Moving into London? Things to Know Before Moving to London

Moving to London, cost of living in London and tips on move into London

Can I move to London? It is a question that people keep asking over and over.  Of course, it is possible to relocate to London.  But one of the biggest mistakes you can make is moving into London with many fantasies. Many people forget to get the necessary information on the requirements of living and working in London.  There’s a big difference between being a visitor for a few weeks and living longer or permanently in London.  

London is too big, complex, and can be daunting.  Even for the British citizens who move there from the other parts of the United Kingdom (UK). 

Moving to London requires a lot of research. Before even thinking of leaving your home country.  People face all sorts of problems when they arrive in London with wrong expectations.

Things to Know Before Moving into London

Before thinking of moving to London, you should at least have some ideas of;

  1. Where to stay in London
  2. The cost of accommodation 
  3. How to find accommodation
  4. Living cost in London
  5. Employment opportunities
  6. Whether you need a work permit
  7. The requirements to work in London
  8. Opening a UK Bank account
  9. Access to the National Health Service (NHS)

Best Place to Stay in London

The high number of foreigners moving to London every day keeps the demand for houses to rent very high.  So, landlords keep pushing up rent fees to take advantage of the high demand rental market.   

It is the high cost of accommodation that makes London a costly city.  The average monthly cost of renting a one-bedroom flat or an apartment ranges between £800 and £2,400. 

It is hard to choose a particular part of London to live in because all have some beautiful residential areas.  With decent shopping places and excellent public transport networks.

But accommodation in Central London, and certain areas in West London, North London, and the South is super expensive. The monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Central London starts at £1,600 and go higher.

A similar apartment in East London and specific areas in London South East has a monthly rent of £1,350.

East London and London South East are exciting areas.  These areas have a mix of accommodation from brand-new high-rise buildings, Victorian to expensive apartments, and some are affordable.

The benefits of moving to East London and London South East are many.  They range from multicultural, professional, and affordability.  These are by far the best areas to live in London for people from all over the world.

East London Neighbourhoods

East London attracts people from around the world.  Areas such as Canada Waters, North Woolwich, Canning Town, Stratford, Brick Lane, Hackney, Shoreditch, and Docklands are more popular for foreigners who move to London.

The average rent in East London varies.  Depending on where you’re going to live.  Some neighborhood like Docklands, Hackney, Stratford, Shoreditch, Brick Lane is becoming more expensive than the others.

The Average Rent for a one-bedroom flat: £800 — £1,300 per month.

The annual Council Tax: £900.

London South East

London southeast has amazing areas like Greenwich and Blackheath. These London neighborhoods are perfect for anyone who wants a flexible lifestyle. 

Generally, London is a city of many cultures.  But Greenwich has the best concentration of all London cultures.  And that’s why most foreigners find it easy to fit in the area.

For whatever needs someone may have, Greenwich, is arguably the best place to stay in London.  The whole area is green, attractive.  And it is more affordable for a prominent London neighborhood.

The average rent for a bedroom flat starts: £850 — £1,350 per month annual Council Tax: £970

Renting an Apartment in London 

The first step towards renting a house in London is working out whether you can afford the rent and all associated costs.

Renting a house in London involves more than just paying the rent.  You’ll need to draw up a budget for your upfront costs and ongoing costs before deciding whether you can afford the rent or not.

Related: Things to Know Before Traveling to London: Oyster Card or Contactless

Upfront Costs

It is is the money you’ll have to pay upfront.  It usually includes agency fees, holding the deposit and rent deposit.

Lettings Agency fees — when you move to London, probably the first thing you’ll do is to contact property letting agencies. 

The agencies will charge fees for their work to find you the accommodation you want.  They charge for things like getting references, drawing up your rental agreement, or renewing the tenancy agreement.

Moving to London, cost of living in London and tips on move into London

Holding Deposit – Also known as a reservation deposit which is equivalent to a week’s rent will only be demanded when you commit yourself to rent the house. 

The reason you make the holding deposit is to allow the agent or landlord to take the house off the rental market, while they do the reference checks.

Rent Deposit — Your landlord in London will demand a tenancy deposit to cover potential damages to the property – and any unpaid rent at the end of your tenancy. 

The rent deposit is supposed to be refunded at the end of your tenancy, provided there’s no damage to the house or any outstanding rent.

Outgoing Costs

Your ongoing monthly costs will include the rent and the most common bills for things like water, council tax, gas, electricity. 

There will be other monthly outgoing costs, to cover things such as cable television, the internet, phone, transportation, shopping, and TV license.

As a new person in London, you may not have rough estimates of the outgoing costs.  In this case, you can ask the letting agency or landlord to provide some estimates.

If you are moving to London alone decide before you start searching the type of accommodation that will suit your budget and lifestyle — and stick to it.   There are studio flats, bedroom apartments to shared flats the sooner you think about your choices, the better.

Related: United Kingdom Currency: the British Pound

There are different ways you can find a house to rent in London.  You can go through a colleague, friend, letting agent, or rent directly from a private landlord who advertises their properties in newspapers or shop windows.

Most houses for rent are listed online with detailed information.  Therefore it’s easy to find one that matches your needs. It’s better to have an idea of the accommodation you want before searching for the house because the selection to choose from is so big.

Rent Straight from the Landlord

Sometimes it’s easier and cheaper to rent a house straight from the landlord. You don’t have to worry about the agent’s fees and all other hassles.

Before you decide to deal directly with the landlord, check that the person is the legal owner of the house, and he or she is permitted to let out the property. You can find out who owns the house from the Land Registry Office.

The demand for accommodation in London is very high, so some people try to take advantage of the situation — by pretending to be the owners of the properties, but who are actually tenants themselves.

There are other risks associated with dealing directly with people who advertise properties privately in London.  People set up an advert to rent a house to steal your identity, money, or other personal information.

Letting Agents in London

Using a certified lettings agency to rent a house in London is the best thing to do, especially when you’re new in London.

It somehow removes the risk of being manipulated because a certified agent must check and verify the identity and address of the real landlord.  And an agent will assist you for the duration of your tenancy.

There are unscrupulous letting agents in London, who can charge for things that don’t relate to the cost of their work. 

It’s better to contact more than one agency and check early on their services and what each will charge you for before making your decision.

When you find the apartment you want, it is essential to check it and the surrounding area very carefully.  There are many things you’ll need to know inside and outside the property before committing yourself to rent.  So, you want to know;  

  • The kind of neighbors
  • Whether the house is furnished
  • All doors and windows lock properly
  • The cooker stoves and oven works
  • Whether there’s a central heating system 
  • If the water pressure in the bath and shower
  • If all electrical switches and lights work

Putting Down a Holding Deposit.

When you are satisfied with everything, you’ll be asked to pay a holding deposit.  This deposit will allow the landlord to take the property off the rental market while they’re carrying out some checks on you.

Moving to London, cost of living in London and tips on move into London

You will be new in the UK.  Therefore some of the things like references may have to be handled differently.  So, you’ll have to ask the agency for clarification.

Usually, UK residents have their references checked and, if accepted, the holding deposit is then used to offset against the rent.  If the recommendations are not accepted, the person often loses holding deposit.

If you have to pay, ask the agency or landlord before handing over the money, to clarify the exact terms under which you are making the holding deposit.  The things you’ll need to know are;

  • What happens to the deposit if your references are accepted?
  • What happens to the deposit if the references are not accepted? 
  • How do you get the deposit back?

Making an Offer

Before you make an offer, be prepared to haggle because the rent which you will be quoted in not fixed — it is negotiable.  That means you will have to negotiate for a lower amount and take it from there. For example, your initial offer will be £250 per month less than the asking rent.

The landlord probably will not agree with that. If they reject the first offer, put in a second one, and negotiate for a smaller reduction than the initial one. There could be one more round of offer before an agreement is reached.

Also read: The Greatest City in the World: What is London famous for?

Most of London houses are listed on different agency websites — which means that more than one agency can end up showing you the same property.  In this case, if you are happy with everything, it is better to go with the agent that showed you around the property first.

Putting Down a Rent Deposit

Rent deposit amounts vary from four to six weeks’ worth of rent. The safest way to pay the deposit is through the bank account, not by cash.


After making the deposit, you must get a receipt confirming the payment – details have to match the amount stated in the tenancy agreement and on the deposit protection certificate.

Getting a Work Visa

There are immigration requirements you must meet before you get a work permit or work visa.  All nationals need to go through immigration assessment to live and work in the UK if they’re not;  

  • British citizens
  • Having indefinite Leave to Remain  
  • European Economic Area (EEA) citizens 
  • Swiss nationals


To be considered for a work visa depends on the job you want, and your visa category.  The UK Immigration Visa department can issue the following visa categories if you’re:

  • Highly Skilled-Value Migrants 
  • Sponsored Skilled Workers
  • Students
  • Low-Skilled Workers
  • Temporary Workers

Highly Skilled – High-Value Migrants – This category generally refers to investors, entrepreneurs, migrants with exceptional talent in engineering, medicine, science, digital technology, humanities, TV and film, arts, and fashion.

Skilled Workers – must have a long-term job offer from a prospective employer to be able to apply for a work visa. Some of the people who fit in this category can be sportspeople, ministers of religion, company transfers.

Low Skilled Workers — this category is often filled by people from within the EU or EEA workforce.

Students – Student eligibility to work depends on the circumstances of the case.  They usually restricted to 10 or 20 hours, but many end up working part-time.

Temporary Worker Category – the person must have a temporary job offer that doesn’t go beyond two years.  Usually, it is people who are interested in coming to work in the UK for a period of at most 12 months.

To qualify for a visa, you will have to prove that you have the skills as specified by your visa category — this includes, qualifications, salary, and ability to speak the English language. You’ll also need to show proof of a job offer from your prospective employer or a sponsor in London.

For Skilled and Temporary Workers, your application must be made by the employer (the visa sponsor) and yourself. It’s the same process for students, with the prospective school acting as the sponsor.

Related: Biggest Airport in London: How to Quickly Get Out of Heathrow Airport

Getting a National Insurance Number

To live or work in the UK, you need a National Insurance Number (NI) to pay your national insurance contribution.  To apply for one, you must have to right to live and work in the UK.  Having a NI number will ensure that you;

  • Contribute to National Health Services
  • Pay the right tax
  • Can apply for a refund at the end of the year — should you be owed
  • Have access to certain benefits — Unemployment benefits, State pension, Student’s grants, and loans, or Sickness and disability allowances.

If you’ve already secured a job, you can start working immediately without one.  It’s not illegal in the UK to work with no NI number.

But paying the national insurance contribution while working is mandatory — therefore if you don’t have one, an emergency number will be created to ensure that you comply.  

Most employers understand that the process of getting NI numbers can take long for people who arrive in the UK to work for the first time.

Getting a UK Bank Account

When starting to work in London, your salary will be paid straight into your bank account. To open a bank account, you need to have proof of the identity and your UK address. 

For identity, EEA nationals can use their passports, identity cards or driver’s license.  And, those from anywhere else in the world, it’s only passports that can be accepted.

Each bank decides what documents to accept, but usually, it’s your council tax bill, water, electricity or gas bill, which is less than three-month-old or a tenancy agreement.

If you don’t have these documents because you’re new in London, explain to the bank your circumstances and they’ll tell you what to do.

Usually, the banks will ask for other documents such as a letter from your employer, or a letter from Job-centre confirming your National Insurance Number.

The other way you can do is to ask your home bank to change your correspondence address to your new London address. You may also be able to do this by yourself through your internet banking.

After changing the address, instruct the home bank to start using your London address for all correspondence including your bank statements.  The UK banks will accept a home bank statement that shows your new address in London.

For a student who doesn’t have the required documents, UK banks will accept a letter from your University’s admissions office confirming your address.

Registering with General Practitioners (GPs)

You must register yourself with a GP as soon as possible.  GPs are the first point of contact for nearly everyone with medical issues in the UK – they provide primary treatment and preventative care to the local community.

So, when you move into London, register with the local GP.  You can still register with a local GP – as long as you stay in the local area for not less than 24 hours but under three months.

One thing you need to know is, being registered with a local doctor does not grant you a free National Health Service (NHS) treatment.  Though you can get access to a doctor and some free medical screening services.

Free NHS treatment can only be available if you are classed as an ordinarily resident in the UK. You can become an ordinarily resident on arrival if your purpose of coming to the UK will lead to;

  • Business
  • Employment
  • Settlement
  • Self-employment
  • Study
  • Retirement
  • Working as a holidaymaker

But you must live in the UK lawfully.

 

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