The best way to minimize stress in any situation is expecting as much of the unexpected as you can—and that certainly applies to finding and settling into London apartments. Some issues are universal, others are particular to where an international relocation takes you. So here are a few top tips on what to expect when you’re moving into your new apartment:
When the lease is signed and move-in date confirmed, your representing London estate agent or landlord will arrange for a third party to take inventory on the flat before you move anything into it. This will account for all furnishings and other contents that the landlord is providing with the property for your use as well as a report on the condition of these items and the unit itself. Any matters that need rectifying (broken fixtures, furniture replacement/removal, etc.) should be addressed at this or the lease-signing stage so that the inventory reflects with total accuracy the condition in which you’re taking on the property.
The inventory checker usually takes photographs of the interiors of London apartments as well, noting instances of damage, stains, and so forth so that you aren’t held accountable at the end of your lease term. Because the inventory not only protects the landlord but you as the tenant, it’s imperative you review this report and its photos in thorough detail and document in writing any discrepancies you come across—be it something that was overlooked or recorded in error. Make sure all parties involved are aware of these changes and request a copy of the inventory for your own records.
The items recorded in your London apartment’s official inventory will likely already be covered against flood, fire, and other accidents under your landlord’s insurance. It’s worthwhile, though, to confirm this is the case when you sign your lease.
The next consideration, then, is coverage for the personal contents you’ll be moving into the flat. Taking out content’s insurance requires a bit of research, but it’s certainly worthwhile. According to the Metropolitan Police, there were nearly 63,000 residential burglaries in London over the last year, just a 0.2% increase over the twelve months preceding. If you would like to see statistics for the particular borough in which you’re searching for London apartments, see the Crime Figures page at met.police.uk.
You can also compare insurance quotes at the following:
While these sites usually have webforms you can fill out for a quote, you might be better off just calling a company directly, since they’ll ask the same questions all over again anyway—usually specific to the buildings in which the London apartments requiring coverage are located (e.g., roofing materials, building grade, what floor the flat is on, number of doors into the building and unit, whether there’s an alarm system, etc.)
Note that movers obviously must wait until they know a specific UK address to deliver your goods to before they’ll actually ship them. Bear in mind also that even when you’re ready to give them that address, they won’t necessarily be ready to ship to it—for overseas international movers typically wait for a cargo container to fill with your and others’ shipments before loading it onto the boat, so the timing of your delivery with your move-in might not align.
As for moving costs, changes in fuel prices from the time you contract a moving company to when they actually ship your goods could mean a change in their service fee. You’ll also want to contact your new London apartment’s applicable council to determine whether you’ll need to purchase a temporary parking permit for the moving truck—if they get ticketed, you could be liable for the fine.
Finally, just as with inventory, you’ll need to sign off on the quality of your mover’s delivery—i.e., confirm they caused no damage to the building, flat, or your possessions, and that all contents are accounted for. Be detail-oriented about this so you have recourse if something goes wrong.
One of the more unpleasant surprises of moving into London apartments is receiving the council tax bill. Landlords in the States don’t necessarily pass their property taxes onto their tenants, but in London, we’re directly responsible for this charge.
Council tax pays for community services like street cleaning, parks, schools, police, social housing, etc. and can vary from several hundred to a couple thousand GBP depending on which property valuation band your London apartment’s address falls into. You can pay it in a lump sum or request an installment plan, and full-time students can receive exemption. See Gov.uk and/or your London borough’s website (e.g., Kensington & Chelsea) for more information on council tax and student exemptions.
Remember: UK voltage is 240V. US voltage is usually 120V. For any non-UK appliances you set up in London apartments, you must:
1) use an adaptor so that a two-pronged US or EU plug will fit a three-pronged UK outlet.
2) buy at least one transformer to plug appliances operating at less than 240V into, then plug the transformer into the wall.
Foreign TVs and computers usually support up to 240V so only need an adaptor. But for anything else, use a transformer to decrease the voltage entering your appliance. An adapter plug alone will NOT adapt for electricity! It’s useful to plug a power strip into your transformer so you can convert multiple appliances at once—but pay attention to how much wattage the transformer can support so you don’t overdo it.