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Rent Increase Dispute

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First time poster, long (very long) time lurker.

I've been renting a studio flat in Manchester for coming up to 15 months. Rent is pretty cheap (£380/month) but then the building is falling to bits. My window frame is rotting / rotten, the ceiling looks like it's caving in and the boiler is on it's last legs. Not to mention the fact that it drops to 7 degrees in winter. They recently had to redo the roof because of all the leaks.

That aside, there are many positives for me too (quiet area, friends and work near) and I can obviously live with the downsides otherwise I would have moved out!

Yesterday I came home to find a hand delivered letter telling me I was in arrears with my rent. From the looks of it they had put the rent up 3 months prior, and I now owe them £96 (£90 for the rent, £6 for the luxury of them hand delivering the letter). Now obviously this has to be a mistake, because I've not received any notification of a rental increase.

I called them up today and they claim they did send out the letter. But I didn't get it. We're in dispute. Now what do I do?

What I find strange is how they've in the past always hand delivered letters to our door when they wanted to communicate something. This time though they claim they sent the letter through the Royal mail - so it's possible it could have gotten lost. Or, since the Royal mail can't get access into the building, the mail for all the flats sits on the floor in the hallway, and it's possible someone else picked it up by accident or just threw it away (the letting agency is aware of this problem).

More likely however, I think they messed up their end and never sent that letter. They are renowned for their incompetence, and I can't help but feel they're trying a little lets-screw-this-guy-over.

I certainly won't pay up, and am willing to take this to court if I have to. Surely they have to prove they did send me that letter and that I received it, if that's the stance they're going to take.

Willing to hear your views, or if you have any advice.

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They claim to - but what would that prove?

Nothing. They can easily manufacture a "copy".

Stick to your guns. Don't pay.

If you didn't get a new lease after the first year was up they can give you notice to leave in 2 months though. That's the problem.

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Thanks all,

I'm going to stick to my guns. I will insist they waive the arrears and that they serve the proper (1 months) notice for the rent increase. I will then find somewhere better to live, I've had enough of this hassle!

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The landlord/letting agent contracted Royal Mail to deliver the news to you (or so they allege).

They could have sent it by recorded delivery, or hand-delivered it if they wanted certainty. They chose not to, so on balance, since the Royal Mail is accountable to them, it is their problem.

It also seems very strange that it took them so long to declare you "in arrears" over a supposed rent rise that is about 8% if my maths is right.

So I'd suggest the "negotiation process" over a rent increase, if there is to be one, begins now, not 3 months ago.

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What does it say on your original contract, if you have it? If it's an AST I'm pretty sure they can't increase the rent without it already being stated in the original contract that the rent will rise on month X for example. Otherwise, if they want to increase the rent, they need your agreement which, I'm pretty sure, would require your signature on some document which states a change in the terms of the existing contract. If you haven't signed anything they can't increase the rent. When my rent went up they sent a new contract for me to sign with the higher rent 3 months before the fixed period on my existing contract was due to end. If we hadn't signed the new contract (agreeing to the rent rise) they would have served notice for the end of the existing contract. That's how it's normally done I think. You can't just send someone a letter saying 'you've got to give us more money from now on'!! Preposterous!

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How much is your deposit? Is it protected? How easy is it to find another place?

The reason I ask is that whatever happens now, you are going to have an issue with your LA. They are more than likely pulling a fast one on you. Consider fighting fire with fire. If you can easily find another home, the ball is in your court, and I would suggest making your problem their problem. Give notice and stop paying rent completely. When you are satisfied you won't end up out of pocket, even if you never get your deposit back, then move. Let them chase you for the money rather than tie yourself up in knots. Life is too short sometimes!

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Willing to hear your views, or if you have any advice.

First off why are they charging you 6 quid to send a letter. If they cannot point to a contract term which means you have to pay for the letter then suggest they charge the landlord.

Next read the shelter web page:

http://england.shelter.org.uk/get_advice/paying_for_a_home/rent_and_rent_increases/private_tenancies

My reading of that is tha if your AST contract has a rent increase procedure written into it (and that was followed) then you have alerady agreed the new rent.

If no rent increase is mentioned in contract then the landlord can:

(A)

ask you to pay more rent at any time after the initial period of the AST and if you agree or pay the new rent than the rent has gone up.

If you do not agree the landlord could serve you notice to leave - fair enough!

and then/or

(B)

The landlord could serve you a notice of rent increase which must give you atleast 1 month notice and (obviously) that notice must be 1 month rental period. In this case you just have to pay the new rent rent or if you don't want to then serve notice on the landlord that you will move out.

So if my undersanding is correct (I am not a lawyer) you want to find out what the facts are and continue to disagree/not pay the increase - paying is in effect agreeing - untill you know the facts. I'd send a letter saying that you dispute you are in arrears as you have not agreed to a rent increase. In that letter ask for a copy of the letter they claim to have sent 3 months ago. And politely refuse to discus things further till you have recieved said copy and so have all the facts at your finger tips.

When you get the copy letter you will need to read it and make a judgement:

(1) If the initial AST had a rent increase claim and the letter is properly excercising that clause then you probably do have to pay... but you could try and negotiate on the start date of the raised rent to say the day of the "second" letter when you became aware of the situation: get any agreement in writing.

(2) If it is a proper notice of rent increase (ask at your CAB if unsure) then you probably do have to pay... but you could try and negotiate on the start date of the raised rent to say the day of the "second" letter when you became aware of the situation: get any agreement in writing.

(3)If the copy letter is not a proper notice of rent increase (and assuming that the AST contract never had a rent increase clause) then you cannot be in rent arrears as they claim: politely point this out to them in a letter. The landlord may then of course choose to do (A) [notice to leave] or (B) [proper rent increase notice] as above.

Keep copies of all correspondence just incase you need it later.

That's how I would approach it anyway.

Hope you come to an amicable accomodation.

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