This is an anti-landlord column. While I can appreciate that not all landlords are out to get us, it’s undeniable that, for the most part, they’re a**holes. This is why I’ve dedicated a lot of my time to figuring out the easiest ways to keep your landlord’s greedy hands at bay.
In a previous Explained By a Blonde column, we sashayed our way through the simple steps of how to go about taking your landlord to court. In this article, we’re going to be breaking down exactly what you should do if your landlord threatens to increase your rent. So quiet up, and listen down… Just jokking.
Let’s set the scene: it’s early Saturday morning and you’ve received an email from your landlord. Let’s assume his name is Gary—they’re basically all called Gary. Gary lets you know that due to an “unstable market,” he’ll have to increase your rent by five per cent.
While you might be tempted to immediately go into panic mode and start combing through Rightmove for cheaper digs, let’s first run through the steps you can take to dissuade Gary from completely ruining your life.
First thing first, scan the crap out of your tenancy agreement. Half the time, the most important parts of these contracts are in the fine details. Your landlord (Gaz, remember?) has to follow certain rules when it comes to increasing your rent, so it’s important that you first make sure that they’re not violating any aspects of your lease.
All of these rules will depend on what kind of tenancy you have. The most common form of private tenancy is an assured shorthold tenancy (AST). If you lodge with your landlord and share a room with them such as a bathroom, you might have an excluded tenancy. You’ll usually have less protection from eviction with this type of agreement. Finally, there are regulated tenancies, these are agreements starting before 15 January 1989—you’d have increased protection from eviction if you have one of these and you can apply for a “fair rent.”
The most common form of tenancy is an assured shorthold tenancy (AST). If you’re a short-term renter, ie you’re only planning on being in the place for a few years, it’s likely that’ll be the kind of contract you’ll have.
What’s annoying about this particular tenancy type is that it’s very easy for landlords to raise rent willy-nilly—there’s zero limit on agreed rent increases for ASTs. I’m only going to be talking about this type of contract because, not only are they the most common for renters, but they’re also the easiest to navigate if you’re trying to challenge a rent increase.
Some contracts will have rent review sections though. This is a key phrase, you’re going to want to remember it. This is a term in your contract that says how and when your rent can be increased. The clause might be quite general and say something along the lines of “the landlord will review the rent in April each year and give the tenant one month’s notice of any increase,” or even “the rent will increase each April in line with the Retail Price Index (RPI).”
If your landlord tries to raise your rent randomly, and you do not have a rent review clause in your contract, you can explicitly refuse the increase.
The other way a landlord can try to increase your rent is by utilising the Section 13 proposal. If your tenancy agreement doesn’t say what happens after your fixed term ends and you continue to rent, your landlord has to give you notice before they can increase your rent. This is where the section 13 proposal comes in. Even if there is a rent review clause in your agreement, your landlord will still need to use a section 13 notice to increase your rent.
It’s confusing, but the more you know, the less of a chance these landlords have to take the piss. So study up.
When in doubt, negotiate like mad. Landlords might want to increase rent, but they also don’t want to lose good tenants if they can help it.
If you can try and meet Gary in the middle, he might end up lowering his initial rent increase. What could also help is if you remind him that you are not a part-time DJ, nor do you breed guinea pigs—both serious renting deterrents.
This method might seem kind of pointless, but you’d be surprised how impactful a couple of strongly worded emails and a touch of manifestation can be. Don’t hesitate to get some help from ChatGPT for those emails.
However, if negotiation fails, you can always take things to the next level. If you have an AST, you are eligible to apply. The same goes if your rent has been increased through the section 13 proposal and you want to dispute it. You can only apply, however, before the rent increase is due to start.
The tribunal’s main purpose is to try and decide on a new rental agreement for all parties. To apply to the tribunal you’ll need to download and fill in the correct form. You’ll find all of the available options here.
You’re gonna need a whole lot of rosé wine, Dairy Milk, and at least two bags of Wotsits Giants to get through this process. But, if you slap on your sexiest set of acrylics, I truly believe you’ll take Gary down—or at least weasel into his heart and get him to give you a fair deal. Best of luck, girlies.