Can My Landlord Increase My Rent? Can I Refuse To Pay?

If your repulsive and greedy landlord has slapped a rent increase notice on your desk, then you’re probably here because you’re stumbling around the internet, researching your options, specifically – can he/she get away with this absurdity?

If that’s the case, then you might have already read the GOV’s official guide on rent increases (naturally, the page ranks highly on Google), but you’re still hungry for more information.

Yes, the GOV’s guide is useful and accurate (of course), so if you haven’t already read it, I wouldn’t discourage you from reading it, but the problem is, it’s not complete, or at least, I can think of more practical information that’s worth knowing. So that’s why I thought I would expand on the topic and plug some of the holes.

While rent increases are perfectly normal, and generally expected by tenants every now and then, landlords must follow the proper procedures when increasing their tenant’s rent. Essentially, if your landlord doesn’t go about it the right way, there’s a good chance you can successfully challenge it. On the flip side, if they have followed all the right steps, your options are limited…

When your landlord can increase your rent

First and foremost, it’s important to check the terms and conditions of your tenancy agreement. If the tenancy agreement states the procedure for increasing rent, then your landlord must follow them.

If your tenancy agreement doesn’t cover the procedure, then the way your landlord should increase rent will depend on what kind of tenancy you have, specifically whether you’re still tied into the fixed term, or if you’ve rolled into a periodic tenancy.

Fixed term Vs Periodic tenancies

A “periodic tenancy” automatically starts after the fixed term expires and when a new contract has not been signed.

For example, if your tenancy agreement has the start date of 1st June 2018 and end date of 1st June 2019, then your tenancy will become periodic if a new contract isn’t signed and you continue renting the property after the 1st of June 2019.

If you are on a periodic tenancy…

Your landlord can increase rent by the following three ways:

  1. By renewing your tenancy agreement with new fixed terms and the increased rate.

    You don’t have to sign the new tenancy agreement, but then you’ll effectively be surrendering the tenancy if your landlord requires you to agree to the new terms, so you’ll eventually have to vacate.

  2. If both landlord and tenant agree to the rent increase, in which case your landlord should provide a written record of the agreement that you both sign.
  3. By serving you a Section 13 Rent Increase notice. In order for this to be valid, your landlord must give you at least one months’ notice (presuming you pay rent weekly or weekly, which is usually the case).

    Once again, you don’t have to agree to the rent increase, but then you’ll be surrendering the tenancy if your landlord is adamant on getting his/her increased rent.

If you are still in the fixed terms of your tenancy agreement…

Your landlord can increase rent by the following three ways:

  1. Wait until the fixed term ends and offer you a new rate. But your landlord must give you a minimum of one months’ notice. If you don’t agree to the new terms, you can surrender the tenancy and vacate.
  2. If you agree to a rent increase during the middle of the fixed term, in which case your landlord should provide a written record of the agreement that you both sign.
  3. If there is a “rent review clause” in the tenancy agreement, your landlord can usually increase your rent.

What if the rent increase is unfair/too high? How to challenge the rent increase!

The general rule is that rent increases must be fair and realistic, which means in line with average local rents. So your landlord can’t just randomly ask for excessive amounts of rent for no apparent reason, it needs to be justified.

If you feel your landlord is asking for too much rent, then you can challenge the rent increase.

Before taking any potentially destructive actions, I recommend trying to have a civil conversion with your landlord, discussing any of your concerns

Despite popular belief, most landlords are reasonable humans, and they’ll go out of their way to keep good tenants, even if that means backing down from a rent increase.

Personally, as a landlord, I rarely ever increase rent for a good tenant, because a good tenant is far more valuable to me than the small percentage increase I can get away with.

Going to tribunal for an independent judgement

If you and your landlord can’t agree on your rent increase, then you can ask a tribunal to decide for you – it’s free to apply.

The tribunal is made up of 2 – 3 professionals, for example solicitors or surveyors. They’ll assess your case and then decide if your rent increase is fair. They may take various things into consideration, like the condition of the property and the condition of the local rental market (i.e. what other landlords are charging for similar properties in the same area).

In order to apply for a tribunal hearing, you’ll need to print and fill in form Rents1 at GOV.UK. Make sure you read the official notes before you fill in the form.

If you want further independent advice before making any decisions (which is always a good idea), I recommend contacting your nearest Citizens Advice.

Considering the following before making any decisions!

Before signing off, I just want to re-emphasise the importance of considering the bigger picture before making any rash decisions. A few points to bear in mind:

  • Consider whether the rent increase is fair or not, and don’t just be reluctant to comply for the sake of it.
  • Rent increases can be a very volatile subject, so it’s best approached rationally, which is why I recommend discussing the matter with your landlord. Creating a toxic relationship with your landlord can make the entire situation extremely difficult.
  • Consider that if you don’t agree to the rent increase your landlord may decide to serve you notice, and you’ll be required to move out (it’s worth keeping in mind the potential costs of moving Vs the rent increase).
  • If your rent increase is blatantly unfair, perhaps that’s an early sign of a potentially bad landlord, so instead of challenging it, it might be wiser to take it as a blessing in disguise, and taking the opportunity to move onto bigger and better things. EVen if you successfully challenge it, the relationship with your landlord is unlikely to be a pleasant one.

Right, hope that’s been useful.

Good luck everyone xo

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