Rachael asked us one simple question – Can my landlord double my rent ?
Typically, landlords have strong rights to increase the rent, as to adjust their income based on the current property market and the trends in the private renting sector.
This is normal and tenants should expect that their rent will not remain the same after one or two years have passed. However, the landlord must proceed with rent increase, only after they follow the legal guidelines on how rent can be increased and offer a “fair amount” as the new payable.
We’ll discuss exactly what this means in a little bit. However, if you pay normal rent for your property your landlord likely can’t ask for doubles in an instant.
Rent increase during the fixed term
The Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement guarantees that no changes will be made to the terms of the tenancy without the exclusive permission of both the landlord and the tenant during the fixed term period.
That is what the “assured” part of the name stands for.
What this means for your rent is that your landlord can only legally ask you for more rent if they get you to sign an additional agreement to your original one, changing the payable rent.
If your landlord asks you to pay more rent during the fixed term, you’re free to continue paying your old rent, as agreed in the tenancy agreement. The landlord cannot force the increase on you during the fixed term.
However, you’re only protected until the end of the fixed term.
When your fixed term ends, your landlord needs to give you a new fixed term, or continue the tenancy as periodic.
If they decide to renew your fixed term, they have to sign a new tenancy agreement with you and at this point they can decide to increase your rent.
Rent increase during a periodic tenancy
The Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement guarantees to landlord that they have relative control of the property, after the fixed term has expired, provided proper notification is given to the tenant. Landlords also can arbitrarily choose to reclaim back their property if the proper legal procedure is used.
That is what the “shorthold” part in the name stands for.
If your landlord has allowed the tenancy to roll into a periodic tenancy, they may at any point, increase your rent, provided they follow the right procedure.
The landlord needs to serve you with a notice of rent increase, where they allow you at least another rent period (e.g. a month, if you pay monthly.) on the current rent. During this time, you can negotiate or take any action to revoke this decision.
For more information and detail about how your landlord needs to form their notice and increase your rent, you can read our official guide on Rent increase and Section 13.
If the notice period ends, the new payable rent will be introduced.
Since this is a private property, there are no laws that define the minimum and maximum rent that the landlord can choose, however, the amount needs to be “fair” for each party included in the contract.
Unfair terms and clauses in your AST
What fair means:
The government website states that – “the rent increase must be fair and realistic, ie in line with average local rents.”
We believe the landlord should also take in consideration the property’s features and condition when proposing a new rent.
Obviously, if there are repair issues that have persisted through the entire tenancy, it’s not fair to get your rent increase, but leave the property in poor condition.
You have a right to complain within the notice period. You must apply with the correct form to the rent assessment committee, which is part of the Residential Property Tribunal Service.
Additionally, your tenancy agreement may include clauses that control how the rent increase takes place.
Sometimes, there may be a clause that prevent you from taking benefit of your rights. There is a guide by the Office of Fair Trading, which discusses questionable clauses regarding rent increases. You can read the full guide here.
However, we’ll spare you the full document. Here are the abstracts relating to rent increase:
3.101 – Rent increases may be agreed between the parties, but legislation restricts
the freedom of landlords to impose rent increases in particular circumstances and in particular kinds of tenancy. We have serious concerns over terms allowing rent to be increased arbitrarily by the landlord without reference to clear and objective criteria or an independent valuer.
3.102 – Rent variation clauses are more likely to be fair as follows:
Where the amount and timing of any rent increases are specified (the precise amounts for each year or within narrow limits if not precisely stated), they effectively form part of the agreed price.
As such, they may be regarded as ‘core’ terms setting the price, provided the details are clear, in plain intelligible language, and are adequately drawn to the tenant’s attention
Terms that permit increases linked to a relevant published price index outside the landlord’s control, such as the RPI, are likely to be acceptable, as paragraph 2(d) of Schedule 2 to the Regulations indicates, and rent review clauses that allow for an increase in the rent to be determined in the light of objective factors by a person who is wholly independent of the landlord.
A fair alternative, where the parties cannot agree a new rent, is to agree that the matter should be referred to an independent expert.
3.103 – A fair rent term would also include provision for the landlord to give notice of the increase that was long enough to allow a tenant who did not wish to pay rent at the higher rate to leave before the increase took effect. However, such a provision would not necessarily render a rent variation term fair in itself.
As the Office of Fair Trading includes in their introduction (check the guide above), these are merely recommendations, not regulations.
You need to defend your rights and object on unfair terms and clauses as best see fit. If you can’t come to an agreement with your landlord, you can contact the Residential Property Tribunal Service.
Where to go for help
It’s important to know that no tenancy agreement can nullify the official laws in the United Kingdom, and any who does is illegal and invalid.
When it comes to renting, the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 defines the statutory rights and responsibilities of both the landlord and the tenant.
If you think your landlord is going against the law and the tenancy agreement is unfair to your rights, you need to seek a solicitor, or contact Citizen Advice, who may help you take your next legal steps.