Rent Officer Handbook: fair rent registration

Fair rent registration: after registration

Matters considered after the rent has been registered.

Cancelling a rent registration

(v1 2012)

Applications from landlords to cancel a registered rent.

There are only two situations where a registration of fair rent may be cancelled: In both instances a cancellation can only be effective once the current registration is 2 years old.

1) where landlord and tenant make a joint application for cancellation and they support their application with a rent agreement that meets the statutory requirements; or,

2) where the landlord makes an application and the premises are no longer occupied by a regulated tenant.

Joint application

A landlord and tenant may make a joint application for the cancellation of the registered rent at any time provided that the date that a rent agreement takes effect, or will take effect, is after a period of two years from the effective date of the current registration.

The rent agreement must meet certain requirements:

  • It must provide that the tenancy cannot end or be brought to an end by the landlord (except for non-payment of rent or breach of the terms of the tenancy) earlier than 12 months after the date of the application to the Rent Officer
  • The rent agreement may provide that it will not come into effect unless the registration is cancelled

The parties should apply for cancellation of registration of rent on the form RR103 and include a copy of the rent agreement.

The Rent Officer must cancel the registration if satisfied that the rent, or highest rent, payable under the rent agreement does not exceed a fair rent. In making this decision the Rent Officer must remember that the fair rent may, in fact, be ‘capped’ by the maximum fair rent order, so must ensure that any proposed rent in the agreement would not exceed the “capped” rent if this would apply. The Rent Officer should note the cancellation on the rent register and must also notify the parties. The cancellation must not take effect before the date the rent agreement takes effect.

When deciding whether to cancel the registration, the Rent Officer must be satisfied that the terms of any variable service charge clause contained in the agreement are reasonable. (see page “Services – Variation Clause”)

Rent Officers who consider the rent or highest rent payable under the agreement exceeds a fair rent must hold a consultation. Following the consultation, if the Rent Officer is still of that opinion then he or she must refuse to cancel the registration and must:

  • note the refusal to cancel on the rent register; and
  • notify the parties of the decision

There is nothing to prevent either party from applying for a registration of a fair rent at any time following the cancellation though any such application would be treated as a “first” application and would be exempt from the maximum fair rent “capping” provisions as there would effectively be no “existing” fair rent to calculate the maximum fair rent from.

Dwelling no longer occupied by a regulated tenant

A landlord may apply for the cancellation of a registered rent where:

  • at least two years have elapsed since the effective date of the registration
  • the dwelling-house is no longer subject to a regulated tenancy
  • the person who would be the landlord if a regulated tenancy existed makes the application

The landlord should make the application for cancellation of registration of rent on form RR104.

The premises do not have to be vacant, merely not occupied by a regulated tenant. So if there has been at least 2 years since the last effective date of registration and a new assured or assured shorthold tenant occupies the premises at the time of application the Rent Officer can proceed to cancel the registration.

Whilst there is no specific requirement to carry out any checks, and the Rent Officer is able to rely on the accuracy of the information on the RR104 form, Rent Officers should at least attempt to verify that the dwelling is vacant or at least no longer occupied by a protected tenant before cancelling the rent.

A standard letter is available on the intranet forms cabinet that should be served on the occupier at the premises for which the cancellation request has been received. If no reply is received within 14 days to state that the dwelling is still occupied by a Rent Act tenant, then the Rent Officer should proceed to cancel the registered rent.

Rent Officers cannot cancel rents for dwellings in the housing association or Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976 parts of the Rent Register.

Related pages

  • Regulated tenancy
  • Maximum fair rent
  • Services – variation clause
  • Consultations

Explaining decisions

Rent Officers explaining their registration decisions to the landlord and tenant.

For fair rent work the landlord and tenant (or their representatives) have the option of a consultation to discuss the amount of rent to be registered and any other issues relevant to value prior to registration. However, Rent Officers must be aware of the rules of natural justice and should not discuss aspects of a case in progress with one party without giving the other a right to be heard. The consultation process should be used whilst the case is in progress.

Once a registration has been made, inevitably some customers will sometimes expect further information and more detailed reasons. Tenants, Landlords and their agents may also put pressure on staff to give full reasons for decision. They often ask for explanations of how valuations were made, how market evidence was used, details of localities, deductions for state of repair, tenants improvements, scarcity and in particular the effects of Rent “Capping” due to the MFR order. In addition they may ask for an explanation of the 15% exemption rule for improvements.

The VOA encourages openness and accountability, but we must only provide detailed information about individual valuations to those people who are entitled to it. Once a reasonable request for information has been refused, or put off, and requests become more pressing, it becomes almost impossible to appear open and transparent.

Over-riding principle

Management and staff must do everything possible to satisfy a genuine request for information the first time it is made. They must make every attempt to give a full and complete answer in the first instance, and so prevent the possibility of further prolonged correspondence.

Dealing with individual requests - who can we help?

Anyone is able to inspect the public rent register and as the rent register is now held electronically, customers should be encouraged to view the electronic register on the VOA website.

Detailed information about specific cases, such as that held in the individual case file can only be given to the landlord or tenant, or their authorised representatives. Staff must make sure that representatives have genuine authority to obtain information, but they must not be officious or legalistic when they do this.

Dealing with individual requests - how can we help?

Rent Officers must respond rapidly to a proper request to explain to a person how their registered rent has been determined, and provide a comprehensive explanation to specific questions. They should aim to reply fully within 3 working days.

Rent Officers must make sure that correspondence is in Plain English and is not officious. It must not be written in “legalese” or be negative.

Rent Officers should be prepared to explain the process of collecting, analysing and using market evidence.

Rent Officers should be prepared to demonstrate the extent of their market evidence, showing the range of rents achieved by postcode in graphical format. (VICTER, will produce the graphs automatically)

Rent Officers should explain clearly if a reduction in rent is because the premises are in a poor state of repair, and what deductions have been made for condition, tenant’s improvements and scarcity.

Rent Officers should be able to explain the figures and calculation used for the Maximum fair rent Order, though VICTER does not produce a paper MFR calculation sheet, there is a suitable excel spreadsheet on the office “shared drive” and the RPI data is available on the Intranet.

It is good professional practice, if requested, to give an explanation in a Rent Act case once the registration has been made and sent to the landlord and tenant. There is no breach of natural justice in doing this. In most cases Rent Officers should confine themselves to questions of valuation (market evidence, locality, scarcity) rather than law.

If the enquirer is enquiring about a particular legal point, questioning the process used, or alleges that mistakes have been made, Rent Officers should initially acknowledge receipt of the letter, but then contact RO Guidance for further advice. Staff should not express an opinion on the allegation at that stage.

Dealing with individual requests - what mustn’t we do?

Staff must not give full details of actual addresses in the Market Evidence Database, or they will be in breach of data protection legislation. They may be breaking commercial confidences as well. In any case where judicial review is threatened, staff should pass the correspondence to their VTM who must follow the procedures in the “Judicial Review” handbook which is available in the operations section of the intranet. The RO Guidance helpdesk should be notified of the threat without delay.

Dealing with individual requests - prolonged correspondence

Staff should not enter into prolonged correspondence. The VOA intention is to deal with any query as quickly and effectively as possible. If the enquirer is simply unhappy with the amount of rent registered, then they should be reminded of their right of formal objection within 28 days of the notification of registration, and if their letter is unclear, then they should be asked directly for clarification as to whether or not they wish to object. The Rent Assessment Committee is not obliged to deal with a late objection, so establishing the party’s intentions quickly is essential.

If a party to the registration alleges that that there may be an error either in the procedure, or the rent register, then a holding reply should be sent which MUST simply tell them that the matter will be investigated, and that we will get back to them as soon as possible. If they have written to you, you should acknowledge receipt of the letter, and advise them as above. At this point staff MUST contact the RO Guidance helpdesk for further guidance in every case no matter how trivial the error may appear.

  • Consultation
  • Natural justice
  • Valuation – Section 70 disregards
  • Valuation – scarcity
  • MFR maximum fair rent
  • Errors

Notice of increase

The notice given by the landlord to the tenant to implement a rent increase.

Regulated tenancies

In most cases a landlord can charge the full registered rent from the effective date of the registration, although this will depend on any restrictions in the tenancy agreement and the requirement to serve a formal notice of rent increase, which can be back-dated not more than 4 weeks.

The recommended notice of increase form is the one appropriate for regulated tenancies – it is known as Form No.1 in the Rent Act 1977 (forms etc) Regulations 1980. The use of Form 1 is not mandatory. Any form or letter that follows the wording of Form 1 or gives the same required information is satisfactory. Form 1 is not available from, or supplied by the Rent Officer. Form 1 is a legal form that can be obtained from law stationers.

De-controlled tenancies

If the registration is the first since a controlled tenancy became a regulated tenancy, the rent increase must be ‘phased’. This means that the rent is put up in two stages.

  • In the first year the landlord can charge half the increase
  • In the second year the landlord can charge the full increase

The landlord can also charge the amount for services in full from the effective date. A special notice of increase is required for phasing – known as Form No.2 in the Rent Act 1977 (forms etc) Regulations 1980.

Form 2 is only required for the first rental increase following de-control; all subsequent increases should use Form 1 as detailed above. The use of Form 2 is not mandatory. Any form or letter that follows the wording of Form 2 or gives the same required information is satisfactory. Form 2 is not available from, or supplied by the Rent Officer. Form 2 is a legal form that can be obtained from a law stationers.

Housing Association tenancies

If the landlord is a housing association they must serve a written notice of increase (but, there isn’t a specific statutory form) at least four weeks before the increase is charged, and the new rent can only be charged from the beginning of a rent period.

Rent reductions

If the rent has been reduced, there is no need for a notice and the new rent starts automatically from the effective date of the registration.

Once a Rent Officer has registered a rent the matter of collection/charging the new rent is a matter between the landlord and tenant, and not something Rent Officers can become involved in.

Landlords or their agents should contact their nearest law stationers, or seek their own legal advice if they are unsure which form to use or how to complete it. Many of the larger law stationers now have websites from which these forms can be down-loaded, although there is likely to be a charge for this.

  • Regulated tenancy
  • Housing Association tenancy

Register searches

(v1.1 2016)

How the Register of Fair Rents may be searched for individual registrations of rent.

Statutory Duty

The Rent Register is a public document containing the latest registrations of fair rents for dwellings. The rent officer is required to “keep up to date” the rent register under their duty set out in Section 66 of the Rent Act 1977, so each time a rent is registered by the rent officer it replaces the previous record for that dwelling.

The Electronic Rent Register (ERR)

All rents registered since 2004 are held electronically and members of the public may inspect the public electronic rent register at any time by looking on the Gov.UK website.

Some enquirers may ask if there is a registration for a particular dwelling. This will necessitate looking not only at the ERR but through extensive archive material.

If a search of ERR is followed by a requirement to notify the enquirer in writing, and the search has yielded no register, the rent officer may write a letter simply explaining that the search, purely of the ERR, resulted in us not finding a register entry. The guidance team is always available to provide help with drafting correspondence.

Older paper register entries

If there are no records of an electronically held registration, there may still be an older paper registration in the off site archive, which would be the current registered rent if it has not been cancelled, so staff should never state that there is no register entry for a particular dwelling.

There is a procedure to follow when conducting a search for a pre-2004 register entry. Firstly we must explain to the enquirer that in order to retrieve an older register entry from our archived records, we will need as much information about it as possible. The minimum information we need to be provided with in order to search for a register entry would be the address and approximate date of registration.

The procedure for initiating a search is to complete the ‘Hardcopy Retrieval Request Template’ with details of the record to be located. Once completed the email should be forwarded to the Records Retrieval inbox . The record retrieval form can be found in P:\Agency Records\Off site records or on the RO Guidance homepage under forms and letters.

Rent officers should never make any comments to an enquirer which may prejudge the outcome of a search for an old paper copy of a register. The ERR represents, in nearly every case, the current public rent register – the archive contains, in almost every case, register entries which are no longer current.

As with ERR searches, Rent officers may, if required, notify enquirers in writing that a search has revealed no register entries from the archive. The guidance team is always available to provide help with drafting correspondence.

If following a fruitless archive search, or after what appears to be a first time application is received, the parties to a registration provide evidence of an historic application to register a rent, please consult the guidance team for advice on the best way to proceed.

Providing register information

If no entry can be found on the rent register for a specific property and an enquirer insists that VOA gives a written guarantee that there is no registered rent, the matter should be raised with the guidance team for advice.

Where a certified copy of a specific rent register entry is requested the rent officer must, under their statutory duty set out in Section 66 of the Rent Act 1977, supply a certified copy of an entry in the register, for the appropriate fee (£1).

If an enquirer requests a certified copy of a specific register entry, and the original cannot be found, please contact RO Guidance for advice.

  • Rent register

Registration errors

How Rent Officers deal with errors made when rents are registered.

Guidance

No matter how careful we are, we all make mistakes and there is no statutory procedure for correcting errors in fair rent cases.

If you find you have made a mistake, or if one of the parties claims that you have made a mistake, you must proceed with caution. Some mistakes may be corrected, but not others.

The courts have laid down some guidelines but individual cases must be referred to RO Guidance.

before any action is taken. If one of the parties claims that there has been a mistake or that the rent register is incorrect you must tell them that you are looking into the matter and that you will get back to them as soon as possible. You must contact RO.Guidance immediately on finding a mistake or a claim being made that there is one so individual guidance can be given to you on how to proceed.

Rent register

The Register of fair rents.

Once the Rent Officer has determined a fair rent, a rent register entry is produced. The Rent Officer must maintain a register of all effective registered rents and make sure that it is kept up-to-date. The register must be made available for public inspection at any reasonable time and anyone can buy a certified copy of any entry in the register. The prescribed fee is £1 per copy.

Most rent registers since 2003 are held electronically and are available to view via the VOA website. Register entries older than 2003 may be held in paper form in a central archive. These registers are available on demand provided that an address and either a register number and / or date of registration can be provided.

Each register entry must contain:

  • the rent payable for the tenancy
  • a specification of the dwelling house; and
  • the prescribed particulars with regard to the tenancy

The prescribed particulars are:

  • address of the premises
  • names and addresses of landlord and tenant
  • if granted for a term, date of commencement and length of term
  • the rental period
  • the landlord’s and tenant’s liabilities for repair
  • details of any services provided by the landlord or a superior landlord
  • details of any furniture provided by the landlord or a superior landlord
  • (in the case of a statutory tenancy arising at the end of a long tenancy at low rent) particulars of the initial repairs
  • the liability for payment of council tax for the accommodation let to the tenant
  • any other terms of the tenancy taken into consideration in determining the fair rent

Separate parts of the rent register are kept for:

  • Regulated tenancies
  • Housing association tenancies and
  • Statutory tenancies under the Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976

In addition to the prescribed particulars above, best practice developed since 1966 is to include

  • Date of decision
  • Effective date

These dates have now become essential to enable the Rent Officer to calculate the rent under the Rent Act (Maximum fair rent) Order 1999.

  • Rent Register searches
  • Regulated tenancy
  • Housing association tenancy
  • Agricultural tenancy – Rent Ag Act 1976
  • MFR

Registration notices

Notification to the landlord and tenant of the registered rent.

Once the Rent Officer has determined a fair rent, we produce a rent register entry. We send a copy of the register entry to both landlord and tenant with an accompanying letter (ROSS5) notifying them of the registration. We also send out the leaflet “fair rents – Understanding your registered rent”.

The letter must inform both parties that if either of them objects to the registration by writing to the Rent Officer within 28 days, or such longer period as either the Rent Officer or rent assessment committee permit, the papers will be sent to a rent assessment committee (see “Objections to registered rent”).

  • Rent Register
  • Objections