If you're new to the whole tenant-landlord arrangement, you should be aware that your landlord is entitled to increase the rent when it comes time to sign a new tenancy agreement. For many tenants, this can prove a tricky affair, especially if they're already struggling to make their current rent, or feel that the landlord is charging them higher than the market rate for the property.
A survey by spareroom.co.uk found that four in ten UK landlords were planning to increase rent in 2015, and that almost three in ten were planning to increase it by more than 3 per cent. Over half of tenants said that they would be unable to afford the rent if it was increased by up to £40 per month.
Landlords will often take advantage of high demand for properties to rent in a particular area, and charge tenants higher rent for a property that is not as well maintained or as spacious as it could be on the basis that there would be a long line of people waiting to take their place if they refused.
If you feel that the rent being charged by your landlord is unjustified, then you do have some options available to you. But first, it's important to know the conditions under which the landlord is entitled to increase the rent.
The type of tenancy
If you are under a fixed-term tenancy, you can rest assured that the landlord will not be able to increase the rent until the term has expired, unless specifically stated otherwise in the tenancy agreement.
If the fixed-term tenancy has expired and you have not renewed the tenancy agreement, it becomes a periodic tenancy. Unfortunately, this grants you less protection against the whims of your landlord. Under a periodic tenancy, the landlord can increase the rent to market value at any time, so long as they give you at least a month's written notice.
Negotiating with the landlord
Although you have the option of disputing the rent increase, it may be more beneficial in the long-run to attempt to negotiate with your landlord first. Remember that it's expensive for the landlord to try and find a new tenant. You could ask to have additional expenses, such as gas or electricity, included in the higher rent, or you could offer to undertake some of the maintenance responsibilities for the flat in exchange for a smaller rent increase.
Your position will certainly be stronger if you are a particularly well-behaved tenant who pays the rent on time and keeps the property in good condition, as the landlord will not want to risk replacing you with a less agreeable client. It also helps to research the current market rates in your area; if demand has fallen recently, you'll be able to bring this to your landlord’s attention and earn more bargaining power.
Challenging the increase
If you feel that the increase is exorbitant and your landlord is not responsive to your pleas, you can take the matter to a tribunal for rent disputes. You will only be able to do this within the first six months of the tenancy. However, bear in mind that the tribunal will only take into account whether the rent is fair compared to market rates in the area, not whether it's fair in terms of your own financial circumstances.
Challenging the increase may harm your relationship with your landlord in the long-term, but at the same time, you need to defend your rights as a tenant. Finding properties with affordable rent in a good area is difficult enough without landlords exploiting the situation. If you're looking for professional advice on what the tenants’ rights stipulated in the tenancy agreement entitle you to, don't hesitate to contact property experts.