Rents in the private sector tend to be higher than council or housing association rents.
The rules on rent levels and rent increases depend on the type of tenancy you have. Use our tenancy checker to check what type of tenancy you have.
Questions to ask 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 the following in writing:
- How much rent you will pay and exactly what it includes. Check whether the rent includes bills and council tax and work out 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 'rent review' clauses in the tenancy agreement, which allow the rent to be increased.
When can the rent be increased?
The rules on how and when your rent can be increased often depend on whether your tenancy is ‘fixed-term’ (that is, for a fixed period of time such as six months) or periodic (rolling from week to week or month to month). They also depend on the type of tenancy you have (see below).
If you have a fixed-term tenancy, your landlord cannot normally increase the rent until the fixed-term ends. The only exceptions to this are if you agree to the increase (in which case, if you are a regulated tenant, a special form must be used) or if there is a clause in your agreement saying that the rent will be increased.
Once the fixed-term has ended and your tenancy becomes periodic, most private tenants will find it difficult to argue against rent increases. This is particularly true for tenants who don't have much protection from eviction, such as assured shorthold tenants, excluded occupiers and occupiers with basic protection). Your landlord may simply choose to evict you using the appropriate procedure, rather than forgo the rent increase.
Some private tenants, however, have more protection from eviction and may be able to get a proposed rent increase stopped. This includes people who have regulated tenancies (protected by the Rent Act) or assured tenancies.
Your rights and options depend on the type of tenancy you have (see below).
Use Shelter's tenancy checker to check what type of tenancy you have
Rent increases if you have an assured shorthold tenancy
If you have an assured shorthold tenancy, (which most private tenants do) your landlord can charge you a 'market rent'. Market rents are the ‘going rate’ and are affected by the availability and cost of other similar accommodation in the area.
However, assured shorthold tenants don't have much protection from eviction. Your landlord may prefer to evict you legally at the end of the fixed-term rather than reduce the amount of rent they want to charge. Think carefully and get advice before taking any action. Also bear in mind that a rent tribunal may decide to put the rent up if they think it is lower than comparable properties in the area.
Many landlords will increase the rent when they renew your tenancy agreement. In reality, you don't have very much power to stop them from doing this. As assured shorthold tenants can be evicted without a legal reason, your landlord may decide to find a new tenant if you don't agree to pay it. If you do sign a new agreement, you will not be able to apply to a rent tribunal. If you want to stay in your home, you may have little choice but to accept the increase with the new fixed-term if your landlord is not prepared to negotiate.
In theory, if the fixed-term of your tenancy has ended and your landlord has not given you a new fixed-term agreement, your rent can only be increased if your landlord follows the procedures that apply to assured tenants (see below). However, as your landlord can evict you by giving you two months' notice at any time, challenging rent increases that have not been made properly may be difficult.
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. Alternatively, your landlord may agree to increase the rent in stages over a period of time.
If you cannot afford the rent increase and you cannot get your landlord to agree to a cheaper rent, you may have to look for somewhere else to live.
Rent increases if you have an assured tenancy
You may have an assured tenancy if you moved into your home between 15 January 1989 and 27 February 1997 and your landlord did not give you a notice saying that you have an assured shorthold tenancy.
Assured tenants pay 'market rents'. Market rents are affected by the availability and cost of other similar accommodation in the area. Assured tenancies provide a high level of security and your landlord cannot evict you without a legal reason. Therefore, challenging rent increases will not put your home at risk unless there are other reasons why your landlord might be able to evict you (for example, for rent arrears).
Your rent cannot be increased during the fixed-term of your tenancy unless you agree to it or your tenancy agreement says it will be increased.
After any fixed-term expires, your rent can only be increased if:
- 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
- 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). Notice of changing any other terms of your tenancy must give you at least three months' warning.
If you are not happy about a proposed rent increase, get advice as soon as you can.
Use Shelter's directory to find face-to-face advice in your local area
If your tenancy agreement does not contain information about rent increases, you may not have to accept the increase and can continue to pay the original level of rent until you and your landlord reach an agreement, or your landlord serves formal notice of intent to increase rent.
However, if you pay it, the law assumes it has been negotiated and you have accepted it. You will be bound by the increase and unable to get back any additional money you have paid.
Your landlord must use a special procedure to serve notice of intent to increase. If this happens, get in touch with a local advice centre. You may have the right to apply to a rent tribunal. However, you need to bear in mind that the tribunal may decide to put the rent up if they think it is lower than comparable properties in the area. Your local advice centre may be able to tell you what decisions the tribunal has made on similar properties in your area.
Rent increases if you have a regulated (protected) tenancy
If your tenancy started before 15 January 1989 you may have a regulated or protected tenancy. Regulated or protected 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 or rent tribunal sets as the maximum that your landlord can charge. Either the landlord or the tenant can apply to have a fair rent registered.
Fair rents can normally be increased once every two years. They can usually only be increased by a certain amount, which is calculated using a special formula. Although if the landlord has made substantial improvements to your home, the rent increase may be higher.
If you disagree with a fair rent that has been registered you can appeal to the rent tribunal.
If you are a lodger or live with your landlord
In most cases, if you are an excluded occupier or an occupier with basic protection, your landlord can charge you any rent they want and you have no right to challenge this nor any subsequent rent increases. Your only option is to attempt to negotiate with your landlord.
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.
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, excluded occupiers and occupiers with basic protection have very limited rights and can be evicted easily. It is important that you consider this possibility very carefully and get advice before taking any action. Use our directory to find an adviser in your area.
A small number of tenants of resident landlords, who moved in before 15 January 1989, may have a 'restricted contract' tenancy. If you have such a contract, you may have the right to a reasonable rent being set by a rent tribunal. Get advice if you think you may be in this situation. Use our directory to find an adviser in your area
Do you claim housing benefit?
You should always inform the council's housing benefit department of any changes in your circumstances straightaway.
Tell the council if your rent goes up. You may need to provide evidence of the rent increase, for example a letter from your landlord or a written decision from a rent tribunal.
If you receive local housing allowance, (this will be the case for most new claims by private tenants) the amount you get will probably remain unchanged. However, if you claim housing benefit under the normal rules, the council will reassess your claim and inform you of your new entitlement. If your new entitlement does not cover the whole of your rent, get advice.
What if your 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.
If you pay your 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.
Last updated: 1 January 2014