Rent Officer Handbook: fair rent registration

Fair rent registration: application

Applications to the Rent Officer for the registration of fair rent for qualifying tenancies.

Joint applications for registration of rent

Applications made jointly by the landlord and tenant under a tenancy.

Rules for joint applications

The rules regarding joint applications to register a rent are different compared to applications from landlords or tenants alone. The relevant part of Schedule 11 to the Rent Act 1977 reads:

2 (1) Where the application is made jointly by the landlord and the tenant and it appears to the Rent Officer, after making such inquiry, if any, as he thinks fit and considering any information supplied to him … that the rent specified in the application is a fair rent, he may register that rent without further proceedings. (2) Where the Rent Officer registers a rent under this paragraph he shall notify the landlord and tenant accordingly.

3 (1) In the case of an application which does not fall within paragraph 2 above, the Rent Officer shall serve on the landlord and on the tenant a notice inviting the person on whom the notice is served to state in writing, within a period of not less than seven days after the service of the notice, whether he wishes the Rent Officer to consider, in consultation with the landlord and the tenant, what rent ought to be registered for the dwelling-house.

It may be considered unlikely that the proposed rent will be equal to the Rent Officer’s determination of a fair rent under Section 70 of the Rent Act 1977 and subject to the Maximum fair rent Order 1999, but this will be established at the stage of provisional calculation of rent by the Rent Officer below.

The approach for Rent Officers to follow is:

  • RR2’s are served to help establish the validity of the application and to allow the parties to make any representations regarding the requested rent
  • ROs must check cases allocated to them in order to identify joint applications at an early stage
  • The RO considers the proposed rent in the light of any representations and after gathering any required information. This may be by inspection of the property and/or serving an RR3 to obtain required information from the parties to the application
  • The RO should make a provisional calculation of registered rent under Section 70 and apply the MFR where appropriate
  • If the resulting determination is equal to the proposed rent, the Rent Officer proceeds directly to registration. The rent is registered at the requested amount and the case is closed. If this course of action is followed, the parties to the application may not object to the registered rent
  • However, due to the operation of the Maximum fair rent Order, it may be expected that in many cases the resulting determination will not be equal to the proposed rent so the RO should inform the parties that the proposed rent is not equivalent to a fair rent, and s/he should invite the parties to a consultation to discuss the rent to be registered
  • At the consultation the RO must explain that s/he is minded to register a rent other than that proposed, and must then listen to and record the representations of the parties
  • After the consultation the Rent Officer should consider the representations and make any adjustments necessary to their determination of rent under Section 70 and the MFR Order
  • The RO can then proceed to register the rent

Consultation letters

A bespoke Notification of Consultation letter should be used in the case of a joint application as described above. It contains an additional paragraph, which reads;

I have looked at your application but I am considering registering a different rent to that which you have proposed. I am therefore inviting you to a consultation to discuss the rent that should be registered.

This draft letter may be found in the ‘forms and letters’ part of the guidance intranet pages, and must be used for joint applications, and a copy attached to the case.

Please note that the Rent Officer should not normally register the rent under a joint application without holding a consultation unless the calculation of rent under Section 70 and the MFR Order is the same as the proposed rent. If circumstances arise where a Rent Officer is considering registering a rent under a joint application without first holding a consultation, they should consult their line manager.

  • Application for registration of rent
  • RR1 – essential information
  • RR3 – further information
  • Valuation – section 70
  • Maximum fair rent
  • Consultation pages

RR1 application

The RR1 is the application form used by landlords and tenants.

Application for the registration of a fair rent

An application may be made by the landlord, the tenant, or both landlord and tenant jointly, of residential accommodation occupied by a:

  • Regulated tenant
  • Housing Association Secure Tenant
  • Statutory Tenant under the Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976

Application form

When an application form is received by the Rent Officer, they must make sure that it is valid. It must be for residential accommodation that is:

  • let on a regulated tenancy or
  • a secure housing association tenancy or
  • occupied under a statutory tenancy under the Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976

and must:

  • specify the rent that the applicant wants the Rent Officer to register
  • contain other prescribed particulars.

Services

If the landlord makes the application, and wants the Rent Officer to include a sum payable for any services that he or she provides, it must also:

  • specify that sum, and
  • be accompanied by details of the expenditure incurred by the landlord in providing those services.

These details are not just supporting evidence; they form part of the application. The application is not valid and cannot be accepted without them. Where this information is missing the applicant must supply it before the Rent Officer can proceed (see “Services - schedules” page).

Prescribed particulars

The most commonly used application forms are:

  • RR1 is used for most private sector regulated tenancies and Housing Association secure tenancies
  • RR1C is used for tenancies where the tenancy is a statutory one under the Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976

Information required on the application form

The prescribed application form is the RR1 application form, but the application does not have to be on this form, any form that faithfully copies the prescribed form is valid. The prescribed application form shows the minimum information needed on the application form (for more details see “RR1 - essential information” page).

Joint tenants and joint landlords

Where there are joint tenants, all of them must sign the application, unless one of them, or a third party, acts as and signs as agent for them all.

Where there are joint landlords, all of them must sign the application, unless one of them, or a third party, acts as and signs as agent for them all.

Time limits

Unless there has been a change of circumstances, if there is an existing registration, a landlord may only make a new application after one year and nine months from the effective date of that registration.

Unless there has been a change of circumstances, if there is an existing registration, a tenant may only make a new application after two years from the effective date of that registration.

A landlord and tenant acting together may make a joint application at any time.

Withdrawal

Once an application has been accepted, it cannot be withdrawn unilaterally without seeking a view from the other parties involved. An application to withdraw the application can only be accepted from the original applicant. For example the tenant cannot apply to withdraw a landlord’s application.

  • Regulated tenancy
  • Housing Association tenancy
  • Agricultural tenancy - Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976
  • Services - schedules
  • RR1 - Essential information
  • Change of circumstances

RR1 - essential information

The information which the Rent Officer needs to entertain an application.

Legislation sets out a number of “prescribed particulars” that the applicant should provide when making an application for registration of fair rent. However if the applicant does not give this information, the application may still be valid. This is because the courts have decided that not all the information is mandatory. Ordinary members of the public acting without professional help often make applications, and so the courts do not encourage a technical, legalistic approach to what is required.

The lack of, or inaccuracy of, information will not automatically mean that the application is invalid. Even if the form is not signed a Rent Officer can still accept it providing that there is a signature, or other identifying mark on the form or on an accompanying letter. The key point is that the application must show who submitted it. Any letters and other documents sent with the application form part of that application and must be copied to the non-applicant.

Applications for registration of fair rent are not valid unless the applicants propose a rent to be registered, and this must be a different amount to that already registered for the tenancy. This will usually be a specific figure of rent for a set period, such as £70 per week, though this may not always be the case. For example, the applicant might suggest a rent of an amount per square foot or square metre. This would still be a valid application provided that it is possible to calculate the figure of rent with certainty.

If a landlord applies for a registration of fair rent, and that landlord provides services to the tenant, the Rent Act requires the landlord to give certain information about the services and the cost. In the application the landlord must:

  • specify the sum payable for services; and
  • include details of the expenditure incurred in providing those services

The application cannot be accepted unless this information is provided because the details form part of the application; they are not just supporting evidence. The amount for services must be an actual figure, it cannot be “negligible”.

The minimum information required in the application form can be found by looking at the prescribed application form (RR1 or RR1C).

  • RR1 Application
  • Services

Tenant’s representatives

Where tenants may be represented by another person under the application.

Professional bodies

The tenant may have appointed a professional body to act on their behalf. A letter from such an organisation received on headed paper and giving no cause for doubt may be treated at face value, and it may be taken as though we have a letter of authority. However a telephone call from such an organisation would be treated differently. Rent Officers should ask for the request in writing, and preferably to be accompanied by a letter of authority, (which the professional body would already have as their Instruction to Act, or equivalent).

Family members

The age profile of many of the tenants we deal with under registered rent cases is such that the contact we receive is often from a family member acting for their aged relative. There is no requirement for the family member to be resident in order to act on the tenant’s behalf. Some tenants are so infirm that asking for a letter of authority may present difficulties, particularly if the family member does not live nearby.

Law of Agency

The legal position is that if someone purports to be acting on behalf of another, then they must be treated as though they do act on behalf of that person. Self appointed agents were dealt with by Lord Denning in a Court of Appeal case, (Phipps v Boardman 1965). Where a person has assumed authority where they have none in their own right, they are held accountable just as if they had that authority. They therefore assume the same obligations and duties in the process as the tenant.

Data Protection Act

However we must consider the provisions of the Data Protection Act which protects personal data from a third party, so we need to be sure about the identity and propriety of the third party contact. Some of the information we deal with during an application to register a rent may be sensitive personal data including financial information. When we receive a letter or phone call from an individual asking us to treat them as a representative of a party to the application to register a rent, before we accept such a request we must be satisfied that they represent the person they purport to represent.

Letter of Authority

Ideally we would like to receive a letter of authority signed by the party to the application for registration of rent, giving the third party authority to act on their behalf. However whilst we retain the right to request such a written authority from any third party, we recognise that in certain circumstances it would be inappropriate to insist upon receiving one before treating the third party as the tenant’s representative. In any circumstances where we have some doubt over the propriety of the request, insisting on a letter of authority would be wholly appropriate. The ideal preferred proof that the person is representing who they purport to be representing is for them to provide us with a letter of authority, signed by the party being represented, giving permission for the third party to represent them in the case being dealt with by the Rent Officer. In some cases, for example where the party being represented is infirm or incapable, this may be a Power of Attorney. In others it may be a simple letter or note signed by them. If this is provided the Rent Officer may treat the representative as the tenant’s agent immediately, and send all future correspondence to them.

Letter to the parties

Where we have no written authority or equivalent, the approach to adopt is to write a standard letter to the parties informing them of the request from a third party to act on behalf of the tenant for the purposes of the application process. The letter informs them that we intend to proceed on the basis of acceding to the request unless we hear directly from them within 7 days and they ask us not to accept the third party request. If the person making the request instead provides written authority within the 7 days then we can proceed as soon as we have such authority, so the maximum inconvenience to the customer is a short delay of just a few days.

All correspondence should then be sent to the tenant’s representative as well as the tenant themselves.

Standard letter

This letter is available from the Rent Officers’ forms and letters page of the intranet:

“Dear [tenant name],

I am writing regarding the recent application to register a rent for your home.

I have received a request from [enquirer name/address] to act on your behalf in relation to this application and I intend to proceed on this basis unless I hear from you within 7 days from the date of this letter. You may contact me by telephone on the number at the top of this letter. I have sent a copy of this letter to the landlord/agent for their information.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about this letter or about the application process.

Yours faithfully, [Rent Officer]”

If Rent Officers are uncertain how to proceed in any case with which they are dealing, the guidance team is available to help and advise.

  • Natural justice
  • Data Protection Act

FR Withdrawals v2.1 2015

Where applications are withdrawn by the applicant before the rent is registered.

When an application is made for registration of fair rent, there is an expectation that if jurisdiction has been accepted by the Rent Officer, the registration process will be completed and a rent register will be produced.

An application for registration of rent may only be withdrawn by the applicant if they decide that they no longer want to proceed with the application. For example, where improvement works are being completed on a property the landlord may decide to withdraw the application and wait until the works are completed.

Whilst there is no statutory process for this withdrawal process, the authority in case law comes from R. v Hampstead and St. Pancras Rent Tribunal ex parte Goodman (1951) which held that applications to Rent Tribunals could be withdrawn. The Rent Officer has the same legal status as a Rent Tribunal.

The essential points in case law were made by Lord Denning in Hanson v. Church Commissioners for England and The London Rent Assessment Panel (1978). They are:-

  1. There is no automatic right of withdrawal

  2. The other party must agree, or at least not object to the withdrawal

  3. But even then, the Rent Officer may proceed with an application if it is in the public or private interest.

Where there was a public interest in the dispute, Denning considered that it may not be permissible for one of the parties to withdraw without the assent of the other and even then, without the consent of the tribunal.

If the applicant wishes to withdraw their application, they must do this in writing and then the RO must notify the non-applicant – who may still wish the application to proceed. If they agree to the application being withdrawn, then the RO is likely to agree to the withdrawal. In doing so, the RO must be satisfied that natural justice is being preserved for both parties. Even after a withdrawal has been accepted, both parties retain the right to make a fresh application to have the rent registered at any time . There is no specific requirement to provide reasons in the request or objection to withdrawal, but the Rent Officer should make such enquiries as are necessary to be satisfied that there is no public or private interest element in both parties agreeing to withdrawal, and the Rent Officer putting that withdrawal into effect.

An example of where the Rent Officer may not effect the withdrawal would be if the RO believed that the landlord had pressurised the tenant into withdrawing the application or agreeing to its withdrawal, and withdrawing the application may put the tenant at a disadvantage.

To withdraw the case on VICTER the “FR Request Withdrawal” option should be used which is only available on the Decide Action for Case screen. The case does not need to be “next stepped” prior to the withdrawal. This then produces letters that are sent to the parties, notifying them of the request to withdraw the case.

Whilst Schedule 11 of the Rent Act 1977 does not provide any guidance as to the process or timescales to be followed for withdrawals, established practice is that the RO should then wait 14 days for any representations from the parties to be received. If no objection to the withdrawal is received from the non-applicant within that time, the RO should continue to complete the withdrawal of the application.

Where an objection to the withdrawal from the non-applicant is received within 14 days then the RO should consider their objection and decide whether or not there are reasonable grounds to continue with the case. The RO may consider that the non-applicant is disadvantaged by allowing the withdrawal to continue. An example of this may be where the condition of the dwelling has deteriorated since the last registration was carried out, and the rent could be registered at a lower amount if the application was allowed to proceed.

The case must be withdrawn on VICTER using the “FR Request Withdrawal” function as this allows the correct letters to be served avoiding other errors. This procedure should not be confused with the “withdrawal” function on VICTER which the RO should use when rejecting jurisdiction.

An RO can reject jurisdiction any time up until registration and it can be for a number of reasons. A common reason is where it is discovered at a later date that the tenant is the son/daughter of the original tenant meaning they are not able to succeed to the tenancy, so it cannot be regulated.

In order to reject a case on this basis the “withdraw” and “no jurisdiction” option on VICTER should be selected which produces letters for the parties. It is important that the two functions on VICTER are not confused as one is a formal request to withdraw the application by the applicant and the other is the RO’s decision to reject jurisdiction.

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