Comment: ‘landlords shouldn’t raise tenants’ rent if they can afford not to’

 (Daniel Lynch)
(Daniel Lynch)

The email every renter dreads: notification of an impending rent rise. Not really a surprise, but I’d been vaguely hoping my landlord might have forgotten what a good deal I got thanks to moving during lockdown.

Clever me! But now they want to raise my rent back to “market level”, a 35 per cent increase. Has my salary gone up that much in the past two years? Sadly, I’m not that clever.

Nor has my flat’s quality improved to justify such an above-inflationary increase – it’s still the same slightly knackered one-bed I moved into, just with two more years’ wear and tear under its belt.

So how can my landlord justify asking for such a rise? They don’t have to. They know how fiercely competitive the rental market is at the moment.

Ultimately, if I don’t accept their terms I’m out.

No matter that it’s the home I’ve furnished and cared for over the past two years, where I’ve befriended my neighbours and am known in the pub.

It wouldn’t make a difference if I had children at a local school, or elderly parents nearby either.

It’s business, see. I don’t particularly blame my landlord for following the market, or, more accurately, the managing agent for trying to get as much rent as they can on behalf of their client — that’s their job.

And yet a recent landlord advice column in which a mortgage-free landlord asked if he should raise a single mother’s rent to meet market rates, despite having no financial need to, indicates that there is a moral dimension too.

The advice he received, to not let guilt stand in the way of maximising profit, provoked an outraged Twitterstorm – rightly, I think.

In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, London homes are as scarce and expensive as luxury goods. Different studies put the proportion of their income Londoners spend on rent at between 40 per cent and 64 per cent for single renters.

Yet safe, healthy housing is a foundational necessity for a decent quality of life, as well as being designated as a human right.

My landlord and I eventually met in the middle thanks to my persistence and their comparative understanding.

There are other landlords out there who have kept rents low to keep hold of good tenants.

This is not a question of charity – the rent is still being paid, the landlords are still making a profit and they still have an asset – but it is a choice.

Not all landlords can afford not to raise the rent, but those who can should think carefully — and kindly — about their actions.