It’s easy to feel at the mercy of your landlord when you rent your home, and with rents spiking across the country due to soaring mortgage costs, it’s a really stressful time to be a tenant.
But there are rules around when your landlord can increase your rent – they can’t just hike it whenever they like.
On the other hand, the rules around how much they can increase it by are less well-defined, so it’s good to know as much as you can and be aware of any resources that may help in case your landlord has proposed a higher rent that you can’t pay.
In this article, we’ll go through the rules surrounding rent increases in the UK and what to do if you are faced with an unreasonable rent increase.
England, Wales and Northern Ireland
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the type of tenancy agreement you have impacts if and when your rent will be reviewed.
Fixed term tenancies
If you have a fixed-term contract that lets you remain in the property for a set amount of time, your landlord cannot increase your length before the end of this term unless you agree to it. If you are thinking of renewing your tenancy at the end of the term, they can increase your rent as part of the new contract. However, they must give you at least one month’s notice of this if you pay rent monthly or weekly, and at least six months’ notice if you pay yearly.
A longer fixed-term contract may have rent increases written in. For example, a multi-year contract might stipulate rent increases at the end of each year. If your agreement sets out specific procedures for rent increases like this, both the landlord and the tenant must stick to them.
If you are on a periodic or “rolling” contract, your landlord can only increase your rent once a year, unless you agree to additional increases. They must give you at least one month’s notice if they intend to increase your rent.
Regulated or “protected” tenancies are uncommon, as they only apply to tenancies started before 15 January 1989. If you have one, you will usually pay rent below market value at what is called “fair rent”. Your landlord can only increase your rent every two years, and must do so by applying for a new “fair rent” from a rent officer, who will decide how much you should pay.
Key differences in Wales
Despite a slew of recent changes to how renting works in Wales, the rules around rent increases are still largely the same as those in England. The only difference for the purposes of this topic is that your tenancy agreement will have been automatically updated to a “contract”, and you are now a “contract-holder” rather than a tenant.
On a standard occupational contract, there is theoretically no limit to the amount that your landlord can increase rent by. However, as in England, any increase will normally be in line with market prices in the area.
Additionally, if you are on a rolling contract, your landlord must give you at least two months’ notice before any rent increases.
Key differences in Northern Ireland
The main difference in Northern Ireland is that the cut off date for protected tenancies is much later than in England and Wales, at 1 April, 2007.
The rules around rent increases depend on the kind of tenancy you have, but all private tenancies are currently protected by a 3% rent increase cap. Read more about this further down.
If you are not sure what kind of tenancy you have, you can find out here.
Private residential tenancies
Private residential tenancies came into force from December 2017, replacing assured and short assured tenancies for new tenancies.
Under a private residential tenancy, your landlord can increase your rent any time in the first year of your tenancy. After this, they can only increase it once every 12 months. They must give you at least three months’ notice if they are planning to do so.
Assured tenancies or short assured tenancies
If you are still on an assured or short assured tenancy, your landlord cannot increase your during an assured tenancy unless you agree to it or a rent review is written into your contract. They can opt to increase your rent when it ends if you decide to renew, but this must be in line with the current rent cap.
If a rent increase is written into the contract, however, then this ignores the rent cap.
The 3% rent cap
Scotland currently has a cap in place limiting rent increases on private tenancies to just 3%. This is expected to stay in place until September 2023.
Your landlord cannot increase your rent by more than this unless they can prove an increase in costs associated with the property to Rent Service Scotland (such as increased mortgage costs where the rental property is used as security, increased insurance premiums on the property, or increased service charges). In this case, rent can either be increased by 6% or to cover up to 50% of the increased costs, whichever is lower.
The rent cap does not apply if you live with your landlord, live in council housing or student accommodation, or if you have a rent increase written into your contract.
Can I challenge a rent increase?
Government guidance states that any increase in your rent must be “fair and realistic”, meaning it is in line with average local rents. Landlords will usually cite rising property values in your area as the reason for a rent increase, but this means it is worth looking at the rent on similar properties or chatting to your neighbours to make sure they’re not increasing it by too much.
Of course, this government guideline is fairly vague, and tenants often feel they have limited options when their landlord proposes a rent increase that is too much for them to pay.
If you don’t agree with the rent increase your landlord has suggested, start by attempting to negotiate directly. For example, they may be willing to meet in the middle between what you are currently paying and the proposed increase. Landlords are often keen to avoid the fuss and potential losses of having to find new tenants, so they might agree to compromise. If you can use rental prices on similar properties in your area as evidence that an increase would mean they are over-charging, this may help your case.
If you can’t get your landlord to agree to a lower rent and you believe the proposed increase is unreasonable for the property, you can make a free appeal to a tribunal for rent complaints. The tribunal will consist of a group of professionals who will examine rent in your area and determine whether the increase is fair. If they find it is unfair, you won’t have to pay the increased rent.
The tribunal will need to receive your application before the proposed start date for your new rent, and you must include a copy of your tenancy agreement and the Section 13 notice that your landlord should have sent you proposing the rent increase. The tribunal may ask you for evidence that the rent increase is unreasonable during their deliberation, so make sure you have this ready too.
You can also check out Shelter, a housing charity that provides useful information and can advise you on your rights as a tenant.
Keep paying your rent even if you are appealing to a tribunal. If you stop, you will go into arrears and risk being evicted.
Our article What can you do if you can’t afford your rent? contains more advice if you are struggling to keep up with rent payments and tells you what help you may be entitled to.
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