Tough times for private renters

FORUM: Robert Taylor offers practical advice at a time of ‘ridiculously high rents’ and a cost of living crisis

Thursday, 9th June

Landlord

According to property website Rightmove London rents have jumped by 14 per cent in a year

PRIVATE renters struggle to pay the ridiculously high rents that are being charged in Camden at the best of times, but now we’ve entered the worst of times, things have just got even tougher for them, especially when you add in the steep rises in energy, food and other daily living costs.

Given that over a third of the borough’s households live in the private rented sector, it will have a big impact in this and other parts of the capital, where it is now the largest housing tenure.

According to property website Rightmove London rents have jumped by 14 per cent in a year. So what, you might ask, is the government doing to specifically help private renters get through what is now being widely acknowledged as an affordability crisis?

Sadly the answer to that particular question is – nothing. And given that this government seems to be totally averse to introducing anything that could in any way be deemed to be “rent control”, this situation is unlikely to change any time soon.

So is there anything that can be done if you are struggling to pay the current rent or, worse still, being asked for a rent increase?

We would always recommend that you speak to the landlord and / or letting agent about your circumstances as soon as possible and try to negotiate with them if you cannot afford the increase or think it’s too much.

You should also be aware that rent increases work differently in fixed-term and periodic tenancies.

Many private renters initially sign up for a fixed-term tenancy, typically for
six or 12 months.

— Your rent can only go up during the fixed-term if you:

• agree to it

• have a rent review clause in your contract

• or sign a new agreement.

If the fixed-term comes to an end, and nothing is done by either the landlord
or yourself, then it automatically becomes a periodic tenancy that usually rolls on month-by-month.

— With a periodic tenancy, your rent can go up if you:

• agree to it

• your contract has a rent review clause in it

• or your landlord uses what is called a Section13 notice to increase your rent.

— Going to a rent tribunal. If your landlord uses a Section 13 notice to increase the rent you can use this process that is not widely known.

However, be aware that there’s a risk the tribunal could set a higher rent than the one your landlord is asking for, so you should always check how your rent compares with those for similar properties in your area before applying, as these are the data they will use to make their decision.

You should also be aware that your landlord might take steps to evict you if you apply to the tribunal.

If you claim Housing Benefit, and it doesn’t cover the rent you are being asked to pay, then you need to apply for something called a Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) from the council.

Whatever your situation, it’s really important that you get help and advice as soon as you can, and also check out useful online resources like Camden Private Renters website produced by Camden Council.

Their Green Camden Helpline (0800 801 738) can also advise on ways to make your home warmer and save money.

• Robert Taylor is organiser of the Camden Federation of Private Tenants.

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