Tenancy & Holding Deposits

Our guide on tenancy & holding deposits for students
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The information set out in this Guide is general guidance for students. It should not be seen as definitive or legal advice 

Holding & Tenancy Deposits

Renting a place can be a bit overwhelming, especially when it comes to holding and tenancy deposits. Let's break it down so it's super clear.

Holding Deposits:

When you find a place you like, you might need to drop a 'holding deposit.' It's like saying, "Hey, I want this place, hold it for me." Usually, the landlord takes the property off the market while they check things like credit, references, guarantor references, and previous landlord references (if you had one). The holding deposit shouldn't be more than a week's rent. If you move in, it can be put towards your tenancy deposit.


  • If you pay but change your mind about moving in, you likely won't get a refund.
  • If the landlord decides not to proceed, you should get your holding deposit back.


  • Ask for written confirmation of the holding deposit terms.
  • Get a receipt for your payment.

Tenancy Deposits:

Most landlords will ask for a deposit, this is capped at 5 weeks' rent. If it's a joint tenancy, everyone pitches in for one deposit (see our Tenancy Agreements page for more info).

For Assured Shorthold Tenancies, the deposit must be protected in a government-approved scheme. There are three:

Within 30 days of getting your deposit, the landlord must give you written information to tell you where your deposit is protected - with contact details and a reference number.

How to check:

Call your scheme if you cannot get into your online account.


If you and the landlord clash over the deposit, don't stress. Each scheme has a free dispute resolution service to help sort things out.

'Zero Deposit' Option:

Sometimes referred to as a non-refundable deposit scheme, the "Zero Deposit" option involves paying a fixed fee upfront (which is typically less than a standard deposit). With this scheme, you avoid paying a traditional deposit but instead agree to cover any fees that would have been deducted from your deposit at the end of your tenancy. It's essential to understand that participation in this scheme is always optional; you cannot be compelled to use it. To learn more about "Zero Deposit" companies and how these schemes work, you can visit Shelter’s website here. Keep in mind that these schemes can be complex, and you might end up paying more in certain situations. By educating yourself with all the necessary information, you can make a well-informed decision about which deposit scheme suits you best.

Renting as a Lodger:

If you're a lodger, your deposit doesn't get the same protection. The landlord can 'hold it' instead of using an approved scheme, which might make it trickier to recover if needed.


Renting can be a maze, but armed with this info, you're ready to tackle it like a pro!

Feel free to contact us via email with any questions at advice@thesu.org.uk or to book an SU Advice appointment, please use our booking system here.

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