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Rent assessment

This content applies to England

The role of the Valuation Office Agency and the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) – formerly Rent Assessment Committees – in assessing rents. Hearings and inspections, rent increases after registration, and re-registrations.

The Valuation Office Agency

In England, the functions of the former Rent Service have transferred to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) which is an executive agency of HM Revenue & Customs.

Rent officers have the power to assess and register fair rents for most private-sector residential accommodations let before 15 January 1989. Details of rent officers' decisions are registered on the Rent Register and copies of the decisions are sent to landlords and tenants. The registered rent is the maximum that can usually be charged by a landlord.

The Rent Register is a public document which must be open for public inspection.[1] It is kept at the local Valuation Office where anyone can look at it during normal office hours. It can also be accessed online from the VOA.

Tribunal hearings

From 1 July 2013 the functions of the Rent Assessment Committees are dealt with by the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber).[2]

Both parties should send written evidence in advance of the hearing to the rent officer and s/he will pass the materials to the other party.

First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) hearings are open to the public and are relatively informal, but a tenant may wish to be represented.

Although the Tribunal members are not obliged to, they may wish to inspect the property. Hearings will often be conducted in the morning allowing the Tribunal members to visit properties in the afternoon.

The members will only inspect the property if the tenant agrees. The landlord may be present at the inspection but the tenant can refuse permission for the landlord to be there if s/he wishes. Once the Tribunal has all the necessary information, it will make its decision, usually within a few days of the hearing or inspection. The decision is in the form of a single page with summary reasons attached. Those reasons should enable a party to the appeal to understand why s/he has won or lost the case, and to consider whether there is merit in an appeal.[3] In a case where the Tribunal's decision differed considerably from that of the rent officer, the Upper Tribunal held on appeal that the reasons given were inadequate to explain this, nor did they show the methodology that had been used.[4] 

Appeals against a Tribunal decision

Appeals against a First-tier Tribunal's determination are made to the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber).[5] Applications for appeal must be made within 28 days of the Tribunal sending written reasons for its decision to the applicant.[6] Appeals against Upper Tribunal decisions may only be made on a point of law, ie not a dispute about the facts, and are made to the Court of Appeal.

Increasing the rent after registration

If the rent increases as a result of a registration or re-registration, the landlord must serve a notice of increase before the rent can be increased to the new level. The notice must be in the prescribed form[7] and specify the increase and the date from which it will take effect.[8] This date must not be earlier than the date the registration took effect and not more than four weeks before the date on the notice. If no notice of increase is served, the tenant is not obliged to pay more rent and is able to recover amounts of overpaid rent.[9]

Where the rent is increased by the rent officer and is further increased by the Tribunal, the landlord must serve a fresh notice of increase.

Re-registration

Once a fair rent has been registered it cannot generally be reconsidered for a period of two years. After the expiry of the two-year period either the landlord or the tenant can apply for a new fair rent to be registered.[10] In reality it will usually be the landlord who makes the application for a new fair rent and s/he can apply during the last three months of the two-year period even though any new increase will not be effective until the two-year period has ended.[11]

An application can be made before the expiry of the two-year period where there has been a change in circumstances.

Changes in circumstances

A registered rent can be reconsidered before the expiry of two years on the application of either party if there is a change in one of the following, which makes the registered rent no longer a fair rent:[12]

  • the condition of the property including improvements
  • the terms of the tenancy
  • the quantity, quality or condition of any furniture
  • any other circumstances considered when the rent was registered.

Wales

The information on this page applies only to England. Go to Shelter Cymru for information relating to Wales.

[1] s.87(1) Rent Act 1977.

[2] First-tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal (Chambers) (Amendment) Order 2013 SI 2013/1187.

[3] English v Emery Reimbold & Strick Ltd [2002] EWCA Civ 605.

[4] Trustees of the Israel Moss Children's Trust v Bandy [2015] UKUT 276 (LC).

[5] Tribunal Procedure (Amendment No. 3) Rules 2013 SI 2013/1188.

[6] reg 52 Tribunal Procedure (First-tier Tribunal) (Property Chamber) Rules 2013 SI 2013/1169.

[7] s.49(2) Rent Act 1977; Rent Act 1977 (Forms, etc) Regulations 1980 SI 1980/1697, as amended.

[8] ss.45(2) and 46(2) Rent Act 1977.

[9] s.57(1) Rent Act 1977.

[10] s.67(3) Rent Act 1977.

[11] s.67(4) Rent Act 1977.

[12] s.67(3) Rent Act 1977.

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