Yesterday, my rent went up.
Having lived in houses that were not part of the traditional renting system – let’s call it extended housesitting – for the past four or so years, this came as a rude shock. Rent… Going up? Wait, can they do that?
My flatmate seemed pretty unfazed by the situation. “It hasn’t gone up in a while,” she said. “It’s pretty normal.”
But still, it niggled at me. Is it normal?
Well we’ve done some digging to answer all of your tough questions about renting and rental increases, so you can feel empowered next time you’re told it’s going up.
1. So, can you refuse a rental increase?
Yes and no. Refusing a rental increase could mean eviction. These terms will be listed in your rental agreement signed before you move in, so make sure you are diligent to check.
According to the Tenant's Union of Victoria:
"The rent cannot be increased during a fixed-term tenancy agreement unless this is specified in writing in the agreement. Unfortunately the standard real estate agent tenancy agreement usually includes this term so it is important to read the agreement carefully before you sign it."
If you want to omit it from your agreement, make sure you specify that before signing - but be warned, most real estate agents will insist that it's included.
2. How much should it go up?
Generally speaking, your rent will increase somewhere around $10 - $50/ week.
However, it is worth trying to negotiate with your landlord or agent over a proposed rent increase, as they may be willing to reduce it, especially if you are an established and reliable tenant or you would have to move out because of the increase.
"If you have an inspector’s report you can also use this to try and negotiate with your landlord or agent so you don’t have to take the next step of going to the Tribunal," says the Tenant's Union. "Make sure that any agreement you reach is put in writing and signed by yourself and the landlord or agent."
3. How often SHOULD it go up?
This all depends on your location and your landlord. If you are in a rapidly growing area, your landlord might opt for annual rental increases. On the other hand, you can sit on the same rental payment for years before it changes.
Kimberley Mackenzie is a solicitor and at the Inner Sydney Tenants’ Advice and Advocacy Service, and says that there is no one rule for rental increases.
"Rent increases are purely at the landlord’s discretion," she says. "If the landlord wants to increase the rent they can, so long as it is done in accordance with the law."
4. How often CAN it go up?
Ok, this can go one of two ways.
Fixed agreement -
If a tenant has a fixed term agreement of less than two years, the rent cannot be increased within the fixed term unless the agreement specifies the amount of the increase or the method of calculating any increase.