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The answer to the question is still Yes you can secure a rental while in the UK
Applied for 176 visa 23/03/2011 C/O 19/04/2011. Meds done 18/05/2011 Police Checks sent 16/05/2011. Visa Granted 26/05/2011. Flights Booked 12/01/2012.
Of course you can find a rental if one is living o/s. It's not written in stone that you can't, however many agents will place an ad stating that prospective tenants must visit the accommodation first or verbally state these requirements upon receiving an enquiry. The brunt of rentals here are vetted by the real estate agencies. It has becomes costly for the landlord to find another new tenant should a present tenant wish to break a lease; also the agent and/or the property management company might lose a bit of cachet and consideration for the next lease renewal.
So, yes, it can be done but prospective tenants can have more of an uphill battle via this modality. I don't know if it's considered a negative rather than a mere real estate reality.