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Can our landlord increase the rent by this notice?

paymentHere is a question to the blog clinic from Hayley who is a tenant

We have been renting a property since June 2008. Just over a year ago my partner was made redundant. Naturally this impacted on our finances and we were reliant on housing benefit, unfortunately this did not cover all our rent and we went into arrears.

We told our landlord but she contacted us frequently to chase the money and told us to borrow from family members, we understood her point of view but said we couldn’t do this.

Eventually when our arrears equalled two months in August this year she served us with an eviction notice. Only a few days later, my partner found a new job so we contacted her and negotiated a repayment plan of £40 per month which would clear our arrears by April 2015. (We did manage to make a one-off payment of £300 funded by the sale of my partner’s motorbike which brought the arrears under two months).

Our landlord keeps contacting us to ask if we can pay more money, last month she came to the house and tried to make me agree to a payment of £100 that month and another the next, I told her we couldn’t afford it and she left. She then telephoned by partner and told him I had agreed to pay the £100!

She has now sent a notice which says the rent will be increased by £30 per month from January, which means we will now have to pay £70 extra per month.

We have told her that we cannot afford this but she says that the property is worth more than we are paying and we should look for somewhere else to live if we are not happy. She is also saying that she never agreed to the timescale of the repayment plan and is still insistent I agreed to pay two lots of £100.

We are furious and feel that we are being harassed into paying money we cannot afford or leaving our home. Is there anything we can do to stop this rent increase? We have written proof that we have entered into a repayment plan to end September 2014.

Whether the rent increase is valid or not will depend on the circumstances.

During the fixed term of your tenancy

Are you still within the fixed term of your tenancy agreement?  If so, the landlord cannot increase the rent unless there is a clause in your tenancy agreement which authorises her to do this.

Even then, the increase will only be valid if the clause is properly  drafted.  A clause which allows her to increase the rent whenever she wants to whatever she wants (for example) will be unfair under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations.

After the fixed term of your tenancy

If the fixed term of your contract has ended then be aware you will be vulnerable to eviction anyway under s21 subject to her serving a two month section 21 notice.

There is a form of notice which your landlord can use to increase your tent during a periodic tenancy (but NOT during the fixed term) which comes under s13 of the Housing Act 1988.  It is in a prescribed form and gives you notice that if you consider the rent is not a market rent, you can refer it to the rent assessment committee for review.

If this special form of notice is not used then the notice used by your landlord is probably invalid.

Finally

What your landlord CANNOT do is just serve an arbitrary notice or letter on you just increasing your rent.

Unless the rent is increased either under a clause in your tenancy agreement during the fixed term of your tenancy, or via the special notice period after your fixed term has ended – the rent can ONLY be increased by agreement with you.

You will find more information on this page.



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6 Responses to Can our landlord increase the rent by this notice?

  1. However the landlord can serve a s21 notice, so making the tenants homeless in a few months, the tenants will find it very hard to rent elsewhere given the history of none payment. If I was the landlord I would have served an s21 notice as soon as the rent was not paid.

    I find it interesting that the tenant found a new job just after getting the eviction notice…..

  2. I really do not mean to be callous but the bottom line is that you owe rent and your home is always going to be at risk if you fall in to arrears. Paying rent is your main part of the bargain and if you don’t meet that obligation (even for reasons outside of your control) your landlord is quite likely to seek possession. This is especially true if you live in an area where demand for property outsrips supply and rents are rising.

    Rent review clauses tend to be based on the anniversary of the tenancy so it would be unusual to have a rent review in January if the tenancy orignally started in June. I suspect you are on a periodic tenancy and the landlord is just trying their luck but it will depend on whether they served a proper notice or not.

    Either way, you may well find youselves being served with two months notice if you contest the rent increase on any grounds while you’re no longer within a fixed term. This may seem unfair but it’s part of the risks associated with renting. On the flip side, home ownership is not without it’s own set of risks. At least overdue rent payments will not show up on your credit history, unlike late mortgage payments.

    It is unlikely that evidence of a repayment plan is going to make any difference to your situation. Even if a judge accepted your proof as evidence of a binding contract, I can’t see how this would override any mandatory routes for possession available to the landlord under statute law.

  3. There are two problems with the advice given by Arfan. Hayley has said that her partner has now obtained employment that may mean that they may not be entitled to Housing Benefit and that will usually mean that DHP will not be payable.

    There is not a national Homeless Prevention Fund which has a statutory criteria. In some areas, a Council will provide a repayable loan for the arrears that presumes that the normal (increased) rental payments can be afforded, which in this case seems unlikely. If this landlord knows that lump sum payments may be available it may lead to her increasing the pressure on the tenants.

    If Hayley and her partner do not have any dependents then they may not qualify for more than basic help and advice from the local authority and may not be entitled to grants/loans as some are limited to ‘priority vulnerable’ groups.

    If this matter does go as far as a rent arrears claim the couple need to explain that this is not a matter of non-payment of rent, but of temporary inability to pay the full rent and it was only after many months that the arrears accrued to the Ground 8 level, but as Tessa has said there is not any long term security of tenure and in this instance it appears that the relationship has broken down.

  4. Thank you for that caveat Colin. I made the assumption children were involved.

    As you have stated LA sometimes do have that priority need requirement for the prevention fun – however locally I know from the 3 LA I interact with most there is discretion awarded to them.

    In regards to DHP yes HB is required to make the application – however without information if they were or were not getting HB I I assumed that they were .

    Nonetheless I still recommend visiting the LA to see what assistance is avilable

  5. Good Advice, I do think the landlord is guilty of harassment here. Two 1997 laws prohibit this.

    I am a Landlord and a Tenant so I have seen both sides of common disputes.

    I’ve had a great Landlord and one that is a complete idiot, the latter seemed to think that he could put any old term in a tenancy agreement and it would be law (including a 3 day notice period).

    Having insisted I sign a 1 year agreement he then changed his mind and tried to get out of the agreement. The tenancy went to Statutory Periodic, he then failed to issue a proper Section 21 several times (date issues). Finally he did not protect my deposit, so not only did he not get what he wanted but he got fined. There were no rent arrears, he just wanted to sell up to buy into the Government scheme on a larger property.

    I had a good time educating him and using the law as he tried to harass me. I would have been quite happy to leave if he had been as amicable as I was. It was amazing how he turned into a tantrum monster when he did not get his way, probably spoilt by his mother!!

    What is typical of this thread is to assume the tenant is a monster rather than someone just struggling and the comment by Ian is uncalled for. People try to find work, why do you assume the worst of people?

    The warning for Landlords is that before you set your rent, call your local authority and ascertain what the LHA rate is for your property. That will be the maximum you will get should your tenant lose their job.

    I know Ian will think that only evil people lose their jobs, today RBS announced 30,000 job losses, I am sure a fair number of them are tenants. The fact is that anyone can fall off the ladder and while you can be smug if you have never faced such pressures it can very difficult for people in the current economy.

    The other thing to consider is whether you are letting a property that is bigger than your tenants need. I rented a 4 bed house to a family with three children, but due to the ages and sex of the children they were only entitled to payment of the LHA rate for a 3 bedroomed house. That immediately took £250 off the rent. The the wife of the family took a low paid job, her income reduced the housing benefit payable. I looked at their budget and to be honest I do not know how they survive.

    We would all like ideal tenants that pay us way over our mortgage and maintenance costs but a long term view is needed.

    You should not assume that rent will be enough to cover your investment. The sale price of your property is part of the ROI and loss of rent is just part of the deal.

    Next year we will see interest rates rise and many landlords will find they can’t get rental income to cover their mortgage costs. Having lived through 16% interest rates and eye watering mortgage payments I think we will see a lot of blood on the carpet. I predict a rush to sell properties and a glut of properties which will force prices down.

    The good thing is that it will take the amateur Landlords out of the business.




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About the post author:

Tessa Shepperson

Tessa is a lawyer specialising in residential landlord and tenant law. She runs the Landlord Law website (now in its 12th year) and is a director of Easy Law Training Ltd and Your Law Store. Tessa also sits on the Property Redress Scheme Council. When not working she enjoys reading, cooking and messing around on the computer. You can also find her on Google



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Tessa is an English lawyer specialising in residential landlord and tenant law.


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