Am I Paying Too Much Rent?
Life can be tougher for renters. Choosing whether to rent or buy a home is always a fierce debate, but for many people, it’s taken out of their hands. With so many people unable to purchase housing, the rental market is booming – especially right now, with more people than ever on the move.
Those fortunate enough to own property that they let out to tenants can basically name their price. The property market is based on supply and demand, and demand currently far outstrips supply. Can’t afford the asking price? As far as some landlords are concerned, that’s too bad. Somebody else will.
We should stress that not all property owners think this way. There are many great landlords out there (and we should say in the interests of balance, not all tenants are angels). All the same, anybody taking on a rental lease needs to ensure they are not being ripped off. Make sure you are not overpaying and being exploited.
How Much Rent is Too Much?
This is a tough question to answer, as there are so many variables. On a personal level, many experts suggest that nobody should spend more than 35% of their monthly income on rent. The maths may not add up, though. Rental costs can be high and moving somewhere cheaper is not always an option due to work and family commitments.
The average monthly rent in the UK is £868 PCM, or £442 for those living in social housing. Averages are not always helpful, though. Rental rates in Wigan will be cheaper than Westminster, and a one-bedroom apartment will always be cheaper to rent than a five-bed family home (at least, it should be – if not, you’re definitely paying too much!)
In essence, if you cannot afford to pay your rent, it’s too high. Even if you can afford the asking price, however, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. Housing is not a luxury – it’s essential. No landlord has the right to price tenants out of a home to bolster their own bank balance. Do your research and ensure that your landlord is being fair and reasonable with their expectations.
My Landlord is Increasing My Rent
A landlord can only increase rent under certain circumstances. Even if you are on a casual, rolling tenancy agreement, it doesn’t mean that your landlord can increase rent whenever they want. On a rolling contract, a landlord is restricted to one rental increase every 12 months.
If you have a fixed tenancy, such as a one-year contract, the price of your rent cannot be changed during this period. A landlord can try, but you have the legal right to refuse this increase. The landlord cannot force you to accept. When your tenancy contract ends, the landlord can then re-introduce a rental review. Sadly, this does also mean the landlord can ask you to vacate the property at this point.
Any rental increase must be considered, “fair and realistic” under government guidelines. This is a pretty vague description, but it essentially means that the rent cannot drastically increase (such as being doubled), and the new rate cannot be substantially higher than the rent charged for similar properties in your area. It may be an idea to talk to your neighbours and find out how much they are being charged.
If you cannot afford a rental increase but want to stay in the property, speak to your landlord. If you have been a good tenant, and they are a reasonable human being, you may well be able to come to an agreement. Be careful how you approach this conversation. The landlord may have a perfectly valid reason for increasing the rental asking price, especially if they have not done so previously.
Ask if there is any wriggle room, though, such as a lower reduction, or a postponement of the increase if you expect your financial circumstances to improve in time.
I Don’t Think My Rent is Reasonable
If you have any concern about the rent that you are being asked to pay, do some research. Find out how much properties of a similar size and condition are being leased for in your area. If you are being assigned the standard asking price, there will be little you can do, unfortunately. Some areas are just overpriced by nature, for a variety of reasons.
A common reason for tenants to dispute a rental increase – or an existing tariff – is the state of repair of a property. Landlords are duty bound to meet certain standards of living for their tenants. You may have a case to dispute the cost of your rent. Remember, “it costs too much to live here” will not be considered valid grounds for complaint. You will need to point to one of the following circumstances:
- The rent is higher than other properties in the area, without reasonable grounds
- The landlord has not made repairs or improvements that were promised in writing
- The property is not safe (presence of damp or black mould, for example, or exposed wiring)
- The landlord is attempting to increase rent twice in 12 months
- The landlord has acted dishonestly in relation to your rent
In the first instance, discuss this with your landlord or letting agent. Put your concerns into writing, explaining why you consider the rent to be unreasonable in the circumstances. This may result in a mutual resolution without the need to take anything further. If your landlord ignores your complaint, you may need to escalate your concerns. Speak to your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau or write to Ombudsman Services and see if they can help you.
Renting a property can be hard. If you find the right home, it is worth fighting to retain. All the same, that doesn’t mean that you should give landlords free reign to charge whatever they like. Always ask yourself if you think you are being treated fairly when it comes to paying rent. If not, take action.