advice · housing · renting · security deposit

Student Tenants: how to get your deposit back

Is your student house-share rental coming to an end? Worried about getting your security deposit back? Get reading so you’re not stung by unfair charges.

I know that you just want to chill now, but I also know that your student loan has depleted and you need your security deposit back! So, if you’re not enticed by this juicy topic, then simply save it for when your rental contract nears its end – it could save you a lot of money!

It is common for landlords and tenants to disagree over how much money, if any, should be deducted from the deposit once the tenancy ends. Most student tenants find themselves in a deposit dispute at the end of their tenancy when their landlord proposes a laundry list of unfair charges. Some even find the landlord/agent is ignoring their communications and not returning the deposit at all. So, chances are that you will need the information below, which will help.

After moving out, you should seek advice if your landlord/agent is:

  • Unjustifiably withholding all or part of your deposit
  • Denying responsibility for refunding the deposit
  • Ignoring your communications.


Remember that in a typical student house-share (Assured Shorthold Tenancy), your deposit should be protected by law, meaning that no money can be deducted from it without your written consent.

Landlords are legally required to safeguard their tenants’ deposits with one of three government-backed deposit protection schemes: Deposit Protection Service, MyDeposits, or the Tenancy Deposit Scheme. You should have been given this information by the landlord/agent within 30 days of paying your deposit.


  1. If your landlord/agent hasn’t already sent you instructions, contact them to ask them for any end-of-tenancy instructions that might not be in the contract, e.g. where to leave your keys.
  2. Gather all communications you’ve had with the landlord/agent regarding damages or the deposit into a single folder.
  3. Clean and empty the property, emptying and unplugging all devices.
  4. Take lots of photos of how you left the property, including inside the fridge and cupboards, hallways and outside spaces to create your own inventory
  5. Move out and return all keys.
  6. Ask for your deposit back in writing the day you move out. (This legally gives your landlord/agent ten days to return your security deposit or send you a list of proposed deductions.)
  7. Email this template message to your landlord/agent, asking them to revise their proposed deductions.
  8. If the landlord is not willing to negotiate with you, or you can’t come to an agreement, start a deposit dispute with your deposit protection scheme. 


AllowedNot Allowed
Cleaning (if you didn’t clean sufficiently)Fair wear and tear
DamageImproving the property
Unpaid rent or bills, including council taxPre-existing damage


A brand new piece of furniture won’t look brand new at the end of a 12-month tenancy. The landlord cannot charge you because something is not in pristine condition anymore. If something was already old when you moved in, then the landlord would probably have had to replace it anyway, and so they shouldn’t charge you for the complete cost.


  • A ‘lead tenant’ should take charge of communicating with the landlord/agent and all communication should be through them only. They should communicate with your group and relay your joint decision back to the agent/landlord. This is because most of you are in a joint tenancy so one of you could end up unknowingly accepting deductions for all of you.
  • The ‘lead tenant’ should keep everybody copied into communications, but this does not mean that they have to do all the work. The whole group should be helping them compile the information they need.
  • If there is a dispute over which housemate damaged what, then simply split the cost equally among all housemates – while this might not be fair, it is fast and it works.
  • If you have damaged something beyond normal wear and tear, e.g. burnt carpet with iron, then that does not mean you have to cover the whole cost of repairing or replacing it.
  • Flag any charges that seem unjustified so you can challenge them.
  • Flag any charges that seem too high and ask for receipts/written quotes to prove the cost. Get some local quotes yourself and compare prices.
  • Flag any charges that are banned 
  • Only communicate with your landlord/agent in writing going forward.


If you are in a typical student house-share, your landlord will have had to protect your deposit, which gives you access to a free Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), which is very fair. You fill out the form and then the landlord is ordered to return a fair amount of the deposit back to you.

In the meantime, the landlord can return the undisputed part of the deposit back to you.


Yes! Although it can be a bit of a pain, showing the landlord that you know your rights works most of the time. Last year, all students who went through ADR with the help of our Advice Centre won their cases. You have to get started ASAP though – you only have three months after moving out to use ADR. 


  1. You should try negotiating with your landlord a couple of times, and then make a final offer of what you’re willing to pay (a few messages over about a week). 
  2. It can take a few days to gather all the information you need for the ADR, e.g. getting dates, screen-shots, emails, or photos from housemates.
  3. The ADR form is all online and can take 15 minutes to an hour to fill out, depending on the number of deductions proposed. You are given two weeks to complete the form once you begin.
  4. Once the form is submitted, you will get the outcome in 1-3 months. However, the landlord will be ordered to immediately refund the undisputed amount of the deposit to you.

Please note that it can take this long to get your deposit back, even if you don’t use ADR.

ADR saved students thousands of pounds last year – check out Alexa’s story from last year.

We know it’s not fair that it’s such hard work to get your own money back, especially when you’ve just finished exams, but once you’ve gone through your first deposit dispute with, you’ll be able to breeze through it all next time.


Most universities or their Students’ Unions have an Advice Centre where specialists can help you- check your university and SU’s website to see if you can get some support.

See this great FAQs by Uni of London Housing Services.

Get free advice from Shelter.


Resisting my Stalker

I’m stalked by anxiety and resisting it is my daily battle.

It tempts me from the moment I wake up and feel a rush of panic as my heart becomes humming bird wings in my throat and I have to tell myself not to vomit; I have to tell myself that it’s just another normal day that I can cope with; I have to remind myself that there are no real threats; I have to convince myself to get out of bed. I talk to myself until my body listens and gets up. I’ve mastered it so well that no matter what, it works every day now. It’s been working every day for over a year.

The more I reflect in writing, the more I’m convinced by the immense power I have over myself, but the challenge is resisting anxiety which so sneakily steals the memory of all these sensible thoughts from me. I am so used to giving in to anxiety that it’s become a reflex- in my darkest moments I automatically connect to all the other dark moments and boy is it hard to make them go away.

But resistance is possible and the more I do it, the more I remember that.

I find noticing different textures whilst walking to work soothing- I sometimes run my fingers along fences and leaves, mentally recording the feeling.

I’ve not been reflecting enough in writing and letting my thoughts run loose, so the anxiety stalker has been right behind me, threatening to attach itself to those thoughts like a shadow during a never-ending clear-skyed noon. It’s OK though. I’ve spotted it in time and here I am. It’s time to think back to where I last was before I strayed: using philosophy and psychology to guide me by slowly working through Derren Brown’s ‘Happy’. I can’t remember when I stopped reading but I know why. I gave into the fatigue that accompanies that feeling of not coping.

Resisting anxiety is all about the conversations that I have with myself. If those conversations are in my head, I often fail to notice the anxiety stalker. If those conversations happen in writing, when I know someone else could read them, I’m forced to accept the illogical as illogical. Reading and writing is my savior. No it’s not. I’m my savior and I recognise that I can use reading and writing to help.

I don’t like the preachiness of life tips, but if you too are stalked by anxiety, I genuinely recommend you reflect on the conversations you have with yourself and think: am I ever expressing these thoughts externally to see how they sit outside of my head? If not, please look for a safe space to put your thoughts out in, to help you identify which are sensible and which are side-effects of anxiety leaving you in fight-or-flight mode.


Holiday Blues

I have my annual leave coming up, and while I’m looking forward to some much-needed time off work, the topic of holidays has been depressing me ever since I can remember. It’s high time I addressed this.

I know the reasons for it and I know they’re not good enough, but until I write them down and confront them, I don’t think I’ll fully accept it; instead, I’ll give into the self-pity and let myself be sucked into a depression yet again. So here goes, my attempt to explain why I associate holidays with stress…

I first started to get an idea of what a holiday was when I learned enough English to understand the kids in my class talking about their summer holidays. I remember once when I was 10, our teacher said that we’d received a postcard from Joseph in our class, posted when he’d been on holiday to Spain. Joseph had returned to England faster than his postcard and was there to hear it read to the class and there was such excitement as we got to hear that they stayed in a villa with a pool. These were all things that I wouldn’t hear about at home.

The holidays I knew of from home were those my cousins went on. They all went on the same holiday: to visit family back in Cyprus. I didn’t have great memories of Cyprus at age 10 . Plus, even at this stage I knew that terms like ‘indefinite leave to remain’ didn’t apply to my family yet, so no holidays abroad for us. Plus, even if we did get this status, how would we ever afford a holiday when my mum wouldn’t even allow us to keep our birthday money?

I was 17 when I had my first holiday trip. It was a random holiday literally the year we were granted citizenship, after a 10 year wait for a decision from the Home Office. I have to say I don’t even know where my parents got the money from, but somehow they scrambled it together and sent me and one of my sisters to Cyprus with my auntie. My mum made me pay for it in the end. When I was there I discovered a bank account that my name-sake had put some money into for me…and as I write this i have worked out for this first time where they got the money from. While we were there I heard my auntie talking on the phone back in England with my mum. My mum had borrowed money from her (I didn’t know what for then, but now I realise it must have been to pay for our flights) and she needed it. My mum was saying she didn’t have it. I offered to lend my mum was was in my bank account in Cyprus. Like my birthday money, I never got it back.

Still, that holiday, although it had its dark family moments, reminded me of my love and awe for the sea, the beach, the water, the sunshine and nature in general. Being able to just absorb it all, purposelessly. I basked in it and I knew if I could do it on my terms, it would be my happy peaceful place.

The following holidays were on my terms. As I struggled through uni, working far too many hours, I saved up and went on cheap and cheerful holidays, and though they were tainted with the fact that I would usually have minimal (and once no) spending money, they were still my bit of calm and freedom. I was in a place I’d chosen to be.

It’s now been 5 years since I went on a holiday abroad due to financial constraints. Yet, these last 5 years have been the most meaningful and fruitful of my life. I have finally addressed my mental health and am slowly starting to address my physical health too. I have begun a genuine voyage of self-discovery (slow as it may be) and I am making more informed, intentional choices, instead of letting life drag me along.

So, when people at work ask me where I’m going on annual leave, I shouldn’t feel this great anxiety and feel flustered into explaining why I’m not going anywhere. Sometimes I’ll say we might have to move soon, sometimes I’ll say I have family stuff on, because I just think that I don’t want to have to say that I can’t afford to go anywhere. I feel embarrassed to say I don’t have any plans, but why should I? Why is it such a big deal to me?

It’s because to me it’s a reminder that I’m failing at that aspect of life. I’m failing to be a normal person who has energy to do stuff after work and is organised enough to save money and plan holidays. But I’m not. As much as I want to, I can’t save money for a holiday, or a deposit for a mortgage, or even basic clothing. But I have to also realise that I could be as organised as can be, but I could never afford to save any money until we are both working. For now, this is a single-income household with 2 people and £1000 a month rent to pay.

And I need to remind myself that holidays don’t have to be abroad. They just have to not be wasted. This is me reminding myself.

Tomorrow is my last day at work before my holidays. I’m going to the beach. It doesn’t have to be abroad. It just has to be when I choose.

The British summer is beautiful and I know I can be happy in it.


Intentional Recovery

I love how these twigs are holding on.

So I dipped for a bit again and I noticed I was dipping and before I knew it I was struggling to get my head above water again. There wasn’t enough money, or time or energy in me to put up with everything life needed from me to keep things going, and this was all I could think about. I had to keep rewinding the TV, because my mind kept wandering and I kept missing whole chunks. I was ignoring pressing tasks at work for fear of failing at them, avoiding anything challenging or new for fear my in-competencies would be exposed, and I was struggling to empathise with colleagues or over-empathising with them and making their worries my own, too.

I’m well-versed enough now though to know I couldn’t let it continue. I had to lead by example- I tell people to seek help without shame when they need it.

I knew it would take a while to get some therapy to help me through so I asked the doctor to put me back on my beta-blockers.

I didn’t even hesitate, because I remember how they rescued me last time. I’ve done my research on it, I know how my body takes to it and it is helping. I’m finally able to have decent stretches of time that aren’t pestered by panic and anxiety. It’s amazing how quickly I just accepted the state of panic that was taking over my days and didn’t check myself until…I was going to say until it got too late, because that’s what usually happens; but I didn’t wait until it was too late this time. This time I got help in time.

This is why active reflection like this, in writing, is so much better than just letting my mind wander. Normally, I would have accepted that my response wasn’t good enough again this time and punished myself with guilt, endlessly.

So things are improving. I’m holding on. Intentionally.


Derren Brown is making me Happy

My partner is treating me so kindly (featured image displays one of his many spontaneous gestures of love) and I have a meaningful, rewarding job I love, yet the depression monster has been coming back to bite lately, hence why I haven’t been writing.  As ever, depression made me bury my head in the sand and let things get to crisis stage before I finally stuck my head out for air.

But depression didn’t do it to me; I did it to myself…without the added weight of guilt, that’s what Derren Brown’s heroic book ‘Happy’ (2016) reminded me of.  Derren’s book covers all key areas so well that in true agnostic style, I’m temporarily appointing it my bible.

As I do every year, I started getting into resolutions mode when New Year was coming round last December.  This time, I was so deep in depression and desperate to get out of it that I had written out my resolutions (the usual lose weight, meditate and exercise daily, be more productive, make more money, go on holidays…) and actually started sticking to them before Christmas day!

Predictably, I burned out before the first week of January was through.  I went back into decline and not coping with basic daily tasks, forgetting to take medication and refusing to step back for a minute…going from task to task to task with the constant nagging anxiety that there was not enough time to do anything.  I became irritable and angry inside and as always, my reflex was to take it out on my partner.  Mostly, I didn’t, but instead just screamed at him in my head for the stupidest things.  He hadn’t done the laundry or he’d only washed half of the dishes, etc.

This screaming in my head made me so miserable that one day I inexplicably burst into tears in the kitchen and sobbed into his chest, while telling him that I was angry at him although I knew I shouldn’t be.  I told him I wanted him to do stuff and he wasn’t doing it and it was making me so frustrated…but really, he wasn’t causing any of my anguish…I was.  This isn’t something new to me.  I’ve heard this a million times and recognised it to be true but at times either chosen to ignore it or simply forgotten it; acknowleding this has been so freeing for me.

As I’m reading Derren’s book (I’m about half-way through) and as I go back to re-read it, I hope to delve deeper into some sections and explore them in detail.  I also strongly intend to adopt some of the philosophies and practises he analyses and recommends.

I hadn’t touched my bike in over a year.  It’s a bit rusty, the brakes aren’t great and there’s no rubber left on the handle-bars, but I love riding it.  I was avoiding social situations at all costs and had restricted my life to home, work and the compulsory family visits.  After I started reading Derren’s book I cycled round the village green for hours, started being kinder to my partner, attending social events and even began to feel a little happy sometimes.  I knew happiness wasn’t this fireworks sensation, but I just needed reminding…thanks for putting me back on the path to peace Derren!

anxiety · depression · health · mental health · mindfulness · psyhology · recovery · self-help

Maslow Got Me Low


I’m very lucky to work for an employer that not only offers professional development courses and workshops, but also ones to help personal development.  A few months ago I attended a workshop called Optimum Wellbeing.  It was motivating, it was inspiring and all those things it should have been to make us want to better ourselves straight away.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t real-world-proof, so as keen as I was to be a better me when I left, reality caught up with me and I wasn’t able to immediately turn my life around as I’d naively hoped.

However, full of naive hope though I was, the cynic in me had already started a plan B in my head.  I would put the book that came with the course and the notes into my office and timetable small chunks of reading time to reflect back over the stuff in it.  Last week was my first timetabled spot to look over the stuff and as I flicked through the papers, my eye was caught by the bright colours of Maslow’s pyramid.  I’m no different to a primary school kid I guess, bright colours and you’ve got my attention!

I remembered finding this theory appealing in the workshop; the arrogant part of me immediately wanted to see how far up the pyramid I had reached.  For those who haven’t come across this theory before, it is called the Hierarchy of Needs– a great summary can be found HERE.  When I first came across it, the desperate-to-be-happy girl in me immediately interpreted it as a tick-list of achievements to get through before finding final happiness, peace and contentment or as he called it ‘self-actualisation’.

I started reading through the list of ‘characteristics of self-actualisers’ and was so happy to see I could already tick off so many things on the list.  Some characteristics I knew straight away I had, like ‘unusual sense of humour’ and ‘democratic attitudes’ even though I had never really used them to think about and describe myself.  But then, inevitably, there were the short-comings.  For example, the following did not apply to me:

-Accept themselves and others for what they are. (I have a hard time accepting myself and often have a confused/fluid perception of others)

-Able to look at life objectively. (I can only do this sometimes usually when it’s not my life)

I immediately started thinking about how to fix myself and forgot all about critical thinking.  Just because this theory was presented to me in an academic setting, it didn’t make it right.  Luckily, the Simply Psychology summary I used to read up on the theory ends with an excellent ‘Critical evaluation’ section which calls the whole theory into question, pointing out flaws in Maslow’s methodology (his data came from uncontrollable/biased sources such as biographies) and his limited sample (mainly educated white men).  I was letting conclusions from a very flawed study convince me that I was on the wrong path!

One thing I definitely learned from judging myself against the characteristics and behaviours Maslow claimed ‘self-actualised’ people had was that I need to reflect on who I am and who I want to be with a bit more kindness.  The truth is that I possess most of the characteristics and behaviours on his lists, but it just wasn’t good enough for me and Maslow got me low!

What theories have you come across in your attempts at self-improvement?

depression · recovery · remission · Spanish · travelling · Year Abroad

Lonely Travelling

bolivian skyline
La Paz, Bolivia, 2007

I studied English Literature and Spanish at uni which involved me doing a “Residence Abroad” in a Spanish-speaking country.  Considering that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity funded by Student Finance England, I chose to go to South America and not Spain, even though every particle in my body was terrified.  I mean, I was so scared of new places/people that I had only applied to London universities, and here I was, ready to fly across the world.

I really felt the sting of loneliness during that year abroad.  I went to work in a school in Peru Monday-Thursday, leaving me Friday-Sunday and the academic holidays to travel around the country and its neighbouring lands.  I saw the stunning, the amazing, the breath-taking and I remember thinking the whole time, this is so meaningless alone! There was no one who meant something to me with me, no one to share the appreciation with, no one to make it not just impressive, but also happy.

The picture above is from a lonely walk I took through the crowded streets of La Paz in 2007.  It was like a step back in time mixed with the current.  There was something to see whatever direction you faced, including a dude dressed in a zebra costume helping people cross the road…and I had no one to share the hilarious shock with!

I used to get a sense of excitement looking at my travelling photos; now I mainly feel sadness and anger as I don’t know when I’ll be able to travel again.  I need to do something about this.

depression · immigration · mental health · mindfulness · PTSD · recovery

Parentless Schooling

Although I never really got into trouble much, I remember always feeling like I was a bad child.  The feeling just lingered there, staining my thoughts and drove my words and actions.  I remember feeling like I had to lie to make myself sound more worthy, because I’d already accepted that I couldn’t possibly be good enough as I was. I can only assume now that I must have felt that way because of how easily my parents seemed to have left me.  The lack of apology for leaving me parentless destroyed any self-worth I had as a 4 year-old.

Now that I look back on my childhood, I’m impressed by how well-behaved I was.  Aren’t parentless abandoned children supposed to go off the rails, rebel and get into trouble all the time and then end of on The Jeremy Kyle show one day?  Instead, I was this weird mixture of timid and brave.  I rarely tested the boundaries (even though I had the urge to) as I was much more concerned with adults’ approval.  I had no parents, so I was desperate for any other adults’ attention.

I found school exciting and loved helping my grandmother around the house when she let me. She taught me to knit and crochet. She even convinced my teacher to give me a report card even though I wasn’t officially enrolled.  I mean, I heard her convincing her to do it and I knew that all the As were meaningless but it still made me happy.  My gran cared about me.

Our little school in our little village in Cyprus consisted of two classrooms in a building surrounded by almond and cherry trees. I loved getting lost in the surrounding woods at playtime, daring myself to go in deeper every day. I would usually be alone as being in the wrong year group isolated me.  As the school had accepted me 1 year early, I was younger than all my peers and found it hard to be accepted.


I pretty much started my school life as a loner. I was in the infants classroom with Teacher Oya. We were arranged in rows according to our year group. There were 3-6 children in each year group. She would teach us from the blackboard one row at a time while the rest of us sat or worked in individual silence. She was a softly spoken lady from Turkey, who wore a black velvet Alice band. I remember trying to get my hair to sit like hers. She was probably the closest I had to a mother figure for a while. We barely spoke to each other, but she was someone to look up to.

Her husband taught the juniors (aged 9-11). He was called teacher Ferit and was scary. He had all the features of a teacher from the 50s. He had a hot temper and readily used his cane. He had nicknamed my older sister BigBird because of her larger frame and would regularly humiliate her in front of the whole school, especially during PE. He would throw items he found irritating out of the window (e.g. scented rubbers, tiny bouncy balls) and hit our knuckles with a ruler if we didn’t meet standards.

I do remember occasionally doing naughty things for attention and always feeling awful for not getting in trouble. Once, I kept and spent a coin I found on the floor in the school shop and was so terrified of being caught I hid under a willow-tree-like tree at the end of the playground when playtime was up. As I saw the teacher marching up to me, I tried to hide deeper in the tree, terrified of being told off and publicly scolded.

He simply told me to come to class. The guilt wouldn’t leave me. Why hadn’t they told me off?  I was so consumed by guilt that it never occured to me that I might not be found out!

I tried to make up for what I thought was my inherent badness by being a good student.  I found the work they gave me too easy and just took it upon myself to start doing work set for the class above.  I understood the teacher’s explanation of column addition, so I did that instead of the dot-to-dot activity meant for me.  I finished all the sums faster than most people in the class and proudly took my work up to the teacher’s desk- I still remember that I got about half of them wrong, I remember the shame, the disappointment.  Why do I still remember this sometimes and why does it still make me feel bad?  I was a 4 year-old doing 6 year-olds’ work but I still fail to impress myself?

depression · feminism · immigration · mental health · mindfulness · PTSD · recovery


Fearful Fabric Face
I tried painting on fabric in a dark and depressed time as a teenager.

I was 3 when I started living with my dad’s parents at the top of one of the two hills that made up our village in Cyprus.  My parents were working in London.

I remember being stood on my grandfather’s belly reaching up for his binoculars hanging from a nail in the white wall. He was the source of a lot of laughter for me, singing my pains away when I fell and grazed my knee or getting me to walk on his back, calling it a massage. These fond memories were later tainted by my mother’s accounts of how controlling he was of her, spying on her house at the top of the other hill to see what visitors she had with his binoculars. He would then ban certain visitors. 

I remember the smell of pan-toasted bread in the background as my grandmother washed me and my little sister in a tin in the middle of the huge kitchen with water heated on the fireplace.  I wasn’t old enough to realise the simplicity of our lives and I was living moment to moment- something I haven’t been able to do since my early childhood; now I’m too often stuck in circles of memories.
I remember the day my older sister arrived from London a few months after us.  My parents had decided that they couldn’t work or save money with any of us still with them in London.  We were all now to be under our grandparents’ care.
My older sister’s arrival was an exciting day. I can still see her skipping towards me with a huge smile. I then moved to my other grandparents’ house with her and would daily visit my little sister. My grandmother, who lived in the sandy valley was too old to walk up that hill with me every time and my older sis wasn’t interested in us little ones much. I guess the age gap was too big then. I was 4 by now and she going on 7. I honestly can’t remember a single conversation or game with her in Cyprus after her arrival. Little did I know she was facing troubles no little girl should. 
My grandmother – being the pragmatic woman who she was- convinced the village school to take me on a year early. She needed some rest between looking after us and my grandfather who soon became completely bed-bound. She was such a tough woman, but always gave me little speeches to tell me that she believed I could be something.
I only remember disobeying my gran once. I don’t remember the spanking. Just her anger. I had quickly nipped out to accompany the neighbour’s daughter to pick up something from her uncle’s house ten minutes’ walk away. I had gone to a stranger’s house without telling her.
I cried myself to sleep that afternoon and woke up to overhearing her explain herself to the neighbour, telling her how she had gone crazy looking for me in the whole neighbourhood. It wasn’t until I learned of the dark things that happened in that village that I truly appreciated her fear. 
And so months turned to years, and we would be parentless until I was 7.