Centre for Access to Justice


Forum on Tenant Fees and Holding Deposits

30 August 2018, 5:45 pm–8:30 pm


Event Information

Open to





UCL Centre for Access to Justice and HLS Cravath International Summer Travel Grant


UCL Faculty of Laws
Bentham House
Bentham House
United Kingdom

Everyday prospective tenants across England put down holding deposits before they enter into a main tenancy agreement. Often after paying, the tenancy falls through before the keys are ever handed over. The repercussions of this are seldom thought through.

This free public forum will shed light on the legal and practical role of holding deposits in the residential tenancies market. It will also address the likely effects of the Tenant Fees Bill that is currently before Parliament. A panel of speakers coming from the legal, charities and academic sectors will address three key topics, followed by Q&A.

Presenters: The forum will be introduced by Samuel Beswick (Cravath International Fellow, Harvard Law School), an academic lawyer who recently sought to test the enforceability of holding deposit agreements through breach-of-contract proceedings in the County Court of England and Wales.

The panel chair is Justin Bates, barrister (Arden Chambers), a leading practicioner of tenancies law and a General Editor of the Journal of Housing Law. Panelists include:

  • Dr Aruna Nair ~ Lecturer of Property Law at King’s College London & author of the Textbook on Land Law (2018)

  • David Smith ~ Policy Director of the Residential Landlords Association & Partner at Anthony Gold Solicitors

  • John Gallagher ~ Principal Solicitor at Shelter

  • Paula Hebberd ~ Solicitor and Director at Woodstock Property Law

The forum is hosted by the Centre for Access to Justice, University College London, which serves vulnerable communities in England through the provision of impactful legal education and pro bono advice. The evening will close with a light reception.


5:45pm: Registration 

6pm: Welcome by forum convener and introduction of panelists

6:10-6:35: Topic 1. What does a holding deposit hold?

  • Does paying a holding deposit create a contract between applicant and landlord?
  • What are landlords’ and tenancy applicants’ rights and obligations?
  • How will the Tenant Fees Bill improve matters?

6:35-7:00: Topic 2. Whose agent is it anyway?

  • Is a letting agent the "servant of two masters"?
  • What happens when landlords engage multiple agents?
  • Who is legally responsible if the agreement breaks down?

7:00-7:25: Topic 3. Who can help when things break down?

  • What private and public enforcement options are available?
  • What can prospective tenants and landlords do to protect themselves?
  • Are pre-tenancy legal rights ever practically enforceable?

7:25-7:30: Closing remarks

7:30-8:15: Reception at The Hub, Bentham House


The forum is generously supported by the Harvard Law School International Legal Studies Cravath International Summer Grant and by the UCL Centre for Access to Justice.

Contact the forum convener here for information.