I was chatting recently to a colleague from my MBA group regarding our first London days, the relocation, and all the challenges associated with and she said: “If I had only known that some of these things are just the way they are, I don’t think I would have bothered as much as I have.”
Her statement pretty nicely sums up all the frustrations associated with this, definitely not honeymoon period: the search for your ideal place and then moving into the first or second you see, because you simply do not have time to do it properly, the never ending wait to get your home internet connection, finding the right bank, the right phone, the right mobile operator, the mystery over lost bank account PIN number, and so on.
It can be a pretty frustrating period like going through a dead tunnel, and I decided to write this article to help out other students coming to London not get frustrated about it as some of us have, a have a jump start on their first few London weeks.
Finding a place to live
Most agencies advertising their properties will require 1 year contract, but with a 6 months exit clause. Some of them will not have this exit clause, and some agents will ask for 6 months advance payment or a guarantee letter from a UK resident that you will pay for your rent regularly. If you are lucky, like I was, you may come across a realtor/property manager who will be a little less demanding and just ask for your bank statement showing that you have enough money on your account. Of course, everyone asks for deposit. Be aware of the scammers (I have met one over Gumtree), who advertise attractive properties for great prices, and their aim is just to get your deposit money and run off with it! However, their way of communicating is so strange, so it is not hard to spot them.
My property manager, Ali Jamal, who is managing several buildings in the North and North-East London, has managed to house not only me, but also several people from my MBA group. Some of the properties he is managing are around Finchley road, which is only 1 tube stop (and exactly 8 minutes) away from our Marylebone campus on a Metropolitan line. Very convenient! If you need help with accommodation, you can reach Ali on tel: 0207 435 2323, mob: 0773 938 9731 and email: firstname.lastname@example.org. He is a great guy, very polite, professional and helpful, and I feel lucky that I found him immediately, because, thanks to him, my whole experience regarding accommodation has been positive!
Opening a bank account
Despite the regulations stating that banks should provide free students accounts, not every bank does it! According to my experience, HSCB and Barclays require that you have a job here or that you have been in the UK for more than a year or two (I cannot remember exactly) and few NatWest branches required utility bills with a proof of your address, which is not convenient if you have not already moved into your permanent accommodation, because it means you can only open if after you have moved in and lived there at least a month, so that you were able to have your utility bills. As unwelcoming as all this may sound, let me reassure you with the information that Lloyds TSB offer free bank accounts for students, and not only that, they are a great bank! The staff at Baker Street branch, closest to our Marylebone campus, is amazing! Mr. Sidhu, the Lloyds Baker Street branch manager, and especially Ms. Sophia Allain with whom I communicate a lot, are so professional, knowledgeable and helpful! My PIN number got lost, because I had it sent to my new place before I moved in, and the previous tenant probably threw it away, and Lloyds were quick, efficient and considerate in helping me and sorting it out! Not only that, they generally offer a great service, they gave me loads of useful tips regarding my savings and how to manage it, they have been proactive in informing me about certain benefits I could use and I feel I get a VIP treatment whenever I go there. They are creating customers for life and for me it is inconceivable that other, afore mentioned banks, have problems realising the simple fact that we are not going to be students forever! But kudos to Lloyds TSB, I’m definitely staying with them!
Majority of my class and I went for Sky. Good internet, everything is perfect, except for the fact that you need to wait for 3 weeks to have the land line installed, and only then you are informed that you need to wait for another 9 days before you can use your internet service. By that time, you are already paying for the land line, but you can’t use internet yet! But, in the end of the day you realise that these are one of those things that are not worth getting upset about, because there is nothing you can do about it (believe me, I have tried!)
You need your course administrator to issue you letter for bank account opening, for your accommodation (proving to your landlord that you’re a student) and for the Council Tax exemption. Make sure you have those ready, because you will need them!
Dear new students, this is it in the nutshell! Be prepared for any surprise complications, but also be ready to tackle them! Don’t get discouraged, because we have all been through that, and yet we managed!