10 Top Tips For London Tenants to Save Money

Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis has turned his attention to tenants and come up with 50 fabulous tips for saving money when you are renting a flat. Here are his top ten with appropriate links to his website where he fills in with more detail.

1. Renters have a right to switch and save on energy (even prepaid). If you pay the gas & electricity bill directly (not via landlord), you can and should compare and switch. Don’t stick with the previous tenants’ supplier as often it’s costly. Always do a meter reading as soon as you move in.

Speedily find your cheapest tariff: The MSE Cheap Energy Club checks you’re on the cheapest, and if not, compares across the market to find it (check the ‘top picks’ tab for fixed deals which guarantee no price hikes). After, it monitors your tariff and lets you know when to switch again.

What if I don’t know my usage? Cheap Energy Club can estimate for you.

What about prepaid? You can still switch supplier and save (seeCheapest Prepaid Energy). Yet switching from prepay to a normal meter sadly usually needs your landlord’s permission, as it physically changes the property.

2. Beware joint bank accounts with flatmates. Shared bank accounts for bills can mean you’re credit-linked – even if you hardly know each other. Then, when applying for products, their history can be taken into account. If it’s poor, it hits you.

If you used to have a joint account, but don’t any longer, apply for a notice of ‘disassociation’. See How Credit Scoring Works for more.

3. Is your deposit protected? A fifth of private renters don’t know if their deposit’s been protected (source: Shelter), so check. By law, for most private renters who moved in after April 2007 in Eng & Wales, your landlord must use a Govt-backed deposit protection scheme – giving you rights. See Is Your Deposit Protected?
4. Landlords must ask before entering. Landlords may need to come in occasionally for repairs and inspections, yet they should arrange a time with you. If they enter without asking, you can ask them to stop. If it continues, it can be considered harassment. Contact Citizens Advice or a solicitor for help, or the police if you feel threatened.
5. Cheap contents insurance. If you rent, your landlord is responsible for buildings insurance, so you only need contents (essentially the stuff that’d fall if you turned your home upside down).

Only you / your family live in the home? To get cheapest cover combine comparison sites* & Compare The Market* to bag the max quotes in min time, then Aviva* and Direct Line*, which they miss. Better still, try the full Cheap Home Insurance guide where some get PAID for cover.

If you live in a houseshare. Getting cover from mainstream insurers can be tricky (a locked room helps, so ask for one).*,Gocompare* & MoneySupermarket* say they provide flatshare quotes, but double-check the policy allows it – comparison sites are very flaky on this. You may find a specialist such as Home Protect* or a local broker viaBIBA easier.

6. Furnish for FREE – sofas, beds, TVs & more. If you’ve gone unfurnished or part-furnished, then online giveaway sites can help you for nowt. Hundreds of top-quality goodies are available daily for free from web communities – some’s tat, but some’s treasure. See Furnish for Free tips.
7. Don’t redecorate without the landlord’s permission. You generally need to return property in the state you got it (minor wear and tear’s allowable). So get the landlord’s permission in writing to put up shelves or repaint, unless you want to have to undecorate before you leave.

Beware putting pictures up. Don’t get hammer-happy – it destroys walls and deposits. Forumites recommend specially-designed picture strips to hold up pics without using damaging nails. See full Rental Decoratinghelp.

8. Letting fees can be perverse and nasty, check. Renters can be hit by huge and unfair fees. Some reported to us include £120 for permission to buy a dog or £60 for photocopying a contract.

Sadly there’s little regulation over these charges – but at least make sure you know what they are so you avoid them. There are growing campaigns for stronger rights. For more (limited) options, see Beware Unfair Fees.

9. Does every renter need their own TV licence? In shared homes, this usually depends on the tenancy agreement. Joint tenants can usually share, but if you’ve your own tenancy you need your own licence. For exact rules (incl lodgers), see TV Licence help.
10. Are you eligible for help? If you’re on a low income and struggling to pay rent, check if you’re eligible for housing benefit/grants. See Extra Cash Help.

Pimlico – The Number One BTL Hotspot


Buy-to-let (Photo credit: Alan Cleaver)

Writing in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph respected Property Journalist Graham Norwood fingered Pimlico as the nation’s number one Buy To Let hot spot.

In a typical “New Year” article Graham explains why thousands of people have resolved to dive into the only housing sector that is truly booming: buy-to-let (BTL).

  • Average UK rents have risen by 13.6 per cent since 2009
  • Capital values in most places have stagnated or fallen.
  • The proportion of households renting has increased in the past decade from 31 per cent to 36 per cent. In Westminster, for example, four out of every 10 homes are privately rented, not owned.

Graham’s Top 10 buy-to-let hot spots in 2013

1 London, Victoria/Pimlico

2 Maidenhead

3 Exeter


5 Bristol

6 Milton Keynes


8 Aberdeen

9 London, Canary Wharf

10 Central Manchester

Graham’s How to be a buy-to-let landlord Check List

• Do your research. Pick a sector: students, professionals, first-time buyers or retirees?

• Buy in winter when sellers are anxious and may sell cheaply

• Don’t buy in a large scheme.

• Choose areas with diverse employment, great transport links, such as Reading and Southampton

• Find the right mortgage, or remortgage your main home if this option is cheaper.

• Most buy-to-let mortgage offers require at least a 25 per cent deposit – a few want 40 per cent

• Avoid ground-floor flats, which tenants believe are security risks

• Family homes rent well if they are in key school catchment areas.

• Aim for five per cent return on your investment per year

• If you use a letting agency, ensure it is Association of Residential Letting Agents-registered

Forum discussion of the article

Complete Article Logo of The Daily Telegraph, a British newspap...

Pimlico Flats Reception

A recent visitor sketched their view of what life was like in our reception on Monday Mornings. Sorry to the rest of the world for the “in” joke, but you are welcome to visit us & come and see for yourself.

Staff Meeting in Reception

Staff Meeting in Reception

Can an Agent Charge a Tenant for Finding a Flat?

Pimlico Flats

Pimlico Flats

The answer is that theory and practice vary. This is an age old question, especially in London where Flats are harder to find, and there have long been agencies who offer Landlords free advertising and charge the tenant (the oldest and best known “Flatland” has been trading on this model since 1971). Indeed before this website came into being Pimlico Flats used to rent through Flatland and 2 other of these agencies.

In theory according to The Accommodation Agencies Act 1953 an agent is not allowed to charge the tenant. The Act was originally passed as a short-term measure, however, after a series of annual renewals, it was made permanent by the Expiring Laws Act 1969. Although the legislation was introduced nearly 60 years ago, it can still be enforced and Flatland itself was successfully prosecuted by Westminster City Council in the 1990s. The Act was introduced to prevent agencies taking fees in advance from prospective tenants in return for details of properties, and Agents cannot charge prospective tenants for lists, addresses or details of properties that they have in their possession, and the Act is quite clear in this respect.

As a general rule, the agent is at liberty to act either for a landlord or for a tenant (and accordingly to charge the appropriate commission).  The only restriction placed upon the agent by the general law is not to act for both.  Thus relocation agents may charge tenants for finding specific accommodation which includes advertising their individual requirements. Where an agent takes a deposit or fee, refundable on demand, where the deposit is not in respect of any particular property, an offence is committed. Where an agent asked clients to sign an agreement under which a fee would become payable if and when they took accommodation found for them by the agent, the payments related to the finding of suitable accommodation and not for the supplying of an address, and no offence is committed. An amount chargeable at any time before the prospective tenant finds acceptable accommodation is an illegal payment, even if deemed returnable in the event  of the prospective tenant not finding accommodation.  Yet, an agent may legitimately charge for finding accommodation for a tenant who actually takes it, but may not demand a fee (even a returnable deposit) for merely supplying him with the address in the first place.

In practice Agents seem to find it fairly easy to charge fees without contravening the Act, or else the authorities find it too onerous to enforce the law. Agents also make money by charging for services – a local Pimlico Letting Agent made the following equivalent charges in 2010:

  • Administration £350
  • Referencing £52
  • Agreement £188
  • Inventory charges depending on the Flat & can vary from £80 – £300 per inspection. The tenant pays the Check In fee, the Landlord the Check Out fee.

The charges are subject to VAT. In theory the charges should reflect the actual costs to the Agent, however there are several online Agencies who offer Landlords free advertising, and they clearly only operate if they are making a profit from the charges to the tenant. They are clearly contravening the principle that the agent should only act for either the landlord or the tenant, but as with “Key Money” the authorities clearly don’t have the motivation to address what has become a custom & practice flouting of the law.

The Best Places to Have a Flat in Pimlico

Homes and Property recently published an Insider’s Guide to Pimlico, which astutely sums up the area for prospective Landlords looking to buy in the area.

Pimlico is a central London area separated from Belgravia by Victoria railway station to the north and bounded by the River Thames to the south. Vauxhall Bridge Road separates Pimlico from Westminster. With easy access to the Victoria line, good bus routes and riverboat services to Waterloo and Southwark, this area is a commuter hotspot.

At Pimlico’s heart you’ll find the highly desirable grid of residential streets developed by Thomas Cubitt from 1825, now protected as the Pimlico Conservation Area, the area has a very village-y feel, with plenty of shops and restaurants around Warwick Way and Wilton Road, as well as the open spaces of Warwick, Eccleston and St George’s garden squares.

The article asks itself

What are the best investment opportunities in Pimlico?

The answer is One- or two-bedroom flats within the Pimlico grid – in streets such as Gloucester Street, Cambridge Street, Alderney Street or Winchester Street because these are among the most popular for tenants, usually letting within about 48 hours. The grid attracts good tenants because its location offers everything you could possibly need and the council tax in the Borough of Westminster is one of the cheapest in London, which is a big draw for renters.

There is no arguing with that!

Pimlico Flats

Pimlico Flats

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Look at the Local Amenities before you Rent a London Flat

How Far – Can I walk?

Everyone knows how important local shops, restaurants, pubs, buses, trains and tube stations are to where you live. The key question when flat hunting is – “how far away are local amenities?” and – “can I walk to them?”.

In order to speed up hunting for a London Flat to rent it’s important to do your research online before you start the time consuming process of booking and attending viewings. Use Google and Google Streetview to look at the property, the street it is in, and how far it is to local amenities.

Fortunately there is a new facility to enable you to automate the process, and I’ve embedded it in this blog, so you can give it a spin.

Here is the amenity report for Pimlico Flats, as you can see we are just about in the top 10% of all locations for walkable amenities. You can put any address into the panel above to compare other locations to us. I am confident that you will find that Pimlico Flats is a better place to rent a Flat than 90% of all other locations in London.

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July 2015


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