You may be entitled to a fair rent if your tenancy began before 15 January 1989.
What is a fair rent
A fair rent is lower than the market rent that most private tenants pay.
Regulated tenants are the only private tenants entitled to a fair rent.
You probably have a regulated tenancy if you pay rent to a private landlord and your tenancy started before 15 January 1989.
A rent officer at the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) will set the maximum rent your landlord can charge.
How a fair rent can be increased
If your landlord wants to increase the rent, they have to apply to the VOA for a new fair rent to be registered.
They can only do this every 2 years.
You can also apply to register a fair rent on the property. You may need to do this if there is a dispute with your landlord, for example if they argue you are not a regulated tenant.
Once the rent officer at the VOA registers a new fair rent, your landlord must give you written notice on a special form before you have to pay the new amount.
What the rent officer will look at
The rent officer will take into account:
- the location
- the condition of the property
- who is responsible for repairs
- any furniture provided by your landlord
- any improvements made by your landlord
The rent officer must ignore any improvements you have made. They won't take your circumstances into account, for example if you have a low income.
What to do if you disagree
You can challenge the rent officer’s decision if you think the increase is too high.
You need to write to the rent officer to object within 28 days of receiving the decision.
The rent officer will then pass this to the first tier tribunal. The tribunal will arrange a hearing to decide what the rent should be. Both you and your landlord can attend.
Decide if it's worth challenging
The tribunal could decide the rent should be higher than the amount set by the rent officer.
Before you appeal, check the fair rent register to see how much fair rents are for similar properties in your area.
Appealing a tribunal decision
You may be able to challenge a first tier tribunal decision by appealing to the upper tribunal.
You’ll normally need specialist advice to do this. There's no legal aid available for this.
Get help to pay the increase
A rent increase counts as a change in circumstances if you get housing benefit or universal credit.
Report the rent increase through either:
Provide evidence such as a notice of the increase or a letter from your landlord.
Your benefit won't increase if you get universal credit and the new rent is higher than the local housing allowance (LHA) rate you're entitled to.
You can apply for a discretionary housing payment (DHP) if universal credit doesn't cover the increase.
If your landlord dies or the property is sold
Your regulated tenancy continues if there's a change of landlord. This is sometimes called being a ‘sitting tenant.’
Your fair rent is normally binding on the new landlord.
They must follow the same process if they want to increase your fair rent.
If the type of tenancy changes
You're no longer entitled to a fair rent if there's a change to the type of tenancy.
If you die and a family member who is not your partner inherits the tenancy, it will normally become an assured tenancy.
The landlord can increase the rent in a different way. They will probably start charging a market rent.
Your tenancy type won't change just because you sign a new agreement. You're still a regulated tenant entitled to a fair rent if you've rented the property since before 15 January 1989.
Last updated 28 Nov 2019 | © Shelter
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