When you’ve found a property to rent, you’ll have to make some payments before you move in.

You’II usually have to pay your first month’s rent in advance and a tenancy deposit. If you rent from a letting agent they’ll usually ask you to pay a holding deposit. Ask about all payments before taking a property so you don’t have to deal with any unexpected costs. Get a receipt from your landlord or letting agent when you pay any money – you’ll need this in case there are any problems.

Paying rent in advance

You might be asked to pay 1 to 2 months’ rent before you move in. This is called paying ‘rent in advance’. The actual amount you’II pay will depend on your landlord and your written agreement.

By paying your rent in advance you’ll always be paying rent for the month ahead.

You might be asked to pay several months’ rent in advance if there’s a problem with your credit check or references.

Read about checks that are made before you move into a property.

Paying a tenancy deposit

Your tenancy deposit will usually be the same amount as 4 or 5 weeks’ rent. It’s illegal for your landlord to force you to pay a deposit of more than 5 weeks’ rent (or 6 weeks’ rent if your annual rent is more than £50,000).

If you’ve been charged too much you can contact us.

You’II get your deposit back when you move out of the property – your landlord or letting agent can only keep some money, for example if you damage something or don’t pay your rent. Your landlord or letting agent has to put your deposit in a ‘tenancy deposit scheme’, this is done to keep it safe. They must give you all the written information about the scheme. You can take action against your landlord if your tenancy deposit isn’t protected.

If you’re given the option to pay extra money instead of a deposit

The landlord or letting agent might say you can pay extra money instead of a deposit. This could be a single payment that’s less than a deposit or an extra amount every time you pay your rent. This is sometimes called a ‘deposit replacement scheme’ or ‘zero deposit scheme’.

Always read the terms and conditions before you agree to use a deposit replacement scheme. The payments aren’t deposits, so:

  • you won’t get the money back at the end of the tenancy
  • you’ll have to pay more money if you damage the property – it won’t come out of the money you’ve paid to the scheme

If you and the landlord disagree about how much you owe them at the end of the tenancy, you might have to go to a third party to decide how much you owe. This is called ‘arbitration’. You might have to pay more money for arbitration.

If you don’t go to arbitration or you don’t agree with the arbitration decision, you might have to go to court to decide how much you owe.

It’s usually best to pay a deposit if you can afford it instead of using a zero deposit scheme. If you can’t afford to pay a deposit, you can:

If you still can’t afford a deposit and you want to use a deposit replacement scheme, check you can afford to pay the extra amounts.

The landlord or letting agent must give you the option to pay a deposit instead of using a deposit replacement scheme. If they say you have to use a scheme, this might be an ‘unfair tenancy fee’ – you can report them by contacting the consumer helpline.

Paying a holding deposit

You might be asked to pay a holding deposit to reserve a property. Don’t pay it or sign anything unless you’re sure you want the property – you usually won’t get the money back if you change your mind.

Once you’ve paid the holding deposit you have 15 days to sign a tenancy agreement. The landlord or letting agent can’t rent the property to anyone else in that time without offering it to you first. You can ask them to hold the property for more than 15 days but you and the landlord or letting agent must agree to this in writing.

A holding deposit can be up to 1 week’s rent. If the rent is monthly, work out 1 week’s rent by multiplying the monthly amount by 12 months then dividing it by 52 weeks.


Monthly rent = £650 Multiply by 12 = £7,800 Divide £7,800 by 52 = £150 per week The holding deposit will be £150
If you’re renting with other people you should only be charged one holding deposit between you. For example, if 2 people rent together and the weekly rent is £150, the total holding deposit would be £150. You shouldn’t be asked to pay £150 each. After you pay the deposit, make sure your landlord or letting agent gives you details of your holding deposit in writing. This should include how much you paid and what will happen to the money if you don’t end up moving in.

What happens to the holding deposit

You’ll get the deposit back if the landlord or letting agent decides not to go ahead. Once the 15 day holding period has ended, they must return your holding deposit within 7 days. The landlord or letting agent won’t give the deposit back if you:
  • decide not to move in
  • decide to move in but don’t give them the right information within 15 days
  • give them false or misleading information – for example, you tell them your income is more than it is
If you’ve signed a tenancy agreement the landlord should pay the holding deposit back within 7 days of you signing the agreement. The landlord or letting agent can put it towards your tenancy deposit or first rent payment.


John is moving into a 1-bedroom flat, found using a local letting agent. His rent will be £120 a week. He’ll also need to pay:

  • a tenancy deposit of £600 – this is the same as 5 weeks’ rent

  • 4 weeks’ rent in advance which comes to £480

John will also need to pay a holding deposit of £120 – which will go towards the cost of his tenancy deposit or rent in advance.

In total John will pay around £1,200 before he moves in.

Extra costs if you’re renting from a letting agent

You’II probably have extra payments to make before moving into a property if you rent from a letting agent – it’s important to budget for extra costs.

If your agent charges you extra fees

If you agree to start a tenancy, letting agents can charge you for:

  • rent
  • utility bills
  • a tenancy deposit
  • a holding deposit
  • replacing your key
  • paying your rent 14 days late or more
  • changing the tenancy (only if you asked for the change)
  • ending the tenancy early
  • council tax
  • a TV licence
Contact us if you’re charged fees for anything else.

Help paying rent costs

If you’re on benefits or a low income you might be able to get help with the cost of renting. For example help to pay your rent in advance or your tenancy deposit.

Negotiating with your landlord or letting agent

It’s worth trying to negotiate with your landlord or letting agent when you find a property – this can save you some money.

You can negotiate to get:

  • cheaper rent
  • the length of your tenancy and other terms changed, for example you can ask if the rent can include any bills

You should remember when negotiating that there’s a risk that the property could be offered to someone else.

You should have a plan and think about your chances of getting what you want. For example, if you’re offered a fixed-term tenancy for 6 months and you need longer you can negotiate to get a longer period.

Get what you agree in writing – you might need to refer back to what was said if there are problems.

Be careful making payments

You should never make payments if you haven’t seen the property.

Make sure you get your landlord’s or letting agent’s name and contact details before you pay any money. They have to give you their details if you ask for them. If someone else looks after the property for your landlord, for example a family member, they still have to give you the landlord’s details. Contact us if your landlord refuses to give their details or if your letting agent won’t give you a landlord’s details.