Section 13 Rent Increases: What Are They & How To Deal With Them

mariam-abu-hussein
Mariam Abu HusseinLegal Assessment Specialist @ Lawhive
Updated on 28th February 2024
Rent Increase

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.

What is a Section 13 rent increase?

Section 13 of the Housing Act 1998 allows landlords to increase rents for certain tenancies, including:

  • Statutory periodic tenancies that aren't excluded from being assured tenancies

  • Any other periodic tenancy that's assured, except if there's a provision in the tenancy agreement allowing for a higher rent for a specific period.

To do this, the landlord can serve a Section 13 notice proposing a new rent to start at the beginning of the next period of the tenancy, which must be at least:

  • Six months for yearly tenancies.

  • One month for tenancies with periods less than a month.

  • The same as the period of the tenancy for other cases.

The notice must be signed and dated by the landlord or their agent, and they must use the correct form (Form 4).

Under a Section 13 notice, the new rent takes effect unless, before the new period begins, the tenant refers the notice to the appropriate tribunal or agrees on a different rent increase with the landlord.

Landlords can only use a Section 13 notice to increase rent once every 52 weeks, and they must give at least one month's notice before the increase takes effect.

The rent increase must also be reasonable and in line with market rates.

If tenants believe a rent increase is unfair, they can challenge it by applying to a tribunal before the increase date. The tribunal will assess how fair the increase is based on rental costs for similar properties in your area and what your landlord could charge a new tenant for the property.

However, this notice will soon be replaced by a new process under the Renters (Reform) Bill.

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.

Serving 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.

How you can challenge a proposed rent increase

A house and a trial

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 from a landlord and tenant lawyer before taking this step and keep evidence of why you are refusing to pay.

What to do if you can't 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

  • Local Welfare Assistance, if you need urgent help with essential items or bills.

In April 2024, it is expected that the government will raise Local Housing Allowance (LHA) to the benefit of around 1.6 million private renters. The LHA rate determines the amount of assistance you receive when renting from a private landlord. It's used to calculate both Housing Benefit and the housing element of Universal Credit.

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 can't afford the rent increase and can't reach an alternative with your landlord.

You can end your tenancy by giving notice to your landlord, which will depend on the type and term of your tenancy agreement.

However, it's important to consider the consequences of ending your tenancy. This includes the possibility of losing your home and needing to find another place to live. You should also be aware of potential risks, such as still being responsible for rent until the end of your notice period or fixed term, as well as the risk of losing your deposit.

How can Lawhive help with Section 13 Notices?

If you're facing a rent increase, or you're a landlord considering one given the rising costs of living and mortgages, it's important to know your rights, responsibilities and options.

At Lawhive, our network of landlord and tenant solicitors can help you deal with rent increases and any disputes that may arise as a result from them.

Whether you need advice on challenging a rent increase, negotiating with your landlord or understanding the appropriate way to serve a Section 13 notice with minimal risk, we are here to help with quick, affordable access to the best UK's solicitors who all work online for fixed fees.

For more information and personalised help, book a free case evaluation with our legal assessment team today and discover how our solicitors can best support you.

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