CEO OF ONLINE LETTINGS AGENT UPAD.CO.UK
Q.What do I need to do to increase the rent I'm charging my tenant? They had a six-month assured shorthold tenancy (AST) which has now become a periodic tenancy as they've been there almost a year.
A.There are three ways for a landlord to increase the rent payable on an assured shorthold tenancy. Firstly, by agreement with the tenant – this is done by issuing a new fixed-term tenancy agreement including the new rent amount. If this is not done, there should at least be some written record of the tenant’s agreement to the new amount: give them two copies of a letter confirming the new rent, one to keep and one to sign and date and return to you. If the tenant has agreed to the new rent, they will not be able to subsequently challenge it.
Secondly, you can follow a rent review clause in the tenancy agreement, which may provide for a rent review annually, for example. The tenant will normally be deemed to have agreed to this by signing the agreement, so again will be unable to challenge it. The third method is by notice of increase. Landlords may serve this once a year, so long as it is done in the prescribed form (legal stationers sell forms). Notices of increase can only come into force during a periodic tenancy (in other words, after the fixed term has expired). Tenants who wish to challenge the increase may do so by referring the matter to a Rent Assessment Committee.
In all cases, you should give at least a month’s notice of the increase. But bear in mind the fact that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Some landlords think they should put the rent up every year, but I disagree. If you’ve got great tenants who always pay on time, consider leaving your rent as it is, especially if there’s a surfeit of rental properties in your area.
Putting the rent up can have repercussions for your own expenditure too: a disgruntled tenant is more likely to present you with a list of all those niggling little maintenance jobs that need doing – and the cost of fixing these can easily eat up any extra cash you’d have gained. By contrast, a little note, maybe with a bunch of flowers, saying “thanks for being great tenants, no rent increase for you” can make your tenants feel appreciated, keep them in your property and encourage them to look after it properly too, saving you upkeep money in the long run.
Q.My tenant has given notice. I need to show people round, but she refuses to respond when I'm trying to arrange appointments. Can I just show up at the flat and let myself in? There is a clause in her tenancy agreement that says she has to co-operate with viewings?
A.Unfortunately, no, you can't. You can't enter the property without the tenant's permission, so if she won't let you in, there isn't anything you can do about it. The clause in the tenancy agreement is – in practice – worth very little. Sometimes the problem can be that existing tenants can't be bothered to tidy up the place for viewings – in which case, at least you've had the warning that the property's in a bit of a mess, rather than turning up to show it and only finding out then. In these circumstances, galling though it is, offering to help tidy up or getting a cleaner in might be the best way to get things sorted out.
At this point, all you can really do is keep trying to contact her without harassing her. You could drop a note round asking her to get in touch and making it clear you're not in this to make her life difficult. But if she really won't co-operate, you may just find yourself sitting it out until she's left.
James Davis is CEO of online lettings agent www.upad.co.uk. You can also follow Upad on Twitter: @avoidthevoids.