Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Teachers in London: How to Find an Apartment

Teachers always ask me where they should live in London. To help, here's an excerpt from the book, Guide to Teaching in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians.

If you decide to go with an agency that provides its teachers with accommodations, you will likely want to strike out on your own at some point (agency accommodations are usually university-dorm style settings, with shared kitchens and bathrooms – and rent to match! So great to start out in, but not so great to live in permanently for most people.)

To calculate what your rent will be, you need to determine what zone you’d like to live in. I personally lived in a shoe-box sized apartment in Notting Hill for 468 pounds/month. I had to share a bathroom with one other woman (the one who thought her plants were trying to kill her while she slept that I mentioned earlier), which was the downside for me. The plus side was living in Notting Hill, so I was more than happy to pay the money to live in a studio flat on my own in one of the most exciting neighbourhoods in London.

I’ve also shared with other professionals. We had a 4 bedroom apartment in Islington (the Finsbury Park area), and we each paid 500 pounds/month plus utilities. The downside to that story is that we had to pay a 2000 pound deposit, which we never got back from the landlords. They claim we caused a flood in their basement by not cleaning the leaves out of the outside drains.

First off, as a Canadian, I couldn’t understand why there were drains leading into the basement from the outside at all. I had never heard of such a thing. Anyway, they argued, we gave in and just left it. We should have fought it, but London life moves quickly and we moved on with it.

The moral of the story is that you need to be very careful who you rent from.

There are Estate Agents in London (real estate agents that rent apartments), and you will be overcome by how many there are and the fees they charge.

Don’t pay any money upfront.

They will charge you once you have found an apartment that you’d like to take. The fee will cover checking your references and your credit report. It can be anywhere from 150 pounds to 400 pounds. Double that figure to get that value in Canadian dollars.

You will notice that rents are listed weekly rather than monthly. So it might look at first like you totally scored when you see a two-bedroom listed in Chelsea for 750 pounds, but in actual fact, that’s 3000 a month.

You will need to ask about utilities, council tax (which is how the local government collects money for garbage collection, recycling and other local costs), and any other costs as well.

I always tell my teachers that they shouldn’t pay any more than one week’s wages towards their rent, which usually means about 500 pounds. This seems to work well for most.

Some teachers are willing to pay more, and travel less around Europe. They want a nice home, where they can have friends over for dinner parties and feel proud of their space. 3 of my teachers this year pay 600 pounds/month each to share a 3 bedroom flat on the Thames River in Greenwich, a very nice area of London. They travel less than the other teachers, but they prefer their home to the other options available.

See to see apartments for rent. Just like the city of London, gumtree has put their apartment ads into 2 categories, North London and South London.

You should also read Living in London: A Survival Guide for Canadians, written by Network Canada.

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Thanks for sharing your two pence!


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