The Cost Of Living Crisis: What Can You Do If Your Landlord Is Trying To Increase Your Rent?
As the cost of living crisis continues to spiral, the purses of many households are being squeezed to the limit. The threat of further increases to monthly expenditures are a common cause of anxiety and it is possible that Landlords also feeling the pinch may seek to soften the blow by seeking more money from their tenants. What then can you do if your Landlord threatens to hike up your monthly rent payments?
Can my Landlord just decide to increase my rent?
The short answer is no. Your landlord can’t just increase your rent whenever they like, or by any amount. They need to follow certain rules if they want you to pay more. Unfortunately there is no cap on how much a Landlord can charge but Government guidance says that for existing tenants, rent rises must be “fair and realistic” and in line with “average local rents”.
When and how can a Landlord increase my rent?
This depends on the type of tenancy you have.
Fixed term tenancy
If you have a fixed term tenancy (one that lasts for a set duration of time e.g. 6 months):
- Your landlord can increase the rent during your tenancy if you agree.
- If you reject the rent increase, the rent can then only go up after your tenancy has come to an end.
- Your lease contains a ‘Rent Review clause’ (see more below). The landlord must give you sufficient notice before you’d have to start paying the rent increase; for a yearlong tenancy, six months’ notice is generally required.
If you have a periodic tenancy (one that is paid on a rolling week-by-week or month-by-month basis):
- Your landlord cannot increase the rent more than once a year without your consent.
- If they want to increase the rent, they must give you at least one month’s notice.
There are only certain ways in which your landlord can increase the rent of an assured or assured shorthold periodic tenant can do so. They are by:
- Agreeing the increase with you
- Operating a rent review clause (but this does not apply to statutory periodic tenancies)
- Serving a section 13 Notice – Provided the correct form and notice is given, on expiry of the notice period the increased rent will take effect unless the tenant refers the increase to the tribunal or a different rent is agreed.
Rent review clause
A rent review clause will apply to fixed-term or contractual periodic tenancies. To be enforceable, a rent review clause does not need to be very specific. It does not even need to specify by how much and when the rent will increase necessarily, as long as it outlines the process of the rent review the landlord will undertake. However, it must not be ‘unfair’ under consumer protection law.
What steps can I take if I don’t agree with the rent increase?
If you think your landlord has failed to follow the rules the best thing you can do is to seek to negotiate with them to try and reach an agreement to pay a lower rent. You should write to them and set out a rent that you think is fair and you would be willing to pay.
If you are eligible for housing benefit/ the housing element of universal credit, it may also be possible to seek assistance to deal with the higher rate of rent. You should approach the DWP or your local authority to see if they can assist.
If an agreement with your landlord can’t be reached and you believe that the rent increase is unfair or your landlord hasn’t followed the rules, you can appeal to a tribunal. This is free to do, but you’ll need to make sure you take action before your rent is due to go up. The tribunal will decide whether the increase is reasonable based on the rate of rent of similar properties in the area. Their decision is final, so if they decide the increase is reasonable you’ll have to accept it, or decide to leave the property. If they decide it is unfair, then your rent will not increase.
Do not start paying the increased rent if you intend to challenge it!
The rent increase demanded by your landlord will not be payable if they fail to give the correct notice or operate a rent review clause in accordance with the agreement. In this case, you will be entitled to continue paying rent at the existing rate.
If you were to pay the increased rent, (even once!) the landlord may be able to argue that you have actually agreed to the increase, in which case it will be binding. This is the case, even if nothing has explicitly been said between you both.
Do not stop paying your current rate of rent!
However, you must not stop paying your current rent, even if you intend to challenge the increase. If you get into rent arrears, it could give rise to your landlord bringing possession proceedings against you and you could face eviction form the property. Of course there are also strict procedures that a landlord must follow when seeking to evict their tenant, or their possession proceedings will be doomed to fail.
If you find yourself in a position where your landlord is seeking to evict you after you have failed to reach an agreement as to the rent increase, our expert housing team are here to help. Our team of housing lawyers has extensive experience of helping households facing the threat of unlawful eviction and can help you challenge the proceedings to keep you in your home. Call us today on 0808 271 9413 or request a call back online.