Renting a flat as a foreigner in the UK

I am happily living in Scotland now and eager to find a home. I did look for flats prior to my arrival but couldn’t secure one without an interview. It was just as well as I wanted to check out the neighborhood of the flats and have a proper look around. Fortunately, the family of a friend of mine was kind enough to let me stay with them while I look for a place.

Trying to find a place has been interesting. What I’m about to describe, however, isn’t unique to the UK. It’s all part of the process one goes through when moving somewhere new as a foreigner.

My flat search

I had scheduled a few viewings for flats but found upon my arrival in Scotland that the flats I had arranged to see were already taken. So I started looking around some more. Flats in the neighbourhoods and price range I have been looking for are, seemingly, going quickly so it became clear that I needed a phone so I could manage and arrange viewings quickly. I had a UK phone number but found out that after 120 days of inactivity, my SIM card expired and it couldn’t be reactivated so I needed a new one.

On my first full day here the number one thing on my agenda was to get a new phone in order to facilitate finding a flat. This lead me to a frustrating, but slightly hilarious, understanding of what it would take to procure a flat here.

To get a flat I need… a flat?

My agenda was to find a flat…

  • To find a flat I need a phone
  • To get a phone I need a UK bank account
  • To get a UK bank account I need proof of residence, i.e. a utility bill with my name and a UK address, lease agreement, etc.

Image how to get a flat in the UK as a foreigner

Sooo… in order to find a flat I need a flat?
Flat – phone – bank account – flat. I can’t get any of those things without the others.
Damn it.

Yes, it’s frustrating, but compared to other steps of this move it’s really not a big deal. Less than two months ago I was banned from entering the UK as a tourist even, so bring it on. I’m just happy to be here. :)

How I’m jumping hurdles

  • I bought a phone and investigated plans. I found that I couldn’t have a plan yet so I’ve got a ‘pay as you go’ plan until I’m able to get a UK bank account.
  • I’m skipping the bank account right now until I get an address because I have to. I can’t get a bank account until I have proof that I have an address where I legally reside.
  • Finding that flat… easier said than done but I’m working on it. Fortunately, I’m not living out of a hostel as I thought I’d have to. Through my network of Girl Gone International friends, I’ve been able to stay with the family of one of my fellow GGIs for a minimal cost.

An inefficient but not unusual process

I’ve heard and read many similar stories from others who have moved country. The UK is my context, but these inefficient processes exist worldwide. :) Sometimes it has to do with letting a flat like I am, other times it has to do with another facet of establishing yourself in a new country from navigating visa applications, doctor’s appointments and so on. It can be frustrating, but people move country for a reason – it’s not for the squeamish, but is full of rewards. Invaluable rewards.

What about you? Care to share your story of an inefficient process in your new country? I know many of my fellow travel and expat bloggers are full of them – and I’d love to have you share.

What about my NASL readers? What hurdles have you encountered whilst establishing your international lifestyles?

Image signature and red lips

4 thoughts on “Renting a flat as a foreigner in the UK

  1. Ah yes many inefficiencies here in Croatia. But as you say ‘bring it on’. I’ll enjoy all it has to offer, and just mumble to myself about how much quicker things could be – and your my darling enjoy the UK. After all that VISA was much harder to obtain that a flat will be. xx

    • American Burd

      I always hate it when I read blogs by expats who do nothing but complain about the things they hate about their new countries. It always astounds me. It makes me think, ‘why are you still living there if you hate it so much?’ But at times it can be humorous – as long as the pros outweigh the cons then I guess it’s all worth it.

    • American Burd

      Absolutely! Bureaucratic structures exist everywhere, it doesn’t make it any less frustrating, but it’s nice to know we can all commiserate. 😉 As I mention in my article, finding a flat was the least of my problems during my move, but at the end of the day was a good laugh… particularly once I stopped being homeless.

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