It’s only natural to want to squeeze as much income as possible out of your rental property and lots of landlords have talked of significantly increasing their rents this year to cover their higher tax bills from next April, but is this really a good idea? Is it even possible?
You can only increase the rent once the fixed term of the tenancy agreement has come to an end unless you have included a clause in the contract specifically stating when and how the rent will be increased and this has been agreed with the tenant beforehand.
Once the fixed term is over, you have the option of renewing the tenancy at a higher rent or agreeing a new rent with the tenant under their existing Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement. If you take the latter option, you should get a signed letter from the tenant stating that they agree to the new rent.
If the tenancy has become statutory periodic (rolling on month-by-month or week-by-week), you can choose when you want to raise the rent but you can only do this once every 12 months, unless the tenant agrees to more frequent increases. If they don’t agree, you have the option to give them two months’ notice to leave (assuming the fixed term is over) and to find a tenant who will pay more.
To raise the rent during a periodic tenancy, you must issue the tenant with a “Landlord Notice of Intention to Raise the Rent”, more usually referred to as a Section 13 notice, unless you included a clause in the initial contract stating when rent the rent would rise.
What you can’t do is simply write your tenant a note or whizz them an email with no prior notice or drop the bombshell over the phone. If you do, the tenant is within their rights to just ignore it.
In all cases, you must give your tenant at least a month’s notice of any rise in the rent and all rents should be kept in line with market rates. Tenants have the right to challenge any rent they think is unfair, but landlords have the right to evict them if they don’t agree to an increase once the fixed term of their contact is over.
However, take care. Despite all the hype in the media about rising rents, you’re not guaranteed to find someone who will pay more. There’s some suggestion at the moment that rents have peaked and they might even start to fall.
Remember to find a tenant will cost you time and money and if your property is empty for a few weeks, the lost rent could be more than the extra you’ll earn.
Sometimes it’s better to hang on to a good tenant at the same rent than risk losing them in the hope of earning a bit more.
That said, some landlords subscribe to the view that it’s easier for tenants to swallow small annual increases than to be hit with a big rise every few years.
Another point to consider is if you are planning to sell your property, the higher the rent, the more attractive it will be to other investors. The same goes if you want to remortgage to release some equity as the higher the rent, the more you might be able to borrow.
However, before deciding to push for a rent rise, take a look on the major property websites like Rightmove and Zoopla to see what other landlords in your area are charging.
Remember when looking at rental ads posted by high street letting agents and some online estate agents, you should knock at least 10 percent off their asking price to get a realistic idea of how much they expect to achieve.
If your research convinces you that you should raise the rent, being able to show your tenant asking prices of similar properties should help persuade them to stay and stomach the rise.
You should also speak to two or three local letting agents to get a feel for how buoyant the market is before asking your tenant for a rent rise. If your request prompts them to pack their bags, you’ll want to know that there are plenty of other tenants to fill their shoes!First of all, let’s look at where you stand from a legal point of view.