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crumbly
22-02-2007, 16:05 PM
With my wife I have lived in an unfurnished rented flat over high street building society premises since 1970. We are both now pensioners in our late sixties living on a fixed income.

Eventually our original landlord, a small building society, was taken over - and two or three subsequent mergers and acquisitions mean that for the past ten years or so our landlord has been one of the major financial groups. We have never had an agreement - we have just paid the rent every month. We took a flat that was uninhabitable, and as young people made it our home, doing all the work ourselves.

The rent has never been a commercial consideration and, until last year, we paid a rent of £100 month.

Last year the landlord put all their property in the hands of a managing agent, closing their in house property department.

The agent notified us that our rent would increase to £160 - which we have paid for the past year.

Yesterday we had a communication from "the rent service" including an "Application for Registration of a Fair Rent" form made by the agent. They have asked for £500 month.

Naturally we feel very vulnerable and quite frightened. I was left a small legacy from my mother and we would therefore not qualify for housing benefit.

What is a "fair rent"? Does it have to relate to our circumstances or previous rent - or can it be set as though the property was being let to new tenants?
Can we just be priced out of our home?

jeffrey
22-02-2007, 17:12 PM
You are probably protected by the Rent Act 1977, still in force for tenancies pre-dating 1989. You can therefore take the matter to a Rent Officer/Tribunal.

MrWoof
22-02-2007, 23:26 PM
With all due respect, you say you feel vulnerable and frightened, don't, many people feel inclined to 'do the right thing' and not cause any trouble. Follow Jeffrey's advice, go to a rent tribunal, methinks you will be pleasantly surprised. Also, any questions, bring them to this forum, you are amongst friends.

Ericthelobster
22-02-2007, 23:30 PM
But presumably a rent tribunal is likely to agree that a fair rent for a flat is likely to be somewhat more than 160/month (no idea how much more, without any further info)?

crumbly
24-02-2007, 11:19 AM
Thanks for the replies. I will certainly take your advice, and I will fight the agent's proposals through The Rent Service - by letter and any subsequent consultation arranged. For reference purposes I will follow up the story on this forum following significant developments.

Thanks again for your help.

PaulF
25-02-2007, 22:53 PM
What hasn't been said is that you probably shouldn't have agreed to the £160 per month last year, and could have taken it to the RTS then.

Any increase in rent will be subject to the RPI plus (I think) 5% maximum, and the rent can only be increased every 2 years.

Also DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING the agent sends to you without taking proper advice. Even if you do they cannot withdraw your exisiting rights and must follow lawful procedure. They can't evict you, nor charge a high rent as it will be regulated, that's for sure. You should feel better now.

As you have discovered the internet as a good source of infromation you will be able to obtain details of this on line.

Another good source is Age Concern who will also point you in the right direction, and help you with contacting the RTS if necessary.

This £500 is a try-on meant to frighten you but you will be safe under the Rent Act 1977 and you should be able to live there for the rest of your lives if you wish.

crumbly
26-02-2007, 17:15 PM
Paul _f - Thanks so much for that interesting and comforting post.

I have written to The Rent Service setting out my position. It makes interesting reading – and I’m now really confident the property agent will fail with his aggressive, bullying approach. I cannot believe that our terrific landlord is behind, or even knows about this development. I think it is a unilateral, commission-driven exercise by the agents.

Having your advice I am now, of course, sorry that I paid the rent increase. The tone of the demand was so menacing that I was frightened into doing so – and I have explained this to the rent officer.

I’ll update when I hear anything.

crumbly
27-02-2007, 00:04 AM
I have looked at the communications I had from the agent a year ago which resulted in me deciding to pay the rent increase.

The proposed increase was laid out on Form No 48 of the Assured Tenancies and Agricultural Occupancies (Forms) (Amendments) (England) Regulations 2003. This form is headed “HOUSING ACT 1988”. Within the form is the proposed new rent.

On the form it stated that, if I did not agree with the proposed rent increase I should contact the landlord – or refer the notice to the local rent assessment committee.

You probably all know that the small print with this form says that -

“The rent assessment committee will consider your application and will decide what the maximum rent for your home should be. In setting a rent the committee must decide what rent the landlord could reasonably expect for the property if it were let on the open market under a new tenancy on the same terms”.

I assumed that meant that if I went to the assessed committee I would have to pay rent as if I was a new tenant paying the going rate. This was very frightening – so I took the other option and wrote to the agent as the representative of the landlord. I objected to a 50% increase – setting out my circumstances. I pointed out what I thought they already knew – that I had lived in the flat for more than 35 years.

The letter I got in reply merely stated that if I was unhappy with the proposed figure I should refer to the notes in the original letter for advice on what to do next.

So, I thought I was between a rock and a hard place. Either I get clobbered by the assessment committee – or go with the proposed rent increase which, under the circumstances, seemed the better option.

Am I right in thinking that I was misled? Was the proposed increase legal? Having been told clearly, in writing, that I had been the tenant for 35 years was it right that the agent continued with the proposal under the 1988 act?

Any advice as to what to do next?

crumbly
29-03-2007, 10:18 AM
As promised, I am updating.

I have written to the agents asking for the year's rent increase (obtained using requirements and forms of 1988 act) to be refunded. Researching the matter online, there appear to be very strict conditions and procedures which must be followed in seeking rent increases under the 1977 act - or any increase obtained has no legality. In this event the tenant can get the money back (up to a year later). This was several weeks ago and I have, as yet, had no reply.

The Rent Office visited, and told us that his test for a successful assessment was both parties feeling aggrieved. If they did he thought he must have got it about right. He set a Fair Rent at £400 monthly.

jeffrey
29-03-2007, 10:21 AM
As promised, I am updating.

I have written to the agents asking for the year's rent increase (obtained using requirements and forms of 1988 act) to be refunded. Researching the matter online, there appear to be very strict conditions and procedures which must be followed in seeking rent increases under the 1977 act - or any increase obtained has no legality. In this event the tenant can get the money back (up to a year later). This was several weeks ago and I have, as yet, had no reply.

The Rent Office visited, and told us that his test for a successful assessment was both parties feeling aggrieved. If they did he thought he must have got it about right. He set a Fair Rent at £400 monthly.

See my post #2. Rent Act 1977 applies, but Housing Act 1988 does not apply, to you.