Tribunals for rent disputes

You may be able to apply to the first-tier tribunal property chamber if you want to challenge a rent increase by a private landlord or a housing association.

What is the first-tier tribunal (property chamber)?

First-tier tribunals deal with appeals on a range of disputes.

The first-tier tribunal (property chamber) is usually made up of three people appointed by the government, including a lawyer, a qualified member and a lay member.

The qualified member for this type of tribunal is usually a surveyor or a valuer. A lay member can be an interested person but doesn't need any particular qualification. 

Sometimes tribunals can have just two people or one person who is a judge.

Find out more from Gov.uk about applying  to the Property Chamber to solve  a residential property dispute.

Types of dispute the tribunal looks at

The first-tier tribunal (property chamber) can decide on rent disputes about:

  • the amount of an 'open market rent' (or going rate) for assured and assured shorthold tenants when the landlord proposes to increase the rent
  • excessive rents if you are an assured shorthold tenant (providing you apply in the first six months of your tenancy)
  • 'fair rent' appeals if you are a regulated tenant (your tenancy will have started before 15 January 1989)

The actions a tribunal can take depend on the type of tenancy you have.

Assured tenants

If you have an assured tenancy, you can apply to the first-tier tribunal if your landlord serves a section 13 notice, on the correct form, telling you that the rent will be increased.

The landlord can't serve this notice until any fixed term of your original tenancy agreement has ended.

The tribunal will decide what is the market rent for your tenancy. This could be more or less that the landlord set out in the section 13 notice. The landlord can't charge you more than the market rent fixed by the tribunal.

Check with a local advice centre before you apply. An adviser may be able to give you information about typical market rents in your area.

Use Shelter's directory to find an advice centre in your area.

Most housing association tenants and some private tenants have assured tenancies. 

Assured shorthold tenants

You can ask a first-tier tribunal to decide disputes about rent increases and excessive rents if you are an assured shorthold tenant.

Most tenants of private landlords are assured shorthold tenants.

Market rents

Assured shorthold tenants have the right to apply to a first-tier tribunal for a market rent to be fixed.

You can do this after your landlord writes to you to tell you about plans to increase your rent. Your landlord must do this in the correct way by serving a legal notice. This is known as a section 13 notice.

Your landlord doesn't need a legal reason to evict you from an assured shorthold tenancy once any fixed tenancy period has expired. They could decide to do this rather than accept reduced rent.

The tribunal may decide that the market rent is higher than the rent your landlord is asking for and may increase the rent rather than reduce it.

Contact a local advice centre to discuss your options before you decide to go ahead.

Use Shelter's directory to find a local advice centre.

Excessive rents

In the first six months of an assured shorthold tenancy, you can apply to a first-tier tribunal for the rent to be adjusted if you can make a case to show the rent is excessive. 

This only applies to the first six months of the first tenancy of your home. You cannot apply if you later renew the tenancy.

An 'excessive' rent is a rent that is significantly higher than rents for similar properties in the area.

Regulated tenants

You are probably a regulated tenant if your private tenancy started before 15 January 1989.

If you have a regulated tenancy with a private landlord, you or your landlord can apply for a fair rent to be set by a rent officer at the Valuation Office Agency.

Once a fair rent has been registered, your landlord can't charge you more than the fair rent and it can't usually be reconsidered for a period of two years. There are exceptions. Find out more about rent and rent increases.

You or your landlord can object to the fair rent assessment by the rent officer by writing to them within 28 days. The rent officer refers the case to the first-tier tribunal to decide the fair rent.

Find out more from Gov.uk about regulated tenancies.

Can a landlord evict a tenant for applying to the tribunal?

Before taking any action, it is important to consider if your landlord might take steps to evict you for applying to a tribunal about a rent dispute.

It is quite straightforward for your landlord to evict you if you are an assured shorthold tenant. They do not need a legal reason but they must follow the proper eviction procedures.

If you are an assured or regulated it is much harder for your landlord to evict you. They will need a legal reason, for example rent arrears. 

Get advice first if you are not sure whether to apply to a tribunal. Use Shelter's directory to find an advice centre in your area.

Applying to a first-tier tribunal

To apply to the tribunal, download and fill in the correct form for your application.

After the tribunal receives an application, it writes to you and your landlord.

You can reply in writing. You can also request an oral hearing.

Before the hearing, send any written evidence in support of your case to the tribunal. The tribunal should give you and your landlord copies of any documents that have been submitted as evidence.

Find out more from Gov.uk about applying to the tribunal.

At the hearing

You can represent yourself at the first-tier tribunal but you can also bring an adviser or solicitor.

Find out more about getting legal advice and representation.

Both you and your landlord have the opportunity to give evidence, call witnesses and question each other.

The tribunal members could ask to inspect your home. They can only do this if you agree to it. The landlord is usually allowed to be present at the inspection but you can refuse permission for your landlord to be there.

Hearings are open to the public, but aren't usually attended by anyone other than you, landlords and representatives.

Tribunal decisions

Once the tribunal has all the information it needs, it makes its decision, usually within a few days of the hearing or inspection.

Written confirmation of the decision is sent to both you and your landlord.

The decision is binding on both you and your landlord.

Appeals against decisions of a first-tier tribunal

Get advice from a specialist housing adviser or solicitor if you are unhappy with a first-tier tribunal decision.

There may be ways to challenge the decision, for example by appealing to the upper tribunal.

 

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