A deposit is money paid to a landlord or letting agent to ensure the tenant or tenants keep to their obligations, for example to pay rent and return the accommodation at the end of the tenancy in the same condition, fair wear and tear excepted. These payments are sometimes described as ‘tenancy deposits’, ‘damage deposits’ or ‘security deposits’.

Sometimes, a landlord or agent will ask for a payment to hold the property for the prospective tenant(s) whilst negotiations about a tenancy take place; this ‘holding deposit’ or ‘reservation fee’ is different from a tenancy deposit.

Types of Deposit

Holding deposit or reservation fee

The landlord or letting agent can ask for a holding deposit while the terms of the tenancy are being negotiated or while the landlord carries out any pre-tenancy checks, this type of deposit is capped at one week’s rent. If you are asked to pay a holding deposit or reservation fee, make sure you are given a proof of payment, such as a receipt and that you have written confirmation about any terms of repayment.

Tenancy deposit also known as a security deposit or damage deposit)

Tenancy deposits are payments intended to protect the landlord against any financial loss they might suffer arising out of a breach of contract by the tenant.  Generally, the tenancy contract will refer to the deposit being used to cover any unpaid rent, cleaning costs and any damage to the property caused by a tenant or their guests. It is advisable to check the tenancy contract as this may outline specifically what it is intended to cover.  The maximum tenancy deposit is 5 weeks rent.

Landlord’s obligation to protect the tenancy deposit

If you pay a deposit in connection with an assured shorthold tenancy, your landlord is required to protect it.  A tenancy contract will often state what kind of tenancy has been created, though if you are renting from a private landlord who does not live in the same premises it is likely you have an assured shorthold tenancy, regardless of how it might be described in the contract.

If you rent your home directly from the University, e.g. you live in University-owned halls of residence, you will not have an assured shorthold tenancy and there is no requirement therefore for the deposit to be protected.

Generally, landlords and letting agents who ask for a deposit are required to protect it within a tenancy deposit protection scheme within 30 days of receiving the deposit. They also need to notify the tenant(s) within the same 30 days which scheme they have chosen, with contact details and other information prescribed by law. The scheme provider will independently confirm to all parties once the deposit has been protected.  

There are three companies that offer deposit protection schemes:  

Deposit Protection Service (DPS)

    • Phone number: 0844 4727 000 
    • Website  

The Dispute Service (TDS)

    • Phone number: 0845 226 7837 
    • Website 

My Deposits

    • Phone number: 0844 980 0290 
    • Website

What if the landlord fails to protect your deposit?

If your landlord/letting agent fails to comply with their obligations (see ‘Landlord’s obligation to protect the tenancy deposit’ above), you can apply to the County Court for an order that the deposit is returned or that it is paid into one of the protection schemes. Additionally, the court must order that a penalty is paid by the landlord/letting agent to the tenant of one, two or three times the amount of the deposit as the court sees fit.  

If you think that the landlord/letting agent has failed to protect your deposit or has failed to provide you with the ‘prescribed information’ within the 30 days, seek advice from the Student Advice and Support Service.

How can the University Support you?

Please always use the University webpages as a first point of reference. If you require more guidance or information that is not covered in the webpages contact the Student Advice and Support Service

Last Updated: 28th September 2023