You will normally have to pay between £250.00 and £400.00 deposit per person. You should pay by card or cheque. If you must pay by cash - get a receipt. The receipt should state the amount, date, address and purpose of payments.
Deposits usually take the form of:
- advance rent payments, and/or
- damages deposit - which you get back at the end of the tenancy assuming no damage has been caused, and that no cleaning is required.
From 6th April 2007, any students signing an Assured Shorthold Contract and paying the landlord a deposit will have their deposit safeguarded by the government's new Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS). Deposits are either paid by the landlord to an independent body or the landlord must take out an insurance policy to pay out the deposit if he wrongly retains the money.
Under the scheme your landlord is obliged to tell you within 14 days of receiving the money how your deposit is being looked after - if they fail to do this, landlords will find it harder to gain repossession of the property and they can be fined three times the deposit amount, with this fine and the deposit paid to the tenant within a further 10 days.
In the event of a dispute at the end of the tenancy, if agreement cannot be reached between you, the scheme provides for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) - the argument is put to the independent body which runs the scheme and they decide. ADR does not have to be used, but it will provide a quick and free solution for both parties, rather than passing the matter through the Small Claims Court.
The best advice for making the system work for you is to collect evidence to defend any potential claim against your deposit - if the house isn't clean when you move in - take photographs, if the landlord's inventory doesn't match reality - take you own inventory and have it witnessed by a friend. Inventory forms can be downloaded here.
See the FAQs for more advice on how to get your deposit back.