Rents in the private sector tend to be higher than council or housing association rents, but different tenancies have different rules on paying rent and rent increases.
Before moving in
Before you move into a privately rented home or sign an agreement, you should ask your landlord or letting agent to confirm in writing:
- how much rent you will pay and what it includes. Check whether the rent includes bills and council tax and decide whether you can afford it before you sign any agreement.
- when you should pay. Rent is usually paid weekly or monthly in advance, with the first payment due when you move in.
- how you should pay. Your landlord may prefer you to pay by standing order, cheque, or cash. If you pay cash, always make sure you are given a receipt.
- any clauses that are in your tenancy agreement, which allow the rent to be increased.
Have a look at our 10 Top Tips for staying safe renting a property privately.
What if I pay my rent weekly?
If you pay a weekly rent, your landlord is legally obliged to give you a rent book, unless your rent includes a substantial proportion for food and other services. Rent books must include:
- the name and address of the landlord, and the landlord’s agent if they have one
- the rent payable
- information about your rights to protection from eviction
- information about your right to claim Housing Benefit
- information about agencies who can give you further advice.
When can my rent be increased?
Some private tenants live in their homes for years without the rent being increased. However your rent can be increased at any time if you agree to it. Even if you don’t agree to it, most tenants will find it difficult to argue against rent increases. Some tenants, such as those with regulated (protected) and assured tenancies, will have more rights, however.
If you don’t agree to a rent increase, your landlord may only be able to increase the rent at certain times. There may be a limit on how often your landlord can increase the rent. Your landlord may also have to follow a specific procedure for the increase to be legal. The rules depend on the type of tenancy you have.
If your tenancy is for a fixed period of time (known as ‘fixed term’), such as six months or a year, your landlord cannot increase the rent until the fixed term ends. The only exceptions to this are if you agree to the increase (using a special form if you are a regulated tenant) or there is a clause in your agreement saying that the rent will be increased.
How much can it be increased by?
There is a limit to the amount that some rents can be increased by. This depends on the type of tenancy you have. Sometimes tenancy agreements contain information about rent increases, setting out when the rent will be increased and by how much.
Assured and assured shorthold tenants
If you are an assured or an assured shorthold tenant of a private landlord, your landlord will be charging you a ‘market rent’. Market rents are affected by the availability and cost of other similar accommodation in the area. If you are an assured tenant, you have good security and have more chance of influencing when and by how much the rent is increased. If you are an assured shorthold tenant, although the same rules apply about rent increases, in reality, if your landlord wants to increase your rent, you don’t have very much power to stop them.
If you have a fixed term tenancy, your rent cannot be increased during the fixed term unless you agree to it or your tenancy agreement says it will be increased. Many landlords will increase the rent when they renew your assured shorthold tenancy agreement. It can be difficult to challenge the increase if you are an assured shorthold tenant because your landlord can evict you quite easily if you don’t agree to pay it.
After any fixed term expires, your rent can be increased if:
- you agree to the increase
- your tenancy agreement contains a procedure for rent increases (this is unusual) that your landlord follows
- your landlord gives you written notice of the proposed increase (a ‘section 13 Notice’), or
- your landlord gives you written notice of making a change to the terms of your tenancy.
The amount of notice your landlord gives you before the rent increase takes effect must be at least one rental period (usually one month).
If your tenancy was ‘periodic’ from the beginning – the tenancy runs from week to week, month to month or even year to year – and the landlord serves you with a notice to increase the rent, the new rent cannot start earlier than one year after the beginning of the tenancy.
When the landlord tries to increase the rent, you have the right to apply to a Rent Assessment Committee (RAC) to set a market rent in some circumstances. The RAC is part of the Residential Property Tribunal. You must do this before the date the new rent is due to start.
However, since assured shorthold tenants don’t have very strong rights, your landlord may prefer to evict you (they must get a court order first) rather than reduce the amount of rent they want to charge.
It may be worth negotiating with your landlord to try to agree a lower rent increase in return for not having to re-let the property or having the rent decided by a RAC. Alternatively, your landlord may agree to increase the rent in stages over a period of time.
Regulated (or protected) tenants
If your tenancy started before 15 January 1989 you may have a ‘regulated’ or ‘protected’ tenancy. Regulated tenants have a high level of security and are entitled to ‘fair rents’. A fair rent is an amount of rent that a rent officer sets as the maximum that your landlord can charge.
Fair rents can normally be increased once every two years. They can usually only be increased by a certain amount that is calculated using a formula. If your landlord has made substantial improvements to your home, the rent increase may be higher. There is a limit to the size of the increase each time. If you disagree with the fair rent that has been registered you can appeal to a Rent Assessment Committee.
Other tenants or licensees
Landlords of all other types of tenants do not have to follow specific procedures to increase the rent. In most cases, the rent can be increased at any time after the fixed term of the tenancy has ended.
In most cases, if you are a tenant living with your landlord, or a licensee, your landlord can charge you any rent they want and you have no right to challenge this nor any subsequent rent increases, unless you are able to negotiate with your landlord.
If you have a written agreement outlining how the rent can be increased, and your landlord tries to increase your rent without following the procedure in this agreement, they may be in breach of contract. However, licensees and tenants with a resident landlord have very limited rights and can be evicted easily. It is important that you consider the situation very carefully before taking any action and, if you are in this position, consult an adviser.
Will my Housing Benefit or Universal Credit housing costs be affected?
Yes. If you are claiming Housing Benefit or Universal Credit and your rent is increased, you should inform the council or the DWP straightaway. You will need to provide evidence of the rent increase. Your claim should then be looked at again and you should be told about any new entitlement. If your new entitlement does not cover the whole of your rent, get advice. You might be able to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment to help you.
My landlord won’t accept the rent
If your landlord stops collecting or refuses to accept your rent because of a dispute, you should take steps to protect yourself, since the landlord may try to evict you for non-payment of rent. Write to your landlord stating you wish to pay the rent, and keep a copy of the letter. Also, set up a bank or building society account and pay your rent into it, so that you have the money to pay when the landlord eventually agrees to accept it or if s/he takes you to court on grounds of rent arrears. Do not spend the money or use the account for any other purpose.