With thousands struggling to get on the property ladder there is greater demand for rental homes. As a result, private rents are creeping up.
But where do you stand if your landlord wants to put up your rent?
Here is a breakdown of your rights as a tenant:
Can my landlord put up the rent?
Landlords have the right to charge as much as they like for their property. However, there are some restrictions as to what they can do and when, especially when it comes to upping your rent.
The only exception to this is if rental reviews were written into your original tenancy agreement. If this is the case it will detail how often the rent can be changed and how the new level will be set.
You should refer to your original rental agreement if you are unsure if you agreed to rental reviews when you signed the contract.
Firstly, if you have signed a fixed term tenancy agreement - this will usually be for 6 or 12 months - then your landlord cannot increase the rent during that time without your consent.
If you are looking to rent a new property this is always something you should check and query before signing.
However, if you have come to the end of a fixed term lease and have not signed a new contract your landlord can issue a formal 'notice of increase' giving you at least a months' notice that they are putting up your rent. If you have a yearly tenancy, they must give you six months notice.
Your landlord is legally entitled to do this as they only agreed to fix your rent at its current level for the duration of your fixed term tenancy agreement.
What can you do?
You do not have to automatically accept the increase and you can negotiate with your landlord, or ultimately appeal to an independent committee against the decision.
Before complaining about a proposed rent increase you should try and negotiate directly with your landlord, are there any ways you can agree on a new price which suits both parties?
If you are faced with a rent hike you should look at how much a similar property would cost to rent in the same area.
If you find that there are similar properties available for less than what your landlord is asking for you can use this as a negotiating tool to lower your rent.
If your landlord is insistent that your rent be set at a higher level then you can try and soften the blow by negotiating the inclusion of some household bills.
Some landlords may be willing to include utility bills such as water, gas and telephone in your agreement or even more luxury bills, such as broadband or digital TV in return for an increase.
A proposed rental increase from your landlord may also be an opportunity to get any maintenance or improvement work done to your home.
There is nothing to stop you asking for jobs to be completed before you start paying the higher rent your landlord wants.
Can I complain?
A Rent Assessment Committee can act as an independent arbitrator and decide a fair maximum rent for your property.
If you feel that the increase in rent proposed by your landlord is unfair and are unable to come to an agreement with them, you can refer your case to your local Rent Assessment Committee.
Be warned though, the committee can set the maximum higher than the amount originally proposed by your landlord if they feel that is what you would pay to rent a similar property in the same area.
There is also a 1 month time limit on referrals - so submit your case as soon as possible - plus if you start paying the higher rent rate you won't be allowed to refer your case, as it is treated as you accepting the rent increase by the Rent Assessment Committee.
Are there any exceptions?
Not all tenants are protected by the same laws and while the above applies to most rental properties there are some exceptions if you have a different type of rental agreement in place.
Live in landlord
If you are living as a lodger in your landlord's house, then your rights to refuse an increase in rent are much more limited. In most cases it will simply be a case of pay up or pack your bags.
If you moved into your rental property before 15th January 1989 then you may be classed as a 'protected tenant'. This would mean you have more rights if your landlord decides they want to charge more rent.
They cannot simply inform you of an increase but instead must ask an independent rent office to set a fair rent for your property for the next 12 months.
If you believe that you may be a 'Protected tenant' or you are unsure of what type of tenancy you hold you should refer to your rental contract.
Alternatives if rent negotiations fail
If your landlord will not negotiate, or you can't afford the increased rate then you may want to consider the following:
Share your property
If your landlord is insistent that your rent is increased and you want to stay in your home you could consider sharing your property and splitting the rent.
However, before you simply invite a friend or family member to move in, you will need to speak to your landlord and get their agreement and discuss if a new rental contract including the new tenant is required.
If you are on a low income and will struggle to pay your new rent but don't want to move you may be able to get some financial help.
There are also a number of charities that can help you to review your options if you're facing an unaffordable rent hike, such as;
If you are faced with a rent hike and cannot agree a compromise with your landlord then you may need to look elsewhere.
Finding somewhere nearby that is a similar quality, size, and price would be ideal, however you may have to look further afield or at different types of properties to keep your rent down.
Property sites allow you to search local estate agents for listed properties that meet your needs, some of the most commonly used sites include:
Your landlord upping the rent may provide a good opportunity to review your long terms plans.
However, remember that a mortgage is a much bigger commitment than renting so you will need to make sure you can afford the repayments for the foreseeable future before signing on the dotted line.