Rent in advance: what is it and how does it work?

Moving into a new rented accommodation is often an expensive process that requires multiple payments to your landlord or letting agent.

First, there is the holding deposit, then the security deposit, followed by the agency fees, and finally, the rent in advance payments. Not all landlords and agents demand each of these fees, but many do.

Rent in advance can be particularly difficult to pay if the landlord or agent requests more than one month, which they can do as there is no legal upper limit.

We are going to look at rent in advance, find out what it is, how it works, and how you can make sure you are funded and prepared to pay it.

What is rent in advance?

Rent in advance is when tenants pay their landlord one or two months’ rent (sometimes more) upfront before moving into a property. It means that every rent payment you make is for the forthcoming month rather than the month that just passed.

You normally pay one month’s rent in advance when you move into new rented accommodation. However, some landlords and agents may ask for more, especially if you have a bad credit rating or landlord references. If you cannot afford to pay your rent in advance, there are several options available, which we will explore later.

How is rent in advance different to a tenancy deposit?

A tenancy deposit (sometimes called a security deposit) is a sum of money that a landlord or letting agent may request at the start of a tenancy period to cover the costs of any damage or unpaid rent. It is usually equivalent to four to five weeks of rent – it is illegal for your landlord to ask you to pay a deposit of more than five weeks or six weeks if your annual rent is more than £50,000. Most landlords and agents require a tenancy deposit and won’t offer the property without one.

Rent in advance provides additional security for the landlord or agent. It means that if a tenant pays the rent late, the deposit can cover the late month, and the tenant can either pay the rent plus a surcharge for the late payment or leave the property without their deposit by the end of the month.

A tenancy deposit should also not be confused with a holding deposit. A holding deposit is a refundable payment made to the landlord or letting agent that puts the property on hold for the tenant and takes it off the market. It indicates that the tenant is serious about moving in and allows the landlord or agent to take the next steps toward letting the property.

If the tenancy goes ahead or is cancelled due to the actions of the landlord or agent, then the holding deposit is returned in full. If the tenancy is cancelled due to the tenant’s actions, then the landlord keeps the holding deposit.

How much is rent in advance?

There is no legal upper limit to how much rent a landlord or agent can request in advance. However, it is standard for tenants to pay one or two months in advance.

For example, if your monthly rent is £600 and your landlord asks for two months’ rent in advance, you will have to pay £1,200 upfront.

If there is an issue with your credit check or previous landlord references, you may be required to pay more rent in advance.

It is becoming increasingly common in popular cities, such as London, for tenants to offer advanced rent payments as part of their bid for the property. If a landlord has a choice between two tenants, and one has offered the requested one-month advanced rent, and the other has offered six months advanced rent, they are likely to opt for the latter.

However, while this practice has become prevalent, it is widely condemned by housing unions as unfair as it overwhelmingly favours wealthier tenants with more disposable income.

Tips for paying rent in advance

Paying rent in advance can put a strain on your finances, so it is a good idea to be prepared, understand your options, and know exactly what you are doing beforehand.

So let’s take a look at some tips on what (not) to do when paying rent in advance:

  • Make sure you understand the difference between your advanced rent and your tenancy deposit. These two payments are not the same. If you confuse them, you may end up with a bill you cannot afford, so be sure to differentiate between them.
  • Ask the letting agent their agency fees before signing up with them. Agency fees can be high, and although they are written into any contract you sign, you might not be aware of them until you have agreed on a contract. Find out what they are early to ensure you can keep up with all the necessary payments.
  • Get the holding deposit back as soon as you can. If you have put a holding deposit on a property, the fee should be taken off your other payments. However, if this isn’t done automatically, make sure you get the deposit back quickly so you can use the money to pay for the rest of the moving costs.
  • Find out when your next rent payment is due. We will explore this in greater detail shortly, but your landlord may take a two-month payment to cover the first two months or use the second month’s payment to cover the final month of your tenancy. Make sure you know when your next payment is due and that you have the funds to make it.
  • Don’t get a payday loan to help with the advance. If you can’t afford the advance, you have other options. Avoid getting a payday loan, as the interest charged can be so high that it compounds your financial issues and worsens matters in the long run.
  • Request an advance payment at your job. If your landlord has requested two months’ rent in advance and you are struggling to pay it, you should enquire with your workplace about getting an advance payment for the next month. Advance payments mean you can get extra money now and then none the following month. This is okay because you don’t have to pay the following month’s rent as you have already paid that rent upfront.
  • Find out if you are eligible for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP). If you are on certain benefits, you may qualify for DHP, which can pay for some or all of your rent advance. We will explore this in more detail later on.
  • Apply for a budgeting advance. A budgeting advance is an interest-free loan from the DWP. You can only apply for a budgeting advance if you are on Universal Credit or another low-income benefit.

When will you have to make your next payment?

Your tenancy contract should clearly state when your next payment is due after paying rent in advance. If it doesn’t, or if you can’t find it, you can ask your landlord or letting agent when it is expected.

Some landlords will take two months’ rent in advance and expect you to pay rent at the start of your second month in the property, as they then use your payment to cover your final month of tenancy.

Let’s look at some examples of how your next payments will likely work out.

Example 1:

  • Your tenancy starts on January 1.
  • Your rent is £600 per month.
  • You have paid one month’s rent in advance.
  • Your next payment is due on February 1.

Example 2:

  • Your tenancy starts on January 1.
  • Your rent is £600 per month.
  • You have paid two months’ rent in advance.
  • Your next payment is due on March 1.

Example 3:

  • Your tenancy starts on January 1.
  • Your rent is £600 per month.
  • You have paid two months’ rent in advance to cover the first and last months of the tenancy agreement.
  • Your next payment is due on February 1.
  • You do not have to pay rent in the final month of your tenancy period as you have already paid it in advance.

When you move into a new property and pay your rent in advance, find out when your landlord expects the next payment so you can prepare yourself financially.

How to get rent in advance back through benefits?

You may qualify for Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) to help you pay your rent in advance if you receive certain benefits.

You can apply for DHP if:

  • you receive Housing Benefit
  • you receive the housing component of Universal Credit and need more financial support.

If you qualify for either of these benefits, you can receive back some or all of the money you paid for rent in advance.

You can find out more about DHPs and how to apply for them on the UK government’s website.


Whether you choose to buy or rent your next property, the process of moving house is often a costly one. Paying rent in advance can add to moving costs and is especially demanding if the landlord or letting agent has requested more than one month’s rent, so it is important that you are financially prepared.

However, we have seen that options are available if you think you will struggle to make the requisite payments. So make sure you are clear regarding your rent in advance payments and that you are well prepared to make them. And if you cannot find the money you need to complete your move, follow some of our tips above.