How to Lease a Home in 18th Century London

Today I’m going to begin the first of what will be an ongoing, long and possibly unfinished project– to make an easy-to-read version of the  late 1700s book The London Adviser and Guide by John Trusler.  I think the extended title says it all: 

THE London Adviser and Guide: Containing every Instruction and Information Useful and Necessary to Persons Living in London and coming to reside there; In order to enable them to enjoy Security and Tranquility, and conduct their Domestic Affairs with Prudence and Economy* Together with an Abstract Of all those Laws which regard their protection against the Frauds, Impositions, Insults and Accidents to which they are there liable. Useful also to Foreigners.

* Note, This Work treats fully of every Thing on the above Subjects that can be thought of. 


So, let’s get started with the fine print details of leasing a home in London.

Houses and lodgings in London are let either furnished or unfurnished, and their prices are according to their size, their situation, and their manner of sitting up. In the central part of London and Westminster, such as the neighbourhood of St. James’s, Charing-Cross, the squares, -Covent-Garden, the theatres, St. Paul’s Churchyard, Cheapside, the Royal Exchange, &c. they are high rented; in more distant parts they are cheaper, and in by-streets, courts, lanes, alleys, and such obscure places, cheaper still.

A private house 24 feet in front, and about seventy deep, two or three rooms on a floor, unfurnished, in the best streets, will let from 100 guineas a-year to 150; such a house, in other places, may be had from 80 to 1oo guineas: unfurnished lodgings in such houses are seldom to be met with.

In less central places, but in good streets, unfurnished houses of twenty feet in front, two rooms and a light closet on a floor, may be had for sixty or seventy guineas a-year; and houses of eighteen feet in front for forty or thirty guineas, according to the situation and conveniences. Unfurnished lodgings in such houses let proportionally. The first floor generally goes at half the net rent of the house without taxes: the parlour-floor, or second floor, at one fourth.

2. Houses about twenty-one feet in front will let from four guineas a week furnished to eight guineas, according to the season of the year and the time they are engaged for. The dearest season is from Christmas to June, when families are in town and the parliament sitting; the cheapest, when families are out of town, and the parliament prorogued. In the winter-season, such a house taken for four or five months may possibly be had for from three to five seven guineas a week. Thus taken, the tenant pays no taxes, the goods are delivered on inventory, and whatever is destroyed, is paid for. Furnished lodgings, that is, the first floor with a servant’s room, &c. in such a house, will let for from two guineas a week to three and a half, in proportion to the goodness of the furniture, the conveniences wanted, the trouble given, the time they are engaged for, and the season of the year.

Houses of fifty guineas a-year rent will let furnished for from two guineas weekly to five, and the first floor furnished will let for, from one guinea a week to two guineas: second floors two thirds of the rent of .first floors, and parlour-floors at the price of second floors.

3. It is generally estimated, that in lodging-houses the rent of the first floor furnished, with other conveniences, such as kitchen, cellars, garrets, &c. shall pay the rent and taxes of the whole house unfurnished.

4. Shops when let separate, will fetch from 20l, a year to 60l. free of taxes, according to their size, situation, trade of the street, and show of window.

5. Landlords have now got into a method of making tenants pay guineas for rent instead of pounds, and also land-tax and repairs; but all these outgoings mould be considered when the agreement is made, as well as the taxes on the house; for in some parishes the poor-rates and land-tax are lower than in others. Persons who have money may often get the remnant of a lease cheap, provided they will pay down a certain sum of money for such lease; for there are always distressed housekeepers in London, trying to procure money by every possible means: for which reason, such as purchase a lease should examine the covenants of that lease, and; the state of the building, and particularly take care that the rent and taxes are paid up to the time they takes possession of it, and also the ground-rent, by seeing the receipts; otherwise the tenant may have the arrears of such rent or taxes to pay, and the seller of the lease may not be found, or if found, not able to repay.

6. The general conditions of a lease are, to leave such fixtures at the end of the term as are given in with the lease on schedule, and to leave it in such a states it was in when taken, the wear from time only excepted; to pay the rent half-yearly, under a forfeiture of the lease, but with a liberty of assigning it during the term.

7. If a tenant purchases or takes a lease of another tenant, during his term, by assignment, he is no longer bound for the rent than whilst it is in his possession: he may assign it to another, and, this done, is no longer answerable for the rent; but the first tenant, assigning it without the consent of his landlord, is held bound for the rent during the whole term, if the occupier does not pay it.

TABLE, showing how many Years purchases an Annuity, or Lease is worth, so as to make 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8 percent of Money.

Y. M. D. Tears, Month, Days.

Note, F. S. or the Fee Simple, is the Perpetuity

9. In purchasing a lease of a tenant, it is often expected that the purchaser should also buy the fixtures at a fair appraisement; in doing this, he should examine the lease, and see that he does not give money for those fixtures which belong to the house; for landlords will often fit up a house with every necessary fixture, and put the tenant to no expense in this matter. But if the fixtures have been put up by the tenant, he has a liberty to remove or sell all such as are net as sixed to the freehold.

Fixtures removable are locks, bells, cisterns, grates sixed, coppers, dressers, shelves, counters, &c. Paper pasted to the wall, buildings erected, new windows, chimney pieces, &c. or things to beautify the house, &c. and fixed to the freehold, must go with the house, at the end of the term, and cannot be removed.

When goods or fixtures are appraised, the seller and the buyer each appoints one appraiser, and the price is fixed between them; if they cannot agree, a third is called in by the other two, and his decision is final. If six or eight hours is taken up in this business, each appraiser expects a guinea for his trouble; if a few fixtures only are to be appraised the appraiser will expect only half-a-guinea. However, if you employ him in removing your furniture, repairing it, &c. and you make a prior agreement with him, he will probably not  charge you for the appraising of a few fixtures. Be careful to have an honest man for an appraiser; for his voice has been known to have been bought over on the other side. When goods are appraised to a buyer, a greater value is put upon them than they would fetch at a sale; and if immediately sold, they would not fetch the appraised price by thirty per cent.

10. In taking a house of its owner, take care that it is thorough repair, and give a rent accordingly; and particularly see that the drains are clear, and the privy not full.

11. It is very dangerous to take unfurnished lodgings in London; for should the tenant of the house not pay his rent, your goods will be liable to be seized for it; so will your carriage and horses standing at livery for the rent of the stables, if that rent is in arrear, To avoid this, enquire into the circumstances of the house-keeper, and if you cannot get the landlord of the house to give you an agreement in writing, that he will not seize your goods for any arrears that may become due by his tenant, ask to see the landlord’s receipt for the last half-year, before you pay your own rent.

12. Such house-keepers who have troublesome lodgers, may remove them, if they will not quit otherwise, by raising the rent weekly upon them; and if they refuse to pay, suing them for the same; if the lodgings are furnished, and they do not pay, an opportunity may be taken, when the lodger and all persons, belonging to him are out of the apartments, to lock the door, and keep him for re-entering; if anything is owing, any effects of the lodger may be detained.

13. If a tenant of an unfurnished house gives notice to his landlord to quit, and does not quit at the time given in such notice; or if he will not quit the premises on a legal notice from his landlord, but hold possession beyond his term, if the landlord has acquainted him in writing that he expects double rent for his so doing, he is obliged to pay double the rent first agreed on.

If a tenant cannot be removed by any of these means, he must be ejected out by a course of law.

Notice of warning must be in writing, directed to the tenant.

14. It is a late determination of the courts, that if it be necessary to give a tenant at will half-a-year’s notice to quit, the said notice must be given half-a-year before the expiration of his year; that is to say, his year and the notice must expire at the same time; for if the tenant enters upon another year, he may keep possession the whole of that year, and no ejectment to put him out before will stand good.

15. For every dwelling-house inhabited, rented from 5l  to 20l. The occupier must pay a tax of 6d. in the pound.

At 20l. and upwards to any sum under 40l. 9J. in the pound.

All at 40l. and upwards, is, in the pound.

The offices, yards, gardens, coach houses, brewhouses, wood-houses, wash-houses, &c. provided they all stand within the compass of one acre, belonging to the dwelling-house, must be valued with the dwellinghouse, and shall be charged with the same duties.

Shops and warehouses, if attached to the dwelling houses, shall also be liable to be reckoned in with the rent, except the warehouses of wharfingers.

But no warehouse that is a distinct building shall be liable.

No house shall be deemed inhabited, where only one person is left in charge of it.

Where houses are let out in tenements, the landlord shall pay the duty.

Halls and offices that pay other taxes are liable to this.

Penalties for refusing or neglect, to be sued for in the courts of Westminster, and the prosecutor shall have full costs, if he recovers.

16. Persons who have no furniture, and to whom it may be inconvenient to purchase it, may hire it of brokers, at the rate of from 15l. to 30l, for every hundred pounds worth of goods, according to the time it is wanted. If hired for one year, they will expect 30l. percent; if two years, about 25l. percent; if for three or four years, about 20l. per cent. And so on in proportion; at 33l. percent. If taken for four or five years, upholders will lend new furniture, and make it up to the taste of the borrower.

17. But if house-keepers can make shift and furnish a house by degrees, they may for ready money, if they are acquainted with the value of things, purchase articles at sales, frequently at less, than half their first cost, and often at a third, provided they attend such respectable sales, as are advertised some days before in all the newspapers.

18. If you mean to purchase anything of consequence at an auction, such as an estate, a house, &c. it is advisable to take some intelligent person with you, as a witness of the transaction; you may ask the auctioneer what questions you please concerning it, and whatever he assures you on the subject, he is obliged to make good, or the purchase is void.

The principal auctioneers in London, whose terms, generally, for selling goods are seven and an half per cent. paying all expenses except the King’s duty, which is. 6d. in the pound, are,

For Houses, Estates, Furniture, &c.

Messrs. Skinner, Dyde, Christie, Spurrier, Denew, Winstanley.

For Horses, Carriages, &c.

Mess. Tatterfall, Langhorn, Aldridge, Hopkins, Mackenzie.

For Books,

Mess. Leigh and Sotheby, York-street, Covent-garden. Mess. Egerton, Whitehall.

For Hosiery, Linen-drapery, Woollen-drapery, Halerdashery&c.

Mr. Winter, St. Mary-le-Grand.

But there are a variety of lesser ones, perhaps equally respectable.

Still awake? Great! Later we will explore the exciting details of obtaining fire insurance and water hookup.

14 Replies to “How to Lease a Home in 18th Century London”

  1. Wonderful resource you’ve uncovered, there. There are a number of expensive flats behind Lansdowne House, the London palace featured in my blog, that are called Lansdowne mews. Thanks for the post.

  2. @Susanna: “Still awake? Great! Later we will explore the exciting details of obtaining fire insurance and water hookup.”

    I had to smile at your quote above! Very interesting post, I look forward to reading more.

  3. This is fascinating! We Regency writers are detail-obsessive and so often, “commonplace” everyday stuff that most people knew was never documented in diaries or letters because..leveryone knew it. I’ll be following your progress closely as you wade through the book. Thanks so much for undertaking this project!

  4. @ Angelyn — you have a great blog! Thanks!
    @David — you have to admit, the information is kinda boring!
    @Julia — Thanks! I adore the commonplace details, too. It really makes for setting.

  5. Fabulous stuff! I have to say some of it sounds like the pages and pages we had to sign when renting a house here for a year! Love the detail about not removing the wallpaper. Could be pricey stuff back then.

  6. I’d really love to know how much it would have cost to purchase these type of dwellings in addition to the lease prices.

  7. Do you know if there is any paperwork that would have been signed by renters back in the 1880s in england?

I would love to hear your thoughts!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from Susanna Ives | My Floating World

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading