The quality and affordability of housing in the United Kingdom varies widely. If you're an expat, you may struggle to find spacious, high-quality accommodation that doesn’t break the bank in notoriously expensive London, but there are many areas of the UK where it’s much easier to find appropriate housing at a decent price.

Types of accommodation in the United Kingdom

Accommodation in the UK is generally in the form of houses – whether freestanding or row houses (terraced housing) – and apartments (flats). All these types of housing are widespread throughout the UK, with flats dominating in the more urban areas.

House-sharing (renting an individual room in a larger house shared by others) is another popular option if you're a single expat in the United Kingdom – and is an avenue usually pursued out of financial necessity. Still, for young expats, this can be a great way to meet new people.

Furnished vs unfurnished

When searching for somewhere to rent, you must decide whether to rent a furnished or unfurnished property. An unfurnished property typically includes kitchen and bathroom fixtures, as well as appliances such as a fridge, cooker, and possibly a dishwasher and washing machine. Carpets and often curtains are included, but not furniture such as beds or sofas.

A furnished property will include furniture such as sofas and armchairs in the living room, tables and chairs in the dining area, and beds, wardrobes and chests of drawers in the bedrooms. Some will even include TVs, kitchen utensils and cutlery.

Many expats and assignees choose to rent a furnished property to save the worry and expense of sourcing furniture or having it shipped from abroad. It may cost slightly more to rent a furnished flat or house, but the difference in cost is often marginal.

Short lets and temporary housing

If you're new to the UK, you might choose to stay in temporary housing, as it is usually a more cost-effective and convenient alternative to hotels. There are a number of specialist providers of temporary housing in the larger cities, and holiday rental sites such as Airbnb are also an option.

Finding rental accommodation

Finding a property to rent in the UK isn’t too difficult, especially if you are flexible about the exact area you want to live in. Online property portals such as Rightmove, Zoopla and On the Market are a great starting point as they allow you to research the cost and availability of properties in various areas, even before you arrive in the UK. These websites include photos, details and floor plans for available properties and are updated regularly by local real estate agencies.

Once you have chosen an area or suburb, it is worth building a relationship with local real estate agents, as they will have intimate knowledge of the local area and may be able to show properties before the details have been loaded onto the property portals. Some people moving to the UK are lucky enough to employ a local relocation agency to liaise directly with estate agents and shortlist properties for viewing.

If you are a student or on a tight budget, you might decide to rent a room in a house rather than renting a whole property. There are a few property portals that specialise in house-share, such as SpareRoom.

Useful links

Renting accommodation in the UK

Most expats in the UK opt to rent rather than buy property. This is partly due to the temporary nature of expat assignments and 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 populated cities is typically much harder.

Signing a lease

Once you have found a suitable property, you must sign the lease to secure it. Most tenancies in the UK are Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs), which provide standard protection to both tenants and landlords. Lease agreements in the UK are generally signed for one year, with the option to extend. Usually, with one-year leases, a six-month break clause can be negotiated. This allows you to terminate the contract at any time after the first six months by giving the landlord either one or two months’ notice.

If this negotiable clause is included, it's important to note that it may also allow the landlord to terminate the lease early without giving a reason, though it’s worth remembering that it’s unusual for a landlord to do so.

Most landlords in the UK will expect you to provide a security deposit that amounts to five weeks’ rent. The landlord or their agent must lodge the deposit in a government-approved Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDP). In most cases, references and letters from an employer or payslips will be required to secure a property.


You should seek prior written consent from your landlord if you wish to keep a pet on the property.

Termination of the lease

A landlord may charge a cleaning fee if you do not leave the property in good condition, so it’s essential for you to get your property professionally cleaned before you leave. The landlord is also likely to make deductions from the deposit for lost keys and unpaid utility bills.

A landlord will not charge for fair wear and tear, such as wearing of carpets, scuffed wooden flooring or faded paint, as this is an inevitable part of letting out a property. Damage beyond ordinary wear and tear can result in deductions from the deposit.

The landlord or their agent should return the deposit within ten days of agreeing on how much will be refunded. Your deposit will be protected in the TDP scheme until any issues are resolved.


When you sign a rental contract, you should ensure you know what additional costs you’re liable for. These costs will typically consist of council tax, gas, electricity, water, and internet. As these expenses have the potential to significantly increase accommodation costs, they need to be considered when budgeting.

For more details, see Setting up Household Utilities in the UK.

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