As a tenant you pay rent to your landlord in return for living in your home. Your landlord may be able to increase your rent, but it depends on the type of tenancy you have and what your tenancy agreement says about rent increases.
Fixed term tenancy agreement
If you are currently in a fixed term agreement, your landlord will not usually be allowed to increase the rent until the fixed term expires. Some tenancy agreements include a clause allowing the landlord to increase the rent if sufficient notice is given. Speak to an advice agency if your contract allows the landlord to increase the rent during the fixed term.
Any term allowing the landlord to increase the rent during the term of the tenancy agreement has to be fair. In order to be fair, the term would have to
- state that reasonable notice of an increase will be given to the tenant
- explain exactly when rent can be increased and how this increase will be calculated
- allow you to cancel the agreement without penalty if you cannot agree to the rent increase.
A fair term might allow the rent to be reviewed on a fixed date and in regards to a relevant price index, like the Consumer Price Index or the Housing Executive's Local Housing Allowance rate. Your landlord can't include a term allowing the rent to be increased whenever and by however much he or she likes.
Periodic tenants are tenants who no longer have a tenancy agreement with a fixed end date. Your tenancy lasts for the period that you pay rent and is usually a monthly tenancy. Each time rent is paid, you create a new periodic tenancy. As you don't have a contract, your rent could be increased, although your landlord should give you notice before increasing the rent. If you don't agree with the increase and your landlord refuses to negotiate, your landlord could begin legal proceedings to evict you. You should check out your other housing options, if it's not possible for you to continue living in your privately rented home.
Rent controlled tenancies
Some tenancies in Northern Ireland are rent controlled. This includes certain properties which do not have a Certificate of Fitness and protected tenancies. The Rent Officer sets the maximum rent that can be charged for each of these properties and will, when requested by the Department for Social Development, review the rents and apply a percentage increase if appropriate. Landlords of these properties must apply to the rent officer if they wish to increase the rent. Tenants can ask a Rent Assessment Committee to review the Rent Officer's decision if they feel the rent is too high.
A guarantor is someone who promises to pay your rent if you are unable to do this. A guarantor commits to covering specific terms of a tenancy agreement. If the rent is increased significantly beyond normal inflation rates and the guarantor agreement does not provide for rent increases, a guarantor may be able to argue that they are no longer bound by the agreement as the terms of the tenancy have changed.
Housing benefit and Universal Credit
You will not usually get an increase in the amount of help you get with your housing costs because your landlord has raised the rent. The amount you get may increase if the rent your landlord charges is lower than the maximum local housing allowance rate for your area.
The way that housing costs benefits are calculated for private tenants is based on what the government thinks you should pay for the property size your household requires and not how much rent you are actually being charged. You are responsible for making up any shortfall between the amount of help you get and the amount of rent you are supposed to pay. In some cases, you can get a bit of extra help through a Discretionary Housing Payment, but this is only a short term solution.