Renting Apartments – What to Expect in the UK (part 4)

Today we met with the letting agency to sign paperwork, pay our rent, damage deposit, the VAT on top of that and got copies of our lease & EPC for our records.

So, how’d that go? Surprisingly easy. We left the house on time, armed with my husband’s ID, my US ID, my birth certificate as well as a certified copy of our marriage certificate…. and they never even asked to see any of it. My initial thoughts were, at the time, “how do these guys know we didn’t just steal someone’s identity?” but when you think about how they have to call up employers to verify information, by the time all is said and done, someone who happened to just steal your personal identification wouldn’t necessarily know enough intimate details about a person’s life to pull that off without at least raising some flags first.

Would it be impossible? No; an identity check is only as good as it is thorough. So there will always be a part of me that would have at least liked them to ask if we could provide some kind of physical or even oral verification of our identities first. But that’s just me and I’m weird that way. :\

It wouldn’t be difficult, necessarily to do – a good example of this is actually the process the UK Home Office Information Centre handles phone calls and verifies the identity of the caller. They do so by asking first for the case number/id, then to give the applicant’s full name, their nationality and their birthdate.

Is this a perfect system? No, but it’s probably as good as they can get without resorting to mining the application form or biometric data for random/additional questions (example: eye colour). The point remains; imperfect verification system is better than no system at all.

Back to the ins and outs of renting. A word to the wise for people to bring cash or cheques whenever possible – I can’t say if this is standard for all agencies, but the one we went through had a 3% charge for credit card transactions (so much for it being the age of plastic). In our case, when all was said and done it was a £900 bill – ow. This doesn’t include the administration fee that I mentioned in a previous post so… double-ow?

There wasn’t much that we could do about that for ourselves personally; the saving’s account took a hit due to paying income taxes and the timing landed us unfortunately in the dead-zone between payments from my husband’s many forms of employment. In a week or two, we’ll be back up to scratch, but yay, I suck at planning.

This, of course, has not stopped us from needing to spend some more money by getting the much needed basics so that we can function in our new home. I have a bunch of things from my family that they sent with me when I left the States a year ago (and my Grandmother A will be happy to know that her gift was used to procure our first set of bedsheets and pillows), my husband’s Nanny C surprised us both by revealing to us that she was basically hoarding for several months bits and pieces as she found items on sale. All in all, the combination of these collections has majorly offset the initial start-up costs (why do I make that sound like I’m talking more about a business operation than a new flat? Apparently I’m really in touch with my inner drama-queen today, geez…). 

So stripping back all of the fluff and puff, what does a first-time home really need?




~Toiletries/cleaning supplies


~Working Utilities (we’ll cover this in Part 5, but I’m noting it here in an attempt to save myself the pain of spending a night without heat/running water)

~A bed to sleep in

And, unsurprisingly, 


Seriously, those are the bare bones minimum that a household needs (or at least as best as I can figure; ya’ll can correct me in the comments if I’ve severely underestimated or forgotten something that’s vitally important in that, of course. XD) to function. It’s not about being pretty here, it’s about just getting through the first month by the grit of your teeth. 

Armed as I was with this divine (*sporfle* –sorry, still can’t say it with a straight face…) insight, after stopping by Nanny C’s place, we hurled ourselves like flies into the web-like world that is the inner city.

The goal was simple: fill in the gaps that friends and family were not able to fulfil in the aforementioned list… Or that’s what I had in mind; my poor husband is still suffering a from a bit of PTS (Post-Trumatic Stress… not a typo – man you guys are MEAN today. :P) as a result of the sudden reversal of cash flows (see: wallet-pain). Normally it’s me who’s the major wet-blanket on a shopping expedition, today we got a taste of being in the other person’s shoes. 

Buy ALL the things!
I was all: Buy ALL the things!
Meanwhile, he was: Shopping for things... sadly realising that you're still broke
Shopping for things… sadly realising that you’re still broke

The result was more or less something you would expect out of a Laurel and Hardy skit. I’ll leave it to you to fill in the details from there. If you can’t see that, picture if you will this scenario: A Sadist arm-twists a Masochist into shopping, and every time the Masochist starts to enjoy the adventure and finds something that he WANTS, the Sadist would deny him the pleasure and steadfastly refuse to get the item (the potato ricer, the apple corer… basically every one-job tool that ever was on the face of  this earth, he was drawn towards like a innocent moth to a lit lamp wick).

And if you missed it, in this situation I was the Sadist. We spent several hours in the city, only to end up at Sainsbury’s, where we stood in the isles for – I kid you not – at least 5 minutes on the following dialogue on repeat:

“Why does it have a decoration pillow cover? Is there a decoration pillow?”

“No, but we don’t need to use it. Do you want this colour, or do you want to pick something else?”

In the end, the duvet cover set was put back and we chose a different one that did not have a decorative pillow cover.


Very literally, we spent more time than I care to admit trying to logic around what sized sheets we needed. Painfully going in circles because we could not find a single package of sheets that were labeled “Queen” sized mattresses yet finding all manner of ones for “Double.” I am left only with the conclusion that they are, at least in the world of sheets in the UK, the same animal (I could make a joke about guys and their insistences about the difference 5 inches will make, but I won’t because I’m classy >> ).

Trying as it was on both of us, not only did we survive the whole ordeal, but we succeeded in our mission. So, for now at least, we have the gists of what we need to start off with in our own place…

Now we just need to pack it. Eek.

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