Holding Deposits in the UK: Complete Guide – Rentola.co.uk

Latest update: 29 June, 2023

Confused about holding deposits for rental properties in the UK? Read this article to understand what holding deposits are, how they work, and what legal aspects you need to know as a tenant or landlord.

A Comprehensive Guide to Holding Deposits for Rental Properties in the UK

Introduction: Understanding Holding Deposits

Talking about a holding deposit, refers to a determined amount of money, deposited to the property’s owners or real estate agent, in order to reserve the property before signing the final agreement. They are often used and very common in the United Kingdom. Their popularity comes from the need to secure a property and buying future tenants a little time before singing on the dotted line. They also play a vital role in protecting the landlord from time wasters. 

The bottom line of these types of deposits is to keep everyone’s interests safe and protected, when it comes to renting a house, apartment or other type of real estate. Once it is signed, the property will no longer be available to view for other interested parties. Giving the tenant some time to think things over. 

Overall, holding deposits play an important role in the UK rental market by providing a fair and transparent way for tenants to secure rental properties, while also protecting owners from potential losses if tenants decide to back out.

What is a holding deposit, and how does it work? 

How much should I be paying?

Holding deposits are typically paid by tenants after they have viewed a property and expressed an interest in renting it. The deposit is usually equivalent to one week's rent, although in some cases, such as for properties with dearer rents, it may be higher. When the owner receives the payment, the house is taken off the market, and the tenant has a set period of time to sign the tenancy agreement.

Are there any exceptions?

There is of course a maximum amount that can be charged. A  good rule of thumb is usually to calculate about a week’s worth of rent. There are cases where this can be more, when dealing with a more pricey property for example, in which case you should expect to pay proportionately more.  

Specific circumstances will result in a complete refund of said money. Check the agreement as the conditions will be written out in the contract. The main reason for the amount not being returned is if the tenant decides to drop out of the process. The deposit, be it of 1 or 5 weeks, works proportionately to compensate the owner. We will go through the details a little further along.

Legal Aspects of Holding Deposits

When are the deposits binding?

In the UK rental market, holding deposits are subject to certain legal implications and requirements. Here is an explanation of the key considerations:

A week’s equivalent of rent payment is usually the benchmark for calculating the amount paid. Rents above £50,000 per annum , are subject to higher payments which can be of up to four or five  weeks. This of course is a large step up so it’s important to factor this in when searching for a home.

Rules are strict when it comes to what the money of  deposit can be used for. Landlords must either use the money towards the first month’s rent in the case of a signed agreement, or keep it if the agreement falls through.  It cannot be used for the costs of repairs and cleaning for example. 

What time frames should I expect?

A written tenancy agreement must be officially provided within 15 days of receiving the holding deposit, otherwise the tenant will get the entirety of their money back.

A government-approved tenancy deposit scheme should be used, however that isn’t always the case. This makes sure the money is secure and safe. This avoids future disputes between parties.

If the tenancy agreement is signed, the holding deposit is usually credited towards the first rent payment. If the owner breaches his obligations, e.g. if he fails to produce a rental agreement within 15 days, he will be obliged to repay the deposit.

Before starting the process it really is essential for all involved groups to know what they are getting themselves into, before signing on the dotted line. Penalties and disputes are unfortunately very common, so make sure you keep this in mind. 

Are Holding Deposits Refundable?

In the UK rental market, holding deposits are typically refundable under certain circumstances. Here is some more information on the circumstances under which a holding deposit is refundable and the process for requesting a refund:

Breach of obligations

A breach of obligation means that one or more parties fails to continue with the agreement obligation.  The money will be refunded if the agreement falls through because of the owner, for example, if they back out, as the tenant will not be responsible. In this case the amount paid should be returned within two weeks.

Illegal discrimination

Any proof that the owner has shown signs of discrimination based on religion, race, gender or any other mitigating factors will immediately result in the direct refund of the money transferred. If this does happen, keep a record of messages, texts and exchanges to prove the discrimination.

Property is uninhabitable

The holding deposit must be refunded in full if the property is found to be in a state of disrepair, dangerous, or presents signs that could be prejudicial to the well being of inhabitants. 

What is the process of requesting a refund?

The process for requesting a refund of a holding deposit typically involves sending a written request to the owner, outlining the circumstances under which the refund is demanded. If the refund is not provided within a reasonable timeframe, the tenant may escalate the matter to the relevant tenancy deposit scheme or seek legal advice.

Amount and Payment of Holding Deposits

In the UK rental market, the amount of a holding deposit, how it should be paid, and the deadline for payment are subject to legal requirements. Here are some details on these aspects:


Usually the holding deposit is sent electronically via bank transfer to the owner or agent. This not only is easy but it provides written evidence of the transaction which can be useful in the event of a dispute.


The tenant must usually pay the holding deposit within 15 days of agreeing to rent the property, although the deadline may vary depending on each individual situation. The owner must provide the tenant with written confirmation of the payment, including the amount and purpose of the holding deposit.

When is a Holding Deposit Legally Binding?

In the UK, the contract associated with the deposit is legally binding if signed by both parties. Here is a comprehensive overview of each specific point.

When the landlord or leasing agent accepts the rental deposit from the tenant, a legally binding contract is formed. This means that both parties have agreed to do an exchange between money (rent) and property.

Figuring out where the responsibility lies

If the tenant does not sign the lease within the specified period, he may forfeit the deposit. This means that the owner keeps the deposit as compensation for the damage caused by the tenant's failure to continue the tenancy. This is justified as he or she may have missed out on another potential tenant, and has missed out on a month’s rent in the meantime. 

As mentioned,  if the cause originates from the owner, if they change their minds and withdraw the offer, the money is refunded. 

Keeping this in mind can not only make you think carefully before signing a legal document, but it will also ensure you know the facts in case of a dispute.

The Holding Deposit Agreement

Clearly state how the money will be paid

There are some important points to keep in mind when writing the contract. The type and amount paid should be clearly laid out in the document to avoid any type of confusion or misinterpretation. This is important so that both parties are clear about the transaction and to ensure that payment is made according to the agreed terms.

The agreement should specify the deadline for payment by the tenant. This is important to avoid disputes or misunderstandings regarding the payment timeline and to ensure that the tenant meets their obligations.

Specify forfeit details

The details must be clearly stated, with names of each party and the exact situations where the deposit will not be refunded. Consider seeking professional advice before singing this, if you have any doubts.  This is the clause that will legally bind you into forfeiting the money, so pay special attention to this part.

Specify tenancy dates

It’s important to put the exact dates the contract refers to, in terms of moving in, moving out, signing dates, when the transfer will happen etc. This is important for the tenant so that he can plan his move and for the owner so that he can ensure that the flat is available at the agreed time.

Sign and date the agreement

Both parties must clearly sign every page of  the document, as well as add their initials, date and place of signature,  to confirm their agreement to the terms and conditions of the holding deposit transaction. This is important to create a legally binding agreement and to avoid any disputes or misunderstandings.

What should you know as a tenant about holding deposits?

To ensure that your holding deposit is safe in the UK rental market, here are some tips to follow:

Verify identities

All parties should bring their ID cards and photocopies on each to attach to the contract. This makes sure everyone is who they say they are. You can ask for their full name, contact information, and proof of ownership or authorization to let the property.

Receipts are key for disputes

Always ask for a receipt or written confirmation of the holding deposit payment. This will serve as evidence of the transaction and help you to prove that you have paid the deposit in case of any dispute. Read the holding deposit agreement carefully before signing it. Make sure that it includes all the necessary details and that you understand your rights and obligations. Keep a copy of the holding deposit agreement and any other relevant documents, such as receipts or emails, in a safe place. This will help you to refer to them if needed.

The refund of money after a deposit is paid typically hinges on the terms outlined in the deposit contract. Should the agreement dictate that the forfeiture of the deposit is required in the event that the tenant fails to execute the rental contract, the landlord may choose to retain the deposit as compensation for any incurred losses.

In the event of a change of heart after the deposit has been submitted, it is essential to notify the landlord promptly. Doing so will enable the landlord to seek out another tenant and refund the money. Neglecting to inform the landlord, however, may lead to its forfeiture, as the landlord may consider the funds as compensation for the losses incurred from the inability to rent the flat to another tenant.

What should you know as a landlord about holding deposits?

The information provided in this article isn’t just useful for tenants. Landlords should also know their rights and obligations before setting out on the journey to rent their property.

How to get your holding deposit back?

To get your holding deposit back in the UK rental market, you should follow these steps:

Check what you have signed

Do examine the operating deposit agreement and familiarize yourself with the situations that may result in the return of the money. It is important that the agreement clearly outlines the circumstances in which a refund may be granted, such as if the landlord or letting agent breaches the terms of the lease, or if the tenant terminates the agreement prior to the agreed-upon date.

Collect evidence

If you think you are entitled to a refund, contact the owner in writing and ask for the deposit back. Provide evidence of your claim, e.g. a copy of the deposit contract and other relevant documents.

If you do not receive a response from the owner or letting agent within a reasonable time, you should contact them regularly. This may mean sending reminders or calling to enquire about the status of your repayment.

Seek professional help

Sometimes an agreement cannot be met unfortunately, in which case, it’s recommended to   contact a third party, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, a dispute resolution service or a solicitor.

If after this an agreement hasn’t been reached, the last option would be to take legal action, however this can be a lengthy and costly process. This can involve making a claim through the small claims court or seeking legal advice to pursue other legal avenues.

Deposit Alternatives

Holding deposits are just one type of deposit or rental security arrangement available in the UK rental market. Here is a comparison of holding deposits with other types of deposits and rental security arrangements:

Security Deposits

Similar in some ways, a security deposit is used to protect the contents of a property against damage and poor usage. Anything needing repairing or replacing due to misuse can be deducted from said lump sum.  In the UK, the maximum amount that can be paid as a deposit is usually limited to five or six weeks' rent. Unlike the rent deposit, the security deposit is refundable, but only if there is no damage done to the property, furniture or any included element in the agreement. They are very common, and most tenants will require one.


Some landlords or letting agents may require a surety bond if the tenant is unable to provide a deposit or has a poor credit rating. The lump sum stays with the owner and can be kept if rent is not paid on time.

Advance and upfront payments

These payments occur when the landlord requires a lump sum of money at the beginning of the rental period, usually ranging from 1 or 2 months rent in advance  .This is a form of rental security arrangement that provides the landlord with additional financial protection against non-payment of rent. 

Insurance schemes

Some landlords or letting agents may use insurance-based schemes, such as deposit replacement schemes, to provide rental security. These schemes typically involve the tenant paying a non-refundable fee to an insurance company or a third-party provider, who then guarantees the landlord against any damages or unpaid rent.


In conclusion, holding deposits play a significant role in the UK rental market by allowing tenants to secure a rental property while they consider whether to proceed with the tenancy agreement. They provide a fair and transparent way for tenants to reserve properties and protect landlords and letting agents from potential losses if tenants decide not to proceed with the tenancy. 

Holding deposits are subject to legal implications and requirements, including maximum amount, purpose, deadline for agreement, and deposit protection. Keep all of these points in mind, to avoid future issues, disputes or even penalties. 

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