Martin Lewis, finance expert.

Expert advice on how tenants can challenge rent rises

Experts advise on rent rises – but proceed with caution

In the latest episode of the “Not The Martin Lewis Podcast ,” Martin Lewis, renowned for his financial wisdom, hosted a panel of property experts to delve into the complexities of renting.

Released on June 10, this special edition was dedicated to addressing the pressing concerns of renters, as Martin acknowledged that his usual focus on mortgages and homeownership doesn’t fully encompass the challenges faced by tenants.

Martin’s shift in focus was driven by a need to tackle the nuances of renting, a sector less regulated by financial institutions and more influenced by private landlords. This episode aimed to shed light on tenants’ rights, including rent increases, repairs, and disputes.

One of the primary questions Martin posed to the experts concerned the seemingly unchecked power of landlords to hike rents. A listener asked, “Please confirm that there is absolutely nothing a renter can do to stop their private landlord hiking their rent by 10 percent a year like mine did, other than move from the place they’ve lived in for 10 years.”

Ben Leonard, a policy officer at ACORN, responded: “So there’s not quite nothing that can be done, you can challenge rent rises via a tribunal so that’s the good news. The bad news is that the system really doesn’t work that well for renters.”

Leonard elaborated on the challenges of the tribunal process, highlighting two significant issues. Firstly, the lengthy process often allows landlords to utilize section 21 No Fault Evictions before a resolution is reached. Secondly, the tribunal can sometimes rule in favor of further increasing the rent based on market rates.

Martin reiterated this point: “So you can argue that your rent rise is unfair but it doesn’t really matter because you could lose it and get kicked out.”

Despite these challenges, the experts advised tenants to address rent increases directly with their landlords. Judy Ford from Citizens Advice emphasized the value of good tenants, stating, “A good tenant is worth their weight in gold, if they look after the property and get on with the neighbours, that is worth everything to a landlord.”

Ford explained that while rent increases are inevitable due to inflation and rising mortgage rates, landlords should ensure that these hikes are affordable for tenants. Conducting affordability checks can help maintain a balance, preventing financial strain on renters.

Leonard added that even uncooperative landlords can be challenged outside the tribunal. ACORN has successfully negotiated rent adjustments by raising awareness and involving local media and politicians. “The media are very interested in rent rises at the moment, so get in touch with a local journalist if your rent has doubled they’ll want to run it. Getting in touch with your local politicians and crucially as well, joining a renters’ union.”

Martin also pointed out that landlords often prefer to retain good tenants to avoid the costs associated with finding new ones.

The episode further explored issues like black mould in rental properties. Martin asked the experts about compensation for severe dampness that predated tenancy and landlords’ inadequate responses.

Judy Ford clarified that while some damp issues are structural and thus the landlord’s responsibility, others can be related to tenant lifestyle. She stressed the importance of proper ventilation but also highlighted the lack of legislation specifying the timeframe for landlords to address such problems. The tragic case of Awaab Ishak, who died in a mould-ridden home in Rochdale, underscores the critical need for prompt action on these issues.

As the cost of living crisis continues, many tenants struggle to keep their homes warm and well-ventilated, exacerbating the problem of condensation and black mould. With rising rents adding to the financial burden, the challenge for tenants to maintain healthy living conditions persists.

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