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Challenging a rent increase

This advice applies to England

Check if this advice applies to you

This advice will usually apply to you if all the following are true:

  • you have a private landlord
  • you don’t live with your landlord
  • you started renting on or after 15 January 1989

In most cases this means you’ll have an ‘assured shorthold tenancy’ or ‘assured tenancy’.

This advice applies to people with one of these tenancies. It’s worth checking your tenancy agreement to make sure.

If you’re not sure, or you have a different kind of agreement with a private landlord, check your tenancy type if you rent from a private landlord.

You should try to speak to your landlord if you don't agree with your rent increase.

You might be able to come to an agreement - find out more in dealing with a rent increase.

Your landlord has to give you a section 13 notice if they want to increase your rent.

You shouldn't get a section 13 notice if:

  • your rent increase is already agreed in your tenancy agreement, for example if you have a 'rent review clause'
  • you're in the fixed term period of your tenancy

If you have a rent review clause

If you have a rent review clause, your landlord can usually increase your rent at certain times during the fixed term of your tenancy without giving you a section 13 notice.

There are exceptions though so if you're not sure if your landlord can increase your rent, get help from your nearest Citizens Advice.

Check your section 13 notice is valid

Your landlord has to give you a valid section 13 notice before increasing your rent. You can still challenge your rent increase even if the new section 13 notice is valid.

Your section 13 notice might not be valid if, for example:

  • your landlord hasn't given you the right amount of notice for the rent increase - this will depend on your tenancy but must be at least a month
  • there's a mistake on it, for example it's got the wrong name or address
  • your landlord wants to increase your rent during a fixed-term tenancy
  • your landlord hasn't signed the notice
  • your landlord hasn't used the correct form - you can see an example of Form 4 on GOV.UK

When you can challenge your rent increase

If you can't come to an agreement with your landlord, you might be able to challenge your rent increase.

You can challenge your rent increase if you've got a section 13 notice and:

  • the increase is unreasonable - for example if your home's in a bad condition because your landlord hasn't done repairs when they should have
  • you haven't yet paid the increased amount

There are other reasons why you can challenge your rent increase - contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you need help.

Applying to challenge your rent increase

If you and your landlord can't agree on your rent increase you can ask a tribunal to decide for you - it's free to apply.

You'll need to apply before the date your rent increase is due to start - you can find this on your section 13 notice.

The tribunal is made up of 2 or 3 professionals, for example solicitors or surveyors. They'll look at the cost of renting similar properties in your area. They'll also look at what your landlord could charge if a new tenant was renting the property.

The tribunal will then decide if your rent increase is fair.

If the tribunal decides your rent increase is fair, they'll tell you how much your rent should be. You'll have to pay that amount. If they decide it isn't fair, your rent won't be increased.

You'll need to print and fill in form Rents1 at GOV.UK. Make sure you read the notes before you fill in the form.

You'll need to give details about the property you're renting, including:

  • the address
  • the rent you pay now
  • any improvements you've made and paid for yourself - for example if you've decorated or had a new kitchen fitted
  • repairs your landlord is responsible for on your tenancy agreement

You'll also need to send a copy of your section 13 notice and your tenancy agreement with your application.

You'll need to get evidence together to show why you think your rent increase is unfair. You don't need to send your evidence with your application form - the tribunal will write to you telling you when to send it.

Remember to sign and date your form - your application won't be valid if you don't.

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you need help to fill in the form.

Send your application

The tribunal must get your application before your rent increase is due to start, so make sure you send it as soon as possible. They have to get the application between Monday and Friday.

For example, if your rent is due to increase on Monday, you'll need to make sure the tribunal gets your application on the Friday before. It won't count if your application gets there on a Saturday or Sunday.

You'll need to send your application by post - you can't apply online. If you live near the tribunal office, you could take your application yourself.

It's worth keeping a copy of your application if you can - you might need it if, for example, if it gets lost in the post. It's also worth getting a free 'proof of posting' receipt from the Post Office.

Check which tribunal office you need to send your application to. The details are at the end of the application form.

If you're not sure which tribunal office to send it to, phone the one you think it might be. All the phone numbers for the tribunal offices are on the application form.

The tribunal will write to tell you they've got your application. If you don't get a letter within 7 days, call the tribunal office to check if they've received it.

The tribunal will also write to your landlord to tell them you're challenging your rent increase.

The tribunal will write to you again within 28 days of receiving your application.

They'll tell you when they're going to make a decision about your rent increase.

If your rent increase is due to start

It can take up to 10 weeks for the tribunal to make a decision.

If the tribunal decides your rent should be increased you'll have to pay it from the date given on the section 13 notice.

If you can, it's probably best to save money towards your rent increase if it's due to start before the tribunal makes a decision. That way, you won't have to find a large sum of money if your rent is increased.

Get your evidence

The tribunal will tell you when to send your evidence about your rent increase.
You'll need to send your evidence to the tribunal and to your landlord. Make sure you keep a copy of any evidence you send.

You'll usually have to send your evidence at least 7 days before the hearing - check your letter to find out when you need to send it.

What evidence you'll need

Try to find out what others pay for similar properties in your area. You could speak to a local letting agent, look online or ask friends and family. You can then use this as evidence.

Any evidence you get will need to be for a property that's similar to yours. For example, if you live in a one-bedroom furnished flat, compare it with another one-bedroom furnished flat in your area.

If your friends and neighbours are paying more than you, it's probably not worth challenging your rent increase.

The tribunal could increase your rent by more than your landlord is asking, although it's unlikely they'll do that.

Send your evidence

You'll need to photocopy your evidence and send it to the tribunal and to your landlord. You might be able to email some of your evidence - check with your tribunal office to see if you can.

You don't have to send your evidence until you've seen what your landlord has sent - they'll usually have to send theirs about a week before you.

If your landlord doesn't send evidence by the date on the letter, call your tribunal office to see if they've received it.

Decide what type of hearing you want

The tribunal will ask you what type of hearing you want - they'll ask in one of the letters they send you. Most tribunals for rent increases are based on the evidence you send - this is called a 'paper hearing'.

You or your landlord can ask to go to a hearing instead - this is called an 'oral hearing'.

If your landlord asks for an oral hearing, don't feel you need to go if you don't want to.

It might be best to go to an oral hearing if your landlord asks for one - you'll be able to answer any questions the tribunal members have. You'll also be able to hear what your landlord is saying about your situation.

You'll usually need to go to the tribunal office or another office near your home for the hearing - you'll get a letter telling you where you need to go.

Court hearings by phone or video call

The court will tell you what kind of hearing you’ll have. Check how to prepare for a hearing by phone or video call.

If you have an oral hearing

The tribunal members will ask you and your landlord questions at the hearing - it's a formal process but it's not as formal as going to court. The tribunal members will explain everything to you and answer any questions you have about the process.

Both you and your landlord can take someone with you to the hearing if you want. You could take a friend to support you and make notes if you think it would help.

You could also get help from a legal representative, for example a solicitor, but you'd probably have to pay for this and it can be expensive. Ask your nearest Citizens Advice if they can recommend someone.

Some tribunal offices will tell you if you can get free legal advice from any local law companies or colleges. If they do, they'll send you the details when they write to you.

Some solicitors offer their services for free to people who can't get legal aid or afford to pay for legal help. Visit LawWorks or The Bar Pro Bono Unit for more information.

Let the tribunal inspect your home

The tribunal members will usually ask to see inside your home to help them make their decision about your rent increase. This is called an inspection.

They'll want to inspect your home on the day they make their decision - it doesn't matter what type of hearing you have.

They'll look at all the evidence before they do the inspection, so they'll know your reasons for challenging the rent increase.

If you're having an oral hearing, the tribunal will make sure you have enough time to get home for the inspection.

If you refuse an inspection

You can refuse to let the tribunal members visit your home but it's best to let them in. It means they'll be able to see any problems in your home, for example any repairs the landlord hasn't done but should have.

You can point out the problems to the tribunal members but they won't be able to comment on them or give their opinion.

If you don't let the tribunal members in they'll look at the outside of your home to help them make their decision.

Your landlord might want to go to the inspection too. You don't have to let them in but it's best if you do.

Your landlord could say they don't want the inspection to go ahead if you don't let them in. This means the tribunal members will have to make their decision without seeing inside your home.

Getting your decision

You should get a decision letter from the tribunal within a few days of the hearing.

If you haven't had a decision within 10 days of the hearing, it's best to call or email your tribunal office. You can find their contact details on your application form.

The decision letter will tell you what your rent should be.

Your decision letter might not explain why the tribunal decided to either increase your rent or keep it as it is. If it doesn't explain, call them or write to them to ask their reasons - they have to provide them.

Your landlord won't be able to increase your rent again for another 12 months, unless you agree to the increase.

If you have problems paying your increased rent

If the tribunal decides your rent should be increased, you'll need to pay the new amount. Check your section 13 notice for the start date of your new rent.

You might be able to get the tribunal to change the date of your rent increase to the date of the hearing, rather than the date of your section 13 notice.

You'll have to prove to the tribunal that paying the rent increase from the date of the section 13 notice would cause you problems. You'd need to prove, for example, that you wouldn't be able to afford to eat or pay your bills.

It's worth asking the tribunal to change the date of your rent increase if you can prove you'll have problems. They don't have to agree to change the date.

If you get Housing Benefit or Universal Credit

If you get Housing Benefit or Universal Credit, tell your local council or the Department for Work and Pensions as soon as your rent increases.

You might be able to get more money to cover the new rent. If you can't, find out more about help you can get with renting costs.

Challenging the tribunal's decision

You can only challenge the tribunal's decision if they've got the law wrong, or if they've made a mistake.

The tribunal will send you information on how to challenge their decision with your decision letter.

You'll need to ask the tribunal if you can appeal within 28 days of your decision letter.

If they agree to your appeal, you'll have to apply to another tribunal - this is called the upper tribunal. You'll get details of how to appeal with your decision letter.

You'll have to pay a fee of £275 if you appeal. You might also have other costs to pay. You might be able to get help paying court and tribunal fees at GOV.UK.

You'll probably need specialist help to challenge the tribunal's decision. Get help from your nearest Citizens Advice.

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