Law guide: Landlords

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This guidance applies to tenancies let as assured and assured shorthold tenancies. For types of tenancy see Types of tenancy (England & Wales).

A tenancy agreement should state the amount of rent to be paid, when it's due, how it should be paid, and what it covers (for example, whether it includes an amount for any utilities or services).

Fixed-term tenancies

A fixed-term tenancy runs for a specified period (for example, 12 months).

You can only increase the rent during the fixed term if the tenancy agreement allows this or the tenant agrees to a rent increase, otherwise, you must wait until the fixed term ends.

At the end of the fixed term, you can:

  • let the tenancy automatically become a statutory periodic tenancy and then increase the rent from the start of the statutory periodic tenancy; or
  • replace the original fixed-term tenancy agreement with a new one at a higher rent (with the original tenant or a new tenant).

You should give the tenant notice of your intentions well before the fixed term ends.

Ways to change the rent

By agreement

The tenancy agreement might state when and how the rent will be reviewed (for longer tenancies). If it doesn't, you can make a separate agreement with the tenant to increase the rent from an agreed date. If the tenancy agreement (or a separate agreement) covers rent reviews, you should follow the terms stated in the agreement.

If someone other than the tenant is guaranteeing payment of the rent, make sure that the guarantee is changed so it will cover the increased rent.

By notice using procedures under the Housing Act 1988

If the tenancy agreement doesn't cover rent reviews, you don't have a separate agreement, or you haven't been able to agree a new amount of rent with the tenant, you may be able to use one of the procedures set out in the Housing Act 1988:

  • You can serve a written notice on the tenant to propose a rent increase for an assured or assured shorthold periodic tenancy (section 13 of the Housing Act).
  • The tenant can apply to the First-tier Tribunal or rent assessment committee for a rent review within the first 6 months of an assured shorthold tenancy (only) on the basis the rent is excessive (section 22 of the Housing Act).
  • You or the tenant can serve a notice on the other to propose new terms including a new rent during the first 12 months of a statutory periodic tenancy (section 6 of the Housing Act).

Notice of a rent increase under s 13 Housing Act

If the tenancy is an assured periodic tenancy (i.e. a Contractual periodic tenancy or Statutory periodic tenancy) and there is no agreement with the tenant regarding increasing the rent, you can serve a written notice on the tenant to do this called:

  • 'Landlord's notice proposing a new rent under an Assured Periodic Tenancy of premises situated in England', or
  • 'Landlord's notice proposing a new rent under an Assured Periodic Tenancy of premises situated in Wales'.

Section 13 of the Housing Act sets out the rules that apply to the above notice (referred to as a 'section 13' notice in this section). This notice tells the tenant the proposed new rent and the date that it will take effect.

If the tenancy is a contractual periodic tenancy you must wait 52 weeks from the start of the tenancy agreement to serve this notice to increase the rent.

If the tenancy is a statutory periodic tenancy, you can increase the rent at any time after the end of the fixed term but you must still give the tenant a minimum period of time before the rent increase begins (see below).

However, if you've previously served a section 13 notice to increase the rent for a periodic tenancy, you normally can't increase it again for at least 52 weeks from the date the last rent increase took effect

If the tenant agrees to the proposed rent increase in your section 13 notice, the new rent will start after a minimum period of time (see below).

You and the tenant can agree a rent increase (or a different rent) even after a section 13 notice has been served.

If the tenant doesn't agree to the rent increase, they can apply to the First-tier tribunal or a rent assessment committee to set the rent.

The minimum period of time before the rent increases

The minimum period of time you must give the tenant between serving a section 13 notice on them and when the rent increase begins is:

  • One month for weekly, fortnightly or monthly tenancies
  • One quarter for a quarterly tenancy
  • 6 months for a 6-monthly tenancy or yearly tenancy

The new rent should take effect on the first day of a rental period (for example, the first day of the month for a monthly tenancy, or the first day of the quarter for a quarterly tenancy). This will usually be the day when the rent is paid (although you and the tenant might have agreed to a different rent payment date).

How to serve a section 13 notice on the tenant

As a section 13 notice is a notice served under legislation (i.e. the Housing Act), it is called a 'statutory notice'.

If the tenancy agreement has a paragraph about serving notices

If the tenancy agreement says anything about serving notices, you must be sure that it also includes serving 'statutory' notices. Not all tenancy agreements state this specifically.

Some tenancy agreements include a paragraph stating that notices must be served using 'Section 196 of the Law of Property Act 1925'. It states that notices:

  • must be in writing;
  • must be addressed to the tenant;
  • can be served by:
    • leaving it at the last known address where the tenant lives; or
    • sending it by recorded or special delivery at the last known address where the tenant lives so long as it is not returned by the postal operator (so you won't have to prove that it was delivered to the tenant).

Again, it must also clearly state that this includes service of statutory notices as well.

If statutory notices are mentioned, then you should serve the section 13 notice in the way set out in the tenancy agreement. If the tenancy agreement allows you to service by fax or email, this isn't recommended as it is harder to prove that the tenant received the notice.

If the tenancy agreement contains a paragraph about how to serve notices, but it is unclear whether it applies to statutory notices, you should seek legal advice. Otherwise, if the correct procedure is not followed the section 13 notice could be served incorrectly and be invalid.

If the tenancy agreement doesn't have a paragraph about serving notices

If the tenancy agreement doesn't say how notices must be served you can do it personally or by post.

The best way to serve the notice is by personally serving it on the tenant. You should include a covering letter, and serve each tenant with a copy of the notice. You're recommended to print an extra copy of the notice for each tenant to sign and date to keep for your records.

Otherwise, you must serve the notice by post, making sure that it and any covering letter is properly addressed to the tenant and pre-paid. Since you will have to prove that it was delivered, you are recommended to use Recorded Signed For or Special Delivery. If you use ordinary post, you should obtain a receipt of posting from the postal service and follow it up by contacting the tenant to confirm receipt.

Further rent increase after serving a section 13 notice

You normally can't increase the rent again for at least 52 weeks from the date the rent increase stated in the section 13 notice takes effect. You can agree a rent increase from an earlier date if the tenant agrees to it.

Tenant's challenge to a section 13 notice

If the tenant wants to challenge a rent increase proposed in the landlord's notice, they can apply to the First-tier Tribunal or rent assessment committee to set the rent.

The tenant must apply before the date stated in the section 13 notice for a new rent to take effect.

The First-tier Tribunal or rent assessment committee is independent of central and local government (though appointed by government ministers); it's usually made up of a lawyer or property valuer, and one or 2 'lay' people. There's no charge to apply for a rent review decision.

The Tribunal or committee can make a decision by simply considering the papers submitted to it. You or the tenant can also ask for an informal hearing, which you can both attend.

How does the tribunal/rent assessment committee decide rent?

The Tribunal or committee will:

  • consider what rent the landlord could reasonably expect to get for a property let on the open market under a new periodic tenancy on the same terms (disregarding any improvements carried out by the tenant and any disrepair that's the tenant's responsibility);
  • agree the landlord's proposed rent increase, or set a higher or lower rent.

The rent set by the Tribunal or committee is the legal maximum you can charge. The new rent takes effect from the date stated in the section 13 notice (or a later date if specified to avoid undue hardship to the tenant).

Further rent increase after a formal rent decision

You normally can't increase the rent again for at least 52 weeks from the date the rent increase set by the Tribunal or committee takes effect. You can agree a rent increase from an earlier date if the tenant agrees to it.

If the tenant doesn't agree to a proposed new rent increase, they can again apply to the Tribunal or rent assessment committee for a new rent decision.

Tenant's application for a rent review under s22 of Housing Act (excessive rent)

A tenant can apply for a rent review for an assured shorthold tenancy (under section 22 of the Housing Act 1988) if they think the rent is excessive compared to rents on the open market.

The tenant must apply to the First-tier Tribunal or rent assessment committee within 6 months from the tenancy start date (or within 6 months of the start of the original tenancy if the tenancy replaces another tenancy).

The Tribunal or committee will compare the rent with open-market rents of similar properties and will only change the rent if it is significantly higher.

It won't make a rent decision if there aren't enough similar properties in the area for comparison.

The rent set by the Tribunal or rent assessment committee is the legal maximum you can charge. This amount takes effect from the date specified by the tribunal. That date can't be earlier than the date of the tenant's application.

You cannot further increase the rent for a year after the date the rent set by the tribunal takes effect, unless the tenant agrees.

Change the tenancy terms under s 6 Housing Act (statutory periodic tenancies)

A statutory periodic tenancy is created when a fixed-term tenancy ends and the tenant stays in possession of the property without a new tenancy agreement. The statutory periodic tenancy usually continues on the same terms as the previous tenancy (but is not fixed term).

In the first 12 months of a statutory periodic tenancy, you or the tenant may serve a written notice on the other under section 6 of the Housing Act 1988 to propose new terms, including a new rent. This notice is called 'Notice proposing different terms for a statutory periodic tenancy' (or a 'section 6 notice' for short).

If you and the tenant agree the new terms, you can change the tenancy agreement to include the new terms (including a new rent). You're recommended to confirm the new terms in writing (but this isn't compulsory).

If you can't agree new terms

You or the tenant can apply to the First-tier Tribunal or rent assessment committee to make a decision on the tenancy terms (including any change to the rent).

You or the tenant must apply within 3 months of receiving the 'Notice proposing different terms for a statutory periodic tenancy'; the application must be made on a form called:

  • 'Application referring a notice proposing different terms for a statutory periodic tenancy to the First-tier Tribunal (England)'; or
  • 'Application referring a notice proposing different terms for a statutory periodic tenancy to a rent assessment committee' (Wales).

The Tribunal or rent assessment committee will:

  • decide whether the proposed new terms are reasonable or whether other terms are more appropriate; and
  • consider whether to set a higher rent or a lower rent to reflect the new terms (whether or not you or the tenant proposed a new rent for the new tenancy terms).

The new terms and new rent (if a new rent is decided), will take effect from the decision date. (Any new rent can't take effect earlier than the date in the 'Notice proposing different terms for a statutory periodic tenancy'.)

If the Tribunal or rent assessment committee decides new terms, you can only make further changes to the terms of the statutory periodic tenancy if the tenant agrees to the new terms.

Right of appeal from decision of tribunal/rent assessment committee

The decision of the Tribunal or rent assessment committee is binding on you and the tenant. You or the tenant can appeal to the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber), but only in relation to a legal issue and not a factual dispute.

You must get permission to appeal from the Tribunal or rent assessment committee that made the decision, or from the Upper Tribunal. The appeal should be made within 28 days of receiving the full reasons for the decision.

You could also seek permission from the High Court to challenge the decision by judicial review if you think there's been a breach of the rules of natural justice. You're recommended to seek legal advice about this.

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