If I don’t have a written contract can my landlord put the rent up?

I currently rent a flat from a friend of a friend. I've been here for more than a year but we don't have a written agreement, rent book or contract. He now wants to increase the rent by more than £20 a month. Is he allowed to do this without a suitable notice period? He says that the market rate is now more than I pay and someone else is interested in the flat so I don't really have a choice. As there's no contract, do I have any rights?

Your rights will depend on the type of tenancy you have. If you rent privately and your landlord doesn’t live with you it’s likely you have an assured shorthold tenancy. The following information is based on this assumption so if you think you have a different type of tenancy, it’s important to seek further advice.

Verbal tenancy agreements are as legally binding as those in writing. However, if there are any disputes, it can be more difficult to prove what has been agreed.

If you’re on a fixed-term tenancy, your landlord can’t put your rent up easily, but if you’re on a periodic tenancy which it sounds like you are, they just need to give you two months notice.

If your landlord wants to put the rent up, they are meant to follow a set procedure. and issue a formal ‘notice of increase’.

The ‘notice of increase’ must be in a certain form and say how much the new rent is and when it comes into effect. In theory, if the landlord doesn’t follow the correct procedure for the notice and you have not agreed to any increases, you are entitled to continue paying rent at your existing level. Because of this, it would be helpful to get further advice if you do receive a notice from your landlord.

However, lots of landlords don’t bother following this procedure and just ask their tenants to agree to rent increases. It’s important you know that some landlords choose to simply evict tenants who won’t agree to a rent increase. So it’s worth thinking through your options before negotiating with your landlord or taking action.

If you don’t accept the proposed rent then – before the notice expires – you can take it to the Residential Property Tribunal which is now part of the First-tier tribunal service. You can appeal once your landlord has sent you a notice of increase.

It’s worth thinking carefully before applying to the Tribunal because technically rent assessments can increase, as well as decrease, the rent, although this doesn’t happen very often. One thing you might like to do is compare rents in your area so you can assess yourself whether the rent you’re paying is around the market rate or not. Once a rent assessment committee has set a rent, your landlord can’t increase the rent for 12 months, unless you agree to a further increase. For further information, and to find out if you can refer your rent to the RAC, you can contact your regional Residential Property Tribunal Service (RPTS.

If your rent does increase and you receive housing benefit, you should immediately inform the housing benefit department. They may not be able to meet the increase if the rent is too high.

For further information and advice about any of the options or issues outlined here visit your local Housing Advice Centre or Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). Or you can call Shelter on 0808 800 4444.

Answered by Shelter on 20-Mar-2014

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