Skip to main content
Shelter Logo

Deposits in private tenancies

Paying a tenancy deposit

Private landlords and letting agents can ask for up to 2 months' rent as a deposit.

Usually they must pay your deposit into a deposit protection scheme.

They’re not allowed to charge you any non-refundable fees to get a tenancy.

What a deposit is used for

A deposit is a sum of money kept aside in case:

  • you damage the property or leave it in poor condition

  • you move out with unpaid rent or bills

Your landlord cannot take money from your deposit during your tenancy. They cannot charge you for wear and tear that's happened gradually through normal use.

There are schemes that can help with the upfront costs of private renting. Check our advice on help to pay a deposit and first month's rent.

Unlawful fees

Landlords and letting agents cannot charge you fees for starting or renewing a tenancy. This includes:

  • administration fees for things like credit checks

  • holding fees or key money to secure a tenancy

If you're asked to pay a holding deposit before signing a tenancy agreement, check that it will be put towards the deposit when the tenancy starts, or refunded if you do not get the tenancy.

If you’re told the money is not refundable, this is unlawful.

If you've been charged an unlawful fee, you can:

Some fees are allowed if they're not related to starting the tenancy. For example, a letting agent can charge you a reasonable fee to provide a reference after your tenancy ends.

When you move in

Check your inventory

Your landlord should give you an inventory that says:

  • what furniture and household items are provided

  • what condition the property, furniture and fittings are in

Having an accurate inventory will make it easier to get your deposit back when you move out.

If your landlord does not give you an inventory, you can make one yourself. Take photos and make note of any damage, and ask your landlord to sign the inventory.

Download a sample inventory (pdf, 217 kb)

Get proof of payment

It's best to pay your deposit by bank transfer so you have a record of it.

Ask your landlord to confirm in writing that they've received your deposit. If you pay in cash, ask for a receipt.

Deposit protection schemes

Most private landlords, letting agents and student accommodation providers have to protect your deposit in a tenancy deposit scheme.

They must do this within 30 working days of your tenancy starting.

Once they've paid the deposit into a scheme, your landlord must tell you in writing:

  • the amount of the deposit and the date they received it

  • the date the deposit was paid into the tenancy deposit scheme

  • the address of the property the deposit relates to

  • that they're registered as a landlord with the council, or have applied to be registered

  • the name and contact details of the tenancy deposit scheme where the deposit was paid

  • the circumstances in which all or part of the deposit can be kept at the end of the tenancy

There are 3 approved schemes your landlord can use. You can check online if your deposit is protected with one of them:

You can also use our letter template to ask if your deposit is protected.

If your landlord does not protect your deposit and send you the right information, you can claim compensation.

When your landlord is exempt from the deposit protection scheme

Your deposit does not need to be put in a scheme if you:

  • have a resident landlord

  • rent from a family member, not including cousins

  • stay in a holiday home

  • live in a property used by a religious organisation

  • live in supported accommodation

  • have an agricultural or crofting tenancy

Last updated: 9 April 2024

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England