expats moving to the United Kingdom will find a variety of properties available to them. From quaint rustic cottages in the countryside to large family homes in the suburbs and slick city apartments, expats will always have access to something that suits their requirements.  

Expats will also find that in most British cities, space comes at a premium and city centre apartments tend to be small. Thanks to good public transport links, however, it is possible to commute to work quite easily which affords people more options.

Rental costs, especially in major cities such as London, Edinburgh and Manchester, are notoriously high. Expats moving to the UK for work purposes should consider asking for an accommodation allowance as part of their relocation package.

Finding rental accommodation in the United Kingdom

Finding a property to rent in the UK isn’t too difficult, especially for those who are flexible in terms of the exact area they want to live. Online property portals are a great starting point as they allow expats to do research on the cost and availability of properties in various areas, even before they arrive in the UK.

The easiest option when it comes to finding property in the UK is enlisting the services of an estate agent. Estate agents have an intimate knowledge of the property market in a given city or region and can advise new arrivals on neighbourhoods that are most suitable for them.

Local newspapers and property magazines are also a good source of information and expats can deal directly with the landlord in such cases.

Signing a lease in the United Kingdom

Once expats have found a suitable property they will have to sign the lease in order to secure it. Lease agreements in the UK are generally signed for six months or a year, with the option to extend.

Usually, with one-year leases, a six-month break clause can be negotiated. This allows the tenant to terminate the contract any time after the first six months by giving the landlord either one or two months’ notice. However, if this negotiable clause is included, expats should note that it also allows landlords to terminate the lease early without needing to give a reason. Considering that rental prices continually fluctuate in the UK, unscrupulous landlords may decide to end a lease in order to find a new tenant who is willing to pay more rent.

Most landlords in the UK will expect tenants to provide a security deposit which amounts to at least one month’s rental price. In some cases, references and letters from an employer or payslips will be required to secure a property.

Utilities in the United Kingdom

When expats are signing a rental contract, they should make sure they're clear on what additional costs they're liable for. These costs will typically consist of council tax, gas and electricity, water and internet. As these expenses have the potential to significantly increase accommodation costs, they need to be taken into account when budgeting.