Rent increases can be a common occurrence for tenants in England and Wales. It can be difficult to know whether an increase is fair or legal. In this article, we will guide you through the process of rent increases and section 13 notices, explain your rights as a tenant, and provide helpful tips on how to handle the situation if you cannot afford the increase.
How your landlord can increase your rent
The way your landlord can increase your rent depends on the type and term of your tenancy agreement. There are three main methods that your landlord can use:
Agreeing a rent increase with you. Your landlord can ask you to agree to a rent increase at any time during your tenancy. You can either accept or refuse the increase. If you accept it, you should make sure you have a written record of the agreement, such as an email or a letter. If you refuse it, your landlord cannot force you to pay the higher rent, unless they use another method to increase it.
Using a rent review clause. Your tenancy agreement may have a rent review clause that allows your landlord to increase your rent at certain times or intervals during your tenancy. For example, your rent may go up every year by a fixed amount or in line with inflation. If your tenancy agreement has a rent review clause, your landlord must follow its terms and give you notice of the increase in advance.
Giving you a section 13 notice. If your tenancy is periodic (rolling on a week-by-week or month-by-month basis) or fixed-term (running for a set period) without a rent review clause, your landlord can use section 13 of the Housing Act 1988 to increase your rent.
What’s a Section 13 notice?
A section 13 notice is a formal notice of rent increase that your landlord can use if you have a periodic or fixed-term tenancy without a rent review clause. Your landlord can only use this method to increase your rent once every 52 weeks and they must give you at least one month's notice before the increase takes effect. The notice must be signed and dated by your landlord or their agent and must use the correct form (Form 4). The rent increase must be fair and realistic, that is, in line with reasonable rents on the open market. If you think the rent increase is unfair, you can challenge it by applying to a tribunal before the date of the increase. The tribunal will decide if your rent increase is fair based on the cost of renting similar properties in your area and what your landlord could charge if a new tenant was renting the property.
How you can challenge your rent increase
If you think your rent increase is unfair or unlawful, you can challenge it in different ways, depending on how your landlord has increased it. The main ways that you can challenge your rent increase are:
Negotiating with your landlord. You can try to negotiate with your landlord if you do not agree with their proposed rent increase. You can explain why you think the increase is unreasonable or unaffordable and ask them to reconsider or lower it. You can also compare the cost of renting similar properties in your area and use this as evidence to support your case. You should keep a record of any communication with your landlord about the rent increase, such as emails, letters, or texts. If you reach an agreement with your landlord, you should make sure it is confirmed in writing.
Applying to a tribunal. You can apply to a tribunal if you have received a section 13 notice and you think the new rent is higher than the market rate for similar properties in your area. You must apply before the date when the new rent is due to start, which is stated on the notice. A tribunal is made up of two or three professionals, such as solicitors or surveyors, who will decide if your rent increase is fair. They will look at factors such as the size, location, condition, and facilities of your property, the rents charged for comparable properties in your area, the demand and supply for rented accommodation in your area, and the length and terms of your tenancy agreement. The tribunal will then set the maximum amount of rent that your landlord can charge you. This could be lower, higher, or the same as the rent proposed by your landlord. You can find out more about how to apply to a tribunal.
Refusing to pay the higher rent. You can refuse to pay the higher rent if you think your landlord has increased it unlawfully or without following the correct procedure. For example, if your landlord has not given you a valid section 13 notice, not given you enough notice of the increase, increased your rent during a fixed-term tenancy without a rent review clause, or increased your rent more than once in 52 weeks. However, you should be careful before refusing to pay the higher rent, as your landlord may take action against you for rent arrears or try to evict you. You should seek legal advice before taking this step and keep evidence of why you are refusing to pay.
If challenging the Rent isn’t enough and you cannot afford the rent increase…
If you cannot afford the rent increase, even if it is fair and legal, you have some options to consider. These include:
Applying for benefits or grants. You may be eligible for benefits or grants that can help you pay your rent or cover other living costs. For example, you may be able to claim Universal Credit or Housing Benefit, if you are on a low income or out of work, Discretionary Housing Payment, if you need extra help with your rent or moving costs, or Local Welfare Assistance, if you need urgent help with essential items or bills. You can check what benefits or grants you can get and how to apply.
Ending your tenancy. You may decide to end your tenancy if you cannot afford the rent increase and cannot find a suitable alternative. You can end your tenancy by giving notice to your landlord, which will depend on the type and term of your tenancy agreement. However, you should also consider the consequences of ending your tenancy, such as losing your home and having to find somewhere else to live. Also, take into consideration if there is a risk to be liable for rent until the end of your notice period or fixed term, losing your deposit, etc.
Rent increases can be daunting
There are many factors that affect how your landlord can increase your rent, how you can challenge it, and what your options are if you cannot afford it. Whether you are facing a rent increase or planning ahead, you should make sure you understand and comply with the law, negotiate with your landlord, and seek help if needed.