Property expert tells Martin Lewis how tenants can challenge rent rises - but it comes with a warning

Martin Lewis was joined by a panel of experts for a spin-off of his usual podcast. The ‘Not The Martin Lewis Podcast' is a brand new offshoot of The Martin Lewis Podcast, where the difference is Martin asks specialists his listeners' questions instead of answering them himself.

This is because The Money Saving Expert founder admits that there are some subjects which are outside of his realm and he can't answer questions on due to regulations. This particular episode, released on June 10, heard Martin joined by a panel of property experts for a special dedicated to renting.

The specialists addressed some of Martin’s listeners' burning questions about the private rental sector, after he admitted he heavily focuses on mortgages and homeowners because it’s 'easier' to advise when the system is controlled by financial institutions like banks rather than third-parties like landlords.

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The episode tackled queries of renters' rights, from costs and repairs to damp, pets and disputes. One of the first questions that the financial guru asked the experts was about rent rises. He asked: "Please confirm that there is absolutely nothing a renter can do to stop their private landlord hiking their rent by 10 percent a year like mine did, other than move from the place they've lived in for 10 years."

Ben Leonard, a policy officer at ACORN, responded: "So there's not quite nothing that can be done, you can challenge rent rises via a tribunal so that's the good news. The bad news is that the system really doesn't work that well for renters."

He continued: "There are two reasons really, first is that it takes a long time and landlords can basically evict you using section 21 No Fault Evictions before you actually get through the process. The other problem is that it's not risk-free for the tenant either. The tribunal can actually say having looked at the other market rents available, we think that the landlord hasn't risen your rent enough, and so they can actually increase your rent even more."

Martin then confirmed: "So you can argue that your rent rise is unfair but it doesn't really matter because you could lose it and get kicked out."

But it isn't all bad news as the experts recommend you should address the issue with your landlord directly. Answering a similar question, Judy Ford from Citizens Advice added: "A good tenant is worth their weight in gold, if they look after the property and get on with the neighbours, that is worth everything to a landlord.

"Increasing the rent is something that is going to come, it comes with inflation and it comes in any type of industry, and with mortgage rates. But it's how you pass it on. You need to make sure that it's affordable for the tenant to maintain because even though the landlord's costs have gone up, the tenant's wages might not have. You still have to do affordability checks with tenants to make sure they can afford the rent increase you're putting forward."

Ben then added: "Even if your landlord isn't the nicest person in the world there are still things that you can do without having to go to the tribunal. We are ACORN have successfully fought or renegotiated rent rises up and down the country and a lot of that is through bringing to light what is going on.

"The media are very interested in rent rises at the moment, so get in touch with a local journalist if your rent has doubled they'll want to run it. Getting in touch with your local politicians and crucially as well, joining a renters' union."

Martin then highlighted that there are costs to bring in new tenants so often, if you are a good tenant, this will work in your favour rather than landlords' having to find a new occupant.

Later on in the episode, Martin addressed the issue of black mould in rental properties. He asked the panel: "Are you entitled to compensation for issues of severe damp which arose prior to occupation but took the landlord seven months to move tenants out?" And "Is it okay for my landlord to just tell me to keep the window open?".

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Tenants can challenge their rent increases

Judy Ford from Citizens Advice explained: "It's about understanding how the mould and damp is actually being formed. Sometimes they are structural which is 100 per cent the landlord's responsibility.

"And sometimes, unfortunately, it can be tenant lifestyle and in those situations, yes, making sure you ventilate the property correctly would help. It's not about whether it's legal to just say to the tenant 'open the window', it's more about actually getting to the source of what the damp and mould actually is."

However, due to the lack of legislation like the Renters Act, which was dropped when Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called the general election, there is no timescale for landlords to take action on black mould and damp - which can cause respiratory illness and death.

The Manchester Evening News has campaigned on this in the past, following the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak, in a mould-ridden home in Rochdale. As Citizens Advice explained, Landlords must act in a "reasonable time" to deal with mould problems, but there is currently no specified time limit in which they must act.

One of the main ways to prevent human-caused black mould is to keep a property warm and well-ventilated, but with the cost of living crisis making millions of households hesitant to flick on the heating, the problem is only getting worse across the country. Meanwhile, with rents rising, tenants are struggling to keep properties warm enough to prevent condensation and eventual black mould.