Your tenancy agreement should include a section on how and when rent will be reviewed.
In the case of protected tenancy rents (sometimes known as regulated tenancy rents), your landlord must abide by special rules for rent increases. For regulated tenancies (usually starting before 15 January 1989), your landlord can only increase the rent up to the legal maximum set by a rent officer from the Valuation Office Agency (VOA).
To find out if rent is registered and how much it should be, the register of rents is on hand to provide this information. If you have a regulated tenancy, you or your landlord can check in with the VOA – typically every two years – to review the rent and see if it's still fair. If there are significant changes to the home, for example, repairs or maintenance, this review can be requested sooner.
For other tenants, the importance of the tenancy agreement can't be underestimated – outlining in black and white when and how the rent will be reviewed to prevent disputes or confusion at a later date.
Different tenancy, slightly different rules
In the case of a fixed-term tenancy (which runs for a set period, usually six or 12 months), your landlord can only increase the rent if you agree. If you don't agree to a rise in rents, the landlord can only increase the rent when the fixed-term period ends. If this happens, you may seek to move elsewhere or renegotiate with your landlord. A landlord is not able, though, to raise rents without your permission during a fixed-term tenancy.
By contrast, a periodic tenancy (which runs weekly or monthly) means your landlord can't up the rent more than once a year without your agreement.
How should rent increases be proposed?
Your tenancy agreement may outline a set process for increasing rent. If this is the case, your landlord must abide by this. If not, your landlord can propose rent increases in several ways, including:
- Renewing your tenancy agreement at the end of the fixed term, only this time with higher rent.
- Utilising a 'landlord's notice proposing a new rent' form, which increases the rent after the fixed term has ended.
- Agreeing on a rent rise with you, producing a written record of the agreement you both sign.
Anything outside of this and your landlord will be acting unlawfully. Again, you must read the tenancy agreement carefully before you sign it and seek expert advice if you're unsure about your rights regarding rent increases.
How much notice must they give?
If you are on a yearly tenancy, your landlord must give you six months' notice for a rent increase. If you are paying rent weekly or monthly, your landlord must give you a minimum of one month's notice if they plan to charge you more.
There are some general rules surrounding rent increases, which apply to any tenancy. This includes your landlord securing permission if they want to increase the rent by more than was previously agreed. What's more, any rise in rents must be fair and realistic – which, in other words, means being in line with average local rents.
A rising concern
With the number of people residing in the private rented sector increasing rapidly in recent years – 20% of households now rent privately, and it's the largest housing tenure in London – awareness among tenants and landlords about their rights and responsibilities is more crucial than ever.
As a tenant, you should remember there are rules and processes in place which must be adhered to – you have several rights to prevent rent increases if you don't believe them to be fair and realistic.