There's a lot of muttering right now from the landlord lobby that they'll be putting up rents because of changes to the tax regime and expected increases in interest rates.
The threats would sound scarier if rents weren't already going up faster than inflation. The fact is many landlords will use any excuse to put up the rent when they get the chance. Many others value their tenants, and won't.
If you face a rent hike, you don't need to accept it. We've put together a 3 minute video on what to do to avoid paying too much.
Or if you don't want to watch a video right now - here are the 10 steps:
1. Play for time - tell the letting agent you'll think about it and get back to them. Don't panic, but prepare to tell them you'll move out. That's your main bargaining chip.
2. Make sure you have your landlord's contact details. The suggestion of raising the rent tends to come from the letting agent and the landlord is more likely to lend you a sympathetic ear.
3. Start a list of reasons they shouldn't put up the rent. It will begin with you being a good tenant and the risk the landlord will take in getting a new tenant in - as well as the cost of putting the property on the market and not collecting rent for weeks or months.
4. It takes some chutzpah from a crappy landlord to put up the rent. If you've asked them to make repairs and they've dragged their feet or straight up not done them, then you shouldn't have to pay extra for incompetence. Remind them of this and make sure you have copies of emails/photos of disrepair in case they need evidence.
5. Research what other properties are going for in your area and make a note of any that are cheaper than the proposed rent. If your landlord says their mortgage costs are going up, bear in mind that only one in three private rented properties has a mortgage, so there should be other landlords out there who aren't under that pressure.
6. A basic one - is it affordable? If the rent goes up, is there a risk you'd fall behind and leave the landlord short of cash? If someone else takes it could they afford the rent? Rent is considered affordable if it is less than a third of your income. Table 8 on this page lists average salaries for each local area.
7. In case the landlord insists on putting up the rent, make sure they invest that money in the property: new carpets, fuel-efficient boiler, fixing the ignition button on the cooker. It's also an opportunity to ask if you can have a pet in return for a higher rent. Don't play this hand too early - this list is your back-up.
8. Now phone your landlord - or send them an email or letter if you don't have their number. Tell them you'll have to move out if they put up the rent and go through the list of reasons why they should leave it be. If you don't get a response straight away, let the agent know you're waiting to hear from the landlord.
9. The landlord could refuse to reconsider. In this case make your demands for improvements.
10. The landlord could ask you for a counter offer. A good guide is the current rate of inflation. At the moment it's zero. Be prepared to compromise.
If the landlord doesn't budge at all (which is unlikely) stay true to your word and start flat-hunting.