Can my landlord raise the rent?

Flatmates Team

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In an economic climate where everything’s getting more expensive, the dreaded rent increase could be coming your way. It’s normal to feel scared and frustrated. Here’s what you can do.

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The reality is this is happening across the country, in some places more frequently and steeply than others, and it has the potential to drive share households from their lovely homes if it all gets too much (metaphorically and financially). 

So what’s the story with rental increases, anyway? Sure, mortgage interest rates are increasing, but aren’t there restrictions on how much a landlord can raise the rent by — and how often they can do it?

The answers depend on where you live, and in some cases, your particular rental situation. Let’s break it down.

Can my landlord raise the rent? How much can they increase it by?

Since rental laws vary by state, the answer to this question does too. The other factor to consider is the kind of lease you’re on: a fixed-term lease with a specific end date, a “periodic lease” that just rolls from month to month with no end date, or a tenancy where there’s no written agreement at all.

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In most states:
Landlords can only increase the rent on a fixed-term lease if the increase is stipulated in that lease, so you can check the lease to find out if the rent rise is “reasonable” under the terms you agreed to.

Renters on periodic leases, or without leases in place, can have their rent increased every six or 12 months, depending on the state. In some cases, a rental increase must be mutually agreed before it can take effect.

A few states, like the ACT, legislate what constitutes a reasonable rental increase, while others, like SA, place no limits on rent increases. See the “What if I think the rent increase isn’t reasonable?” section below for more details.

New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and the ACT

In NSW, VIC, QLD, WA, and the ACT, a landlord can only increase the rent during a fixed-term period of a rental agreement if that agreement specifies either the amount of the increase or a method of calculating it. More information for Victorians is here.

In Queensland, they can’t raise the rent within the first 6 months of the tenancy, but they can raise it once every 6 months thereafter. Queenslanders, get more info here.

In NSW, rent can increase on a periodic lease once in a 12-month period. In the ACT, that applies to any lease other than a fixed-term lease. More on ACT laws here.

Where there’s no written tenancy agreement, NSW landlords can’t increase the rent during the first 6 months of the tenancy. Read more on NSW rent rise laws here.

And in WA, while a landlord can negotiate a higher rent with you when your fixed-term agreement ends and you want a new lease on the same property, that increase can’t take place in the first 30 days of the new tenancy. Read more on WA laws here.

Tasmania

Tasmania makes things a bit simpler: rent can only be raised if there’s a clause in the tenancy agreement that states this, or there is no written agreement.

This aims to allow renters to enter into a tenancy knowing what they need to pay, and not have any surprises. But Tasmanian law does allow for the renegotiation of rent when the lease is up for renewal. See more on rent rises in Tasmania here.

Northern Territory

Territorians, like those in NSW, Victoria and Queensland, can have their rent increased during a tenancy if that’s included, along with the value of the increase (or its method of calculation), in the tenancy agreement. If it’s not, the rent can only be increased by mutual agreement between the landlord and tenants during a tenancy, or of course when the lease expires and a new one is being negotiated. More info for NT rights here.

South Australia

If you’re in SA and on a fixed term lease, your landlord can raise your rent during a tenancy only if it’s specified in your tenancy agreement. The amount of the increase or its method of calculation also need to be specified. They can’t raise the rent within 12 months of the lease beginning, or the last increase.

In other cases, a landlord can raise the rent 12 months after your tenancy kicks off, or the last increase, or if you agree to a rent rise (for example, if the landlord has done works to improve the property and you agree it’s actually worth more as a result). They can also raise the rent with an offer to extend the lease, but only when it’s been 12 months since the lease began or the rent was last increased. Get the full story here on SA rent rises here

How often can my landlord raise the rent?

As we outlined above, the frequency with which landlords can raise the rent really depends on two things: your tenancy agreement and which part of the country you live in.

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Most states and territories won’t allow rent increases within 12 months of each other or the tenancy agreement starting, but in many places, landlords holding periodic leases may be able to raise the rent within 6 months of the last increase.

So, while periodic leases may be convenient and flexible, they may leave you open to rent rises. Check the details and links above to get the facts for your particular situation.

How to negotiate your rent

If you’re not comfortable with the rent increase, it’s important to say so.

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Call your rental agent and tell them you’d like to negotiate the rent with the landlord (and the agent present), then follow up with an email that lists dates and times that would suit you.

Then, take some tips from our guide to prepare yourself for the meeting.

What if I think the rent increase isn’t reasonable?

This might seem like a pretty subjective question, but in fact there are two ways to get a sense of whether a rent increase is actually a bit much.

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The first one is obviously to compare the landlord’s proposed rent with what’s in the market. If they’re working with an agent, that person has probably already done the legwork to make sure that the rent rise isn’t above market rate, but not always. The agent gets a percentage of rent, after all. So, do your homework to make sure the proposed new rental rate reflects what the market is asking.

Separately from this, some states and territories have legislated what constitutes a “reasonable” rent rise, or provide pathways in which tenants can contest a rate rise. Here are the details.

New South Wales

NSW provides a mechanism through the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal that you can use to contest proposed rental increases that you believe are excessive.

Victoria

Victorians can contest a rate rise they think is too high through Consumer Affairs Victoria, who they can ask to investigate.

Queensland

In Queensland, once you’ve tried negotiating with the landlord (and failed), you have two options. The first is to apply for a dispute resolution — basically a self-help process that involves the landlord and agent. The second is to apply to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a decision on the rent hike.

Tasmania

If your Tasmania-based rent increase seems excessive, you can apply to have it reviewed by the Residential Tenancy Commissioner.

The Northern Territory

The Northern Territory Civil and Administrative Tribunal is your best bet for resolving disputes over unreasonable rental hikes, Terrirotirans.

South Australia

There’s no limit to the amount by which landlords can increase rent in SA, but if the increase seems excessive, you can take it to the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a decision.

Western Australia

If you’re faced with a rent you think is excessive in WA, and you can’t negotiate your way out of it, you’ll need to take the matter to the Magistrate’s Court, since the State Administrative Tribunal doesn’t handle residential tenancy disputes. There’s more info on the process here.

The ACT

ACT law specifies a “prescribed amount” by which rent can increase (10% more than the Consumer Price Index); anything above this is considered “excessive”.

Where to get help if you’re struggling to pay rent

If you’re strapped for cash and can’t make the rent as a household, your first stop in managing the situation is to speak with your rental agent before the rent is due. Let them know where you stand, and when you expect to be able to pay. This way, no one is left in the lurch and you can maintain the best possible relationship with both your agent and your landlord.

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Beyond that, each state and territory has different options available for those who are struggling with rent repayments, and so does the Federal Government, particularly in the form of the National Rental Affordability Scheme. This page outlines eligibility requirements and the application procedure.

Additionally, if you get Centrelink benefits, you can also speak to Centrelink about help that’s available under Federal legislation, including Rent Assistance.

What if your flatmates aren’t paying rent and you’re stuck with the bill?

This is one situation we’d all rather avoid, but it does happen. Fortunately, there are some tried-and-true approaches to resolving it.

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We’ve pulled them together into our handy guide, How to get your roommate to pay rent. Give it a read!

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Flatmates Team

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