OpenRent Community

Rent increase - advice needed please

Hi,

I need some advice please (from a renters perspective). I was asked to pop into our managing agents in November via a text message. When I arrived the chap there informed me our landlords wanted to increase our rent by £50 & the 26th December was mentioned (not agreed) as a possible date to start the new payments as that is the date we pay rent. It was a very informal conversation during which I said I’m obviously not happy with it but there isn’t much I can do & it was left with the agent to update our tenancy agreement for my wife & me to sign. I heard nothing from them in November so I paid our rent like normal. The same happened in December, I heard nothing from them so I paid our current amount. I then get a text message on 31st December from them saying we hadn’t paid the extra £50 for December. I responded saying “it was left you would update our tenancy to reflect the £50 increase for us to sign which you haven’t given us yet”. We then have our new tenancy arrive through the door on the 4th January with the £50 increase showing. The issue is they included a hand written note saying can we pay the £50 for December. I spoke to them saying we had nothing in writing, why would anyone pay anything without it in writing? They are responding by saying a verbal contract is good enough. Am I missing something here? Going by that thought process that means you can leave a will via a verbal conversation, you can buy a house without needing any paperwork or contract signed? Let’s all book a holiday abroad just via a phone call! Are we in the right? We have no issue paying the increased rent going forward as it’s in writing & it reflects the current market but the £50 without a contract is a different thing. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

James

Why aggitate the landlord over this small sum? You want him to get his back up and maybe evict you?

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But they are in the wrong (in my opinion). Yes I understand we will be the ones to lose out I’m well aware of that. I’m not blaming the landlords I’m blaming their managing agents who haven’t managed. They should have had everything in place in writing so we weren’t placed in this awkward position no?

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Assuming there is no rent review clause in the tenancy agreement, the agent had three options if he wanted to ensure the rent increase was legally binding:

  1. Informally persuade you to start paying it.
  2. Serve you a s13 notice.
  3. Persuade you to sign a new tenancy agreement with the new rent.

It sounds like he tried 1 and it failed. He cannot now retrospectively impose that increase and if he wants it for future months has to do one if the 3 things above.

However, as has been said, there is little point p’ing off your agent/landlord, so I would suggest you try to be as conciliatory as possible whilst holding your ground that he didn’t do what he said he would and you don’t now have that money.

The agent may not give the full story to the landlord, so you may have to let him know what happened if he doesn’t accept the delayed increase.

Of course, if you really like the place and don’t want to risk your relationship with either party, just pay it from the date discussed.

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Thanks for your detailed reply. Yes you’ve backed up what I thought, it’s ridiculous trying to get money out of me without something in writing. I’ve tried to phone our landlord direct but it went to voicemail & he hasn’t got back to me. It feels completely unfair - the agent will have phoned them & given them their side of the story but we are unable to & we’re in the right. I have contemplated just paying them the money to simply stop feeling on edge but it goes against everything I believe in. We are in the right & not treated overly well in the property in my opinion so I will take what comes of it. I just wish I could get to talk to the landlord to state my case as at present I can’t. Feels so unfair.

I would just add the my point 1 above is a perfectly valid option and the way I prefer to levy increases, although I usually do it by email. Once the tenant starts paying the increase, it becomes legally binding. If the agent believed that you had understood and agreed to the increase, they were not obliged to serve any paperwork to back it up. Of course by not doing it formally there is always a risk that the tenant won’t pay.

Yes that’s where we are disagreeing. He said it to me in such an informal manner. The whole conversation was so informal. Like I said we don’t have an issue of the rent being increased & we have paid rent on time with them every month without fail for 5 years now. We just wanted it in writing & as you say even if point 1 is acceptable I would have thought a professional company would have put it in writing by nature to cover problems like this. They aren’t a big company, just a 1 off partnership with 2 guys running it local to our village.

Do you have any advice how to handle this going forward this week? Try to phone our landlord direct again or is it better just to hold back & see what happens?

A verbal agreement to increase the rent is fine. It does not need to be in writing. You accept this increased rent and that becomes the norm, once you pay the increased rent. You do not dispute that you agreed to the rent increase, and therefore you had a ‘gentleman’s agreements’ (meant in a gender-neutral way so as not to offend) if nothing else. You can argue & rely on the technicality of the process not being in writing as you discussed, if you wish, and this is a fair argument, given that it was agreed it would be put in writing.

The question is… is the £50 worth the battle. Only you can decide.

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Thanks for your reply. I didn’t even agree to it verbally that’s the thing. I accepted that the rent would be going up in some form but the chap at the estate agents even said “I’ll try to get it lower for you” (meaning the rent). Like I say it was such an informal conversation just like you would have if you bumped into someone in the highstreet or in the pub!

What they don’t appreciate is that because our rent goes up it affects our lives in different ways - I’m doing an online course funded by the government & my wife is having physiotherapy on her neck part paid for by us & part funded by the NHS/Government. We’re only getting it funded based off of our income/outgoings & we’re required to update both of any changes. We did so straight away & both came back instantly & said to upload signed proof…we didn’t have it as a verbal contract is ‘deemed good enough!’. Just feels like we’ve been put in an awkward position which a professional company wouldn’t have done.

I’m going to stick to my guns as the damage has been done in my opinion. If they want to kick us out because of this paying the £50 now will make no difference I doubt.

Hi As a landlord agree it’s somewhat unfair they should have put it in writing for you sign, seem like the agent to blame for lack of transparency, also as a tenant you could have put In Writing whether you agreed to increase or not after the discussion. there a misunderstanding there better to try and clear it up than let this fester, speak to the agent and landlord and see if amicable way forward.

Hi there, Thanks for your help. Yes I have tried to speak to them but neither of us are willing to back down. I know if anyone loses out it will be us but as you said & as I feel - they are in the wrong. It’s a simple lack of professionalism & clear communication from them. All they keep saying is a verbal contract is good enough & all I keep saying is no it’s not. To show how informal the original chat was the guy was more interested in showing me his new front door camera linked to his phone! I had no interest in it but had to show face at that point.

I will see what comes of it but I still feel like trying to reach the landlord direct as we’re just sitting here with our agent able to give their side & we’re not. It’s completely unfair & we shouldn’t have even have been put in this position in the first place.

Maybe write to the landlord explaining all this. You will need to make clear that nothing was agreed as the agent was going to try to lower the amount and would write to you. You will have to be clear that this didn’t happen and the money is no longer available and ask for their understanding.

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Yes I think we will put it in writing. It’s all gone quiet & we have heard nothing from our agents so at the moment we’re just sitting tight. We’re hoping that the agent notified our landlords & they’ve just let it go or heaven forbid actually saw our point of view!

The agent is worried as the landlord employs him. I would write to LL and explain what happened and don’t see there’s much they can do. If the landlord wants the extra then he should claim it from the agents who haven’t handled it well.
If you have been there five years and been good tenants i would hazard a guess that the LL will want to keep you.
The fact that you have agreed to a rent increase as of now should be good enough.
You could have taken it to a tribunal and appealed it but you haven’t.
Let the agent reimburse the LL for the mistake they made.

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Fully agree with you regarding your first sentence, I thought that myself. They tried to get the money in an unprofessional manner & when I refused they dug themselves a hole if they went back to the LL. It’s still all quiet so just sitting tight hoping it blows over but without doubt should anything kick off I will be writing to the LL. They’re an unprofessional company all round as 2 years running I’ve had to chase them as our tenancy had run out so needed them to draft up a new one. Thankfully I contacted them via email so have it all in writing should I need ammunition for the LL as they will be blissfully unaware of all these past issues at present.

First: you actually can do something. You can contact the landlord directly to negotiate. You did not have to consent.

Now for issues, I email both of them, copied. You can also send mail to both - identical copies with both listed on the letter. You can put a complaint in. The agent dropped the ball and it has cost the landlord money and caused you frustration.

I would have no problem saying “Your agent’s failure to provide us with the documentation in a timely manner had caused you a loss of income. Please contact them regarding compensation.”

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Thanks, yes I’ve decided to write to the LL in some form. The more I have read & let things die down the more clear it has become that I think the agents know if they go back to the LL they’re not going to come across overly professional. How can they go back to them & say we agreed it verbally with a straight face! I’d be ashamed & I think they know that so they’re trying to keep it between us with the landlord out the loop.

I think the agent was expecting us to just believe what they said (as they should know more) regarding a verbal conversation being good enough. Once they realised we weren’t buying it they all of a sudden dug themselves a little hole & tried to bully us into paying as it would be a lot more awkward going back to the LL with the full story. I doubt they told them the full story though - I dread to think what they made up. Hence like you say a letter with the truth on is needed!

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I don’t think it’s that at all. If they agent called the owner up and said: “just to let you know, the tenant didn’t adhere to the verbal agreement we made. Really sorry, we’re issuing a contract now. Should be fine the following month”.

What would the LL say? Nothing. Maybe ask for the agent to cover the difference. This is no big deal.

So something else is going on here.

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I disagree, the letting agent is being allowed to paint themselves in the best light while you are looking unreasonable.

The letting agent may even claim they have the form and you refused to come in and sign it.

You should never let someone else control the narrative like this. You should be constantly cc’ing the landlord on everything.

In the future when there is a verbal agreement - get home and send an email to both the agent and landlord.

"Dear (Agent),

To confirm our conversation today - we will sign a new tenancy agreement to increase the rent to £XXX. You mentioned the date December 26, but this was not yet formalized as we have not signed the paperwork. Please provide us with the tenancy agreement to sign to formalize the rent increase and starting date as soon as is convenient. Until the new tenancy agreement has been signed, we will continue honoring the existing tenancy agreement with the current rent.

Thank you,
(Name)"

You also can give a deadline (ex. “Please provide the new tenancy agreement by December 12 to confirm the December 26 payment. If you cannot provide it until December 13 or later, then we will not agree to the increase until the January 26 payment”). I suggest you do not start with a deadline, I would send that after not hearing from them in a reasonable time. As December 26 is over the holidays it is especially reasonable to ask for more warning, as it’s certainly not reasonable to expect you to be available December 25 to sign.

I know that doesn’t help you now but hope it does in the future.

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You’re really creating a problem here when there is none.