The only bit that I do like about the whole estate agent-handled-letting is that the agents themselves will chauffeur you, the potential renter, around town to various properties you're to see in their company car. It's a great way to see the city, but not have to pay a cab driver's fee.
One of the, ahem, "cabbies" called James took the bf and I around Shoreditch in a scruffy-looking VW Polo. You'd have thought he was Steve McQueen in "Bullitt" what with all the speeding around sharp corners and zooming inches away from parked cars and pedestrians as he took us to different rental properties. The best was when his phone rang--as it did numerous times throughout our car ride--and he said, "Oh, it's the office, I've got to take this..." and answered the call. From my vantage point in the back seat, I could see the face of his iPhone. The caller ID from "work" came up as "Super Spurm". Um, yeah, charming workmates, bro.
After seeing flats in Clapton, Shoreditch, Greenwich, and Highbury, we've put in an offer (you'd think we were attempting to buy a house!!) and, had it accepted, on a place in Greenwich, a lovely area just south of the Thames. What with all the Bank Holidays and Royal Wedding shenanigans we've hardly had a decent work week to work within in this country since we've landed, so, hopefully, today we'll find out if our vetting has yielded positive results. Can you believe that one needs both a solid reference from former landlords and friends alike? Finding a friend to say that I'm a decent sort with no obvious problems would be a easy. Our NYC landlord, to whom we'd given a month's notice, and who charged us for the entire month of April although we had flown to LN on the 20th of that month, whose apartment we then did not clean in its entirety, might not be the go-to person for a good reference.
Update as of May 6th: the letting jackass, um, agent, who, BTW, is like the "Dougie Howser" of letting agents, has been jerking our chain for the past week, and we didn't even know it. I feel a bit of a fool, really, but I just couldn't believe that some little, rosy-cheeked, pip squeak in an ill-fitting suit would be so deceitful.
At the end of April, we saw the Greenwich flat and quickly put in an offer. We were told by the letting agent that the landlord would prefer a long-term lease. THREE years long was the story. Balking, but feeling like we didn't want this place to slip through our fingers, we said, 'yes, but with a get-out clause at 24 mos.' Then we heard nothing for a few days. Jonathan, our young man at the agency, came back with the 'green light' and the bf and I began filling out paperwork. This was two days back. The next day, yesterday, we were informed that the landlord wanted only a one-year contract, that he'd 'changed his mind'. That he thought that that 'was best for him'. Fully perplexed at this point, we could only assume that the landlord was inexperienced at his post, and we weren't sure that we wanted to deal with him any more. Then the letting agent told us that "the landlord just doesn't want to do it anymore. -maybe he has another offer..." The deal was off. The bf, thoroughly fed up at this point, then asked for our very hefty deposit back. Supposedly, the transfer of money took place yesterday, but the funds have yet to show up in bf's account.
To all who think they'll be renting in the UK: estate agents are a, somewhat, necessary evil. Don't trust 'em as far as you can throw 'em. If you're keen on trying the non-agent route, then might I suggest this site: http://www.gumtree.com/