When searching for a place to live in the UK, you may find yourself somewhat baffled by the terminology used in listings. “DDS”? “GCH”? “Grade II listed”? Never fear, that’s what this glossary is for! I have conveniently listed British-isms and house-hunting terms below, in alphabetical order, for your use in decoding house listings.
Did I miss any? What terms confound you when reading property listings from the UK? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll do my best to include them here.
Note: Several terms have been covered in the first post in this series, on property types. These terms include apartment, bungalow, cottage, country house, detached, flat, row house, semi-detached, terraced, and townhouse. See UK House Hunting 101, Lesson 1: Property Types for more.
bedsit: a property where you rent your bedroom (often with basic cooking facilities included) and share a bathroom with other tenants. Similar to the traditional boarding-house setup of yesteryear, but with no communal dining included.
comprise of: consists of; as in, “The flat comprises lounge, kitchen, bathroom, and one double bedroom.” Sometimes “comprises of.” (This one is a pet peeve of mine, as it is clearly an incorrect usage of the word “comprise”; nonetheless, this usage persists in British house listings.)
council tax: a property tax levied on all properties by the local council government; this is often given in listings to help you calculate the total cost of occupation, along with typical utility fees, etc. If you are renting, you may be asked to pay the council tax, or it may (if you’re very lucky) be covered by the landlord. If you are a student, you are exempt from this tax, but you have to show proof of your student status to the council.
DSS: Department of Social Security; a now-defunct department of the UK government that provided welfare benefits to those in need. Though the DSS no longer exists and benefits are now administered through other departments and agencies, the phrase “no DSS” is very common in housing listings, and simply means that they will not rent to people on benefits. Sometimes combined with students, as in, “Sorry, no DSS or students.” (This is somewhat controversial, as some believe it is illegal for landlords to discriminate on these grounds, but so far it has not gone to court in a big way.)
DG: double-glazed, meaning double-glazed windows, which are more heat efficient, keeping the ambient air cooler in summer and warmer in winter
double room: a room large enough to accommodate a double-size bed (roughly equivalent to a US full-size bed); double rooms are sometimes a bit tight, being able to just fit a double bed with barely enough room to walk around it, particularly in more expensive, high-demand areas
energy rating: see EPC
ensuite: a bathroom facility off a bedroom and considered part of the same “suite” of rooms; private bathroom (note that this doesn’t necessarily mean there will be a bath, though there is usually a shower)
EPC: Energy Performance Certificate; a certificate from the government rating the energy efficiency of the property, as well as recommendations for improving the energy efficiency
estate agent: real estate agent
freehold: a property that you own outright, including the land on which it sits
fridge-freezer: a fridge with a freezer inside it
garden: yard; be well advised that the garden is only the land, not any of the plants or cultivation, as the word implies in American English; if you rent a house with a “large back garden,” this could well mean that the yard is dirt and weeds, and almost certainly never means a vegetable garden
GCH, GFCH: gas central heating, gas furnace central heating
good-sized bedroom: a bedroom slightly larger than single, but not big enough for a double; or, a single bedroom that the agent doesn’t want to call “single”
Grade II listed: see listed building
hob: stove, stovetop
integral: designed to fit seamlessly with the rest of the items; usually refers to kitchens (sometimes bathrooms), to distinguish this type of kitchen from one where the oven, stove, fridge, etc. have been purchased after the fact and made to fit (usually awkwardly) into whatever space could be found
leasehold: a property where you own the property, but not the land on which it sits; most properties in London are leaseholds
to let: to rent (both my friend Hard Neon Local and I misread several “to let” signs as “toilet” when we first arrived in England; those are not public toilets being advertised, rather the property is for rent)
letting agent: rental agent
listed building: a building on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest; these may be Grade I, Grade II*, or Grade II:
- Grade II might be factories or other industrial buildings that have been converted to flats
- Grade II* are often country houses or manor houses, bigger and grander than Grade II, with more restrictions on how they are to be treated
- Grade I are things like Big Ben and Warwick Castle, which you are not likely to see in property listings
open plan: having at least two rooms connected, with no wall between them (see UK House Hunting 101, Lesson 1 for more info)
share (i.e., room share, flat share, house share): you rent a portion of the property (such as a bedroom in a larger house or flat) and share the rest of the facilities, such as the kitchen, bathroom, living room, laundry, etc.; similar to a bedsit
single room: a bedroom that is large enough to fit a single bed (roughy equivalent to a US twin bed)
washer-dryer: washing machine and dryer in one, typically found in the kitchen. If you’ve found a property with a washer/dryer (or washer), count yourself lucky! Though they are increasingly more common, there are still plenty of properties with no washing machines at all, so this is a pretty big deal.
“Energy Performance Certificate,” Money Super Market. http://www.moneysupermarket.com/gas-and-electricity/energy-performance-certificate/
Welch, James, “Do ‘No DSS’ and ‘No Students’ notices fall foul of the Equality Act?” The Guardian, 8 October 2010. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/libertycentral/2010/oct/08/liberty-clinic-lettings-equality-acts
“Are Landlords Breaking the Law When They Demand No DSS?” the void. https://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/are-landlords-breaking-the-law-when-they-demand-no-dss/
“What’s the Difference Between Freehold and Leasehold?” Ludlow Thompson. https://www.ludlowthompson.com/property_advice/whats-the-difference-between-freehold-and-leasehold/article.htm?id=28
“Listed Buildings,” Historic England. https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/what-is-designation/listed-buildings/