Rental fees and security deposits

Your rights as a renter, what your fees should be, and how to get a deposit back from your landlord

Happy woman sat amongst moving boxes in new flat

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Anyone who has rented a home has felt the sting of expensive fees and deposits that can disappear for small infractions. Read our guide on getting a fairer deal if you’re part of Generation Rent.

Moving house is a stressful time, as not only do you have to pack up all your possessions and uproot your home, but you have to pay an extraordinary amount of money to do so. When you add up all the fees, the security deposit and the first month’s rent, the cost of moving can become excessive.


Letting agency fees are changeable, and can vary massively between agents – some charge nothing and others £400 plus – but there is little you can do to avoid this payment. When you add the holding deposit, it adds up to a large upfront payment.

The government recently suggested a ban on letting agency fees, but it’s not yet clear what this means for tenants. Letting agents say that the fee includes reference checks, contract fees and credit checks, but this shouldn’t cost too much.

The good thing is you can check how much your letting agent will charge, so you don’t get stung.


Potential costs before you move in:

Holding deposit


Contract or administration fee


Reference checks


Credit checks



Potential costs while you’re at the property, and after you move out:

Tenancy renewal


Amendments to contracts


Unpaid rent penalty


Early termination of contract

Up to £300 per person

Checkout fee


Any deposit deductions

Depends on how much deposit you paid


Once you‘ve decided on the flat or house and paid the fees, you’ll need to pay the security deposit. This is normally six weeks’ rent, or around 1.5 times the monthly rent.

Deposit protection has been a legal requirement since 2007. This means that if landlords take money off a deposit when you move out, they have to show the reason why.

There are three main schemes in place – mydeposits, The Deposit Protection Service and The Tenancy Deposit Scheme - which all protect tenants’ money from unscrupulous landlords.

When you move in, it’s important to have an independent inventory taken of the property, for the benefit of both the landlord and the tenant. This will mean that every carpet, fixture and fitting is checked for damage.

That way, when you move out, you can both check that everything is as it should be, and isn’t damaged or different. It’s also a good idea for you to attend the check-out process, so if you need to dispute something, then you’re aware of it first-hand.

Whilst you may think that landlords might want to keep the deposit, this is unlikely, as disputes are often a lengthy and stressful process. Most landlords are looking for a hassle-free tenant, so it pays to clean up and fix any damages before you move out.

Disputes with the landlord

Unfortunately, things don’t always go to plan, so what can you do if need to dispute a charge on your deposit?

The most common reasons for a landlord withholding or deducting from a deposit are carpet stains, chipped paint, cracked or broken windows, and the house or flat not being cleaned to a professional standard.

You can also lose your deposit if you miss the last rent payment, or if there are any items missing from the inventory.

Your landlord or letting agent will let you know if they make any deductions from your deposit, and you can then ask why, and dispute this with them. Often, landlords will want to settle the dispute quickly, and will give you a chance to rectify the problems yourself.

However, if this doesn’t happen, you can get in touch with the deposit scheme’s alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service, who will decide whether your landlord is being reasonable. Their impartial decision is final, and both you and the landlord must agree to it.

Following this, you can go to court, but this is a very drawn out process and can be very costly for the tenant. So the best way to get your deposit back is to ask your landlord exactly what they want from you before you move, clean up properly and replace any damaged items where possible. 

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