As a tenant, you are protected from unfair eviction and unfair rent. Of course, you can’t be a complete bastard and still expect to live in a property if you don’t pay for it. Landlords have rights too. That said, any eviction notice must follow due process. That is outlined here: https://www.gov.uk/evicting-tenants You must be served the right type of notice and given the right amount of time to leave. Again, a decent tenancy agreement will deal with this.
Landlords can be a bit casual with their rent increases. Even worse, if they are the ‘hands off’ sort of landlord, often property agents will increase the rent by a set percentage without the landlord knowing. Be aware of this and consider bypassing the property agent to negotiate with the landlord.
Real Life Story: Surprise rent increase
Katharine, London: “We were happy with the rent we were paying and had not agreed to a rent increase when we signed the contract. It went up by 5% after our first year of tenancy and when we queried it, the agency just said it was ‘standard’ and ‘in the contract’. We just paid it, I mean we made a bit of a fuss, but we didn’t know what else to do.”
The landlord has the right to charge a 'market rent'. You may quibble on what that is, but the landlord retains the right to boot you out if you refuse to pay the agreed rent. Here are the rules on rental increases - https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/housing/renting-privately/during-your-tenancy/challenging-a-rent-increase/. You can challenge unfair rents or rises by a private landlord at the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber). Of course, there is also then a danger that higher rents are imposed, so make sure you're confident you know what market rent really is.
Remember, a quoted rent amount is negotiable, and don’t be afraid to ask for less.
Consider changes in market movements when you’re renegotiating your lease. If you can prove that comparable places in the area are going for less, you are absolutely entitled to request a rent reduction. That said, you can’t just ask for lower rent because you can’t afford it, or you have a hard time financially. Private landlords are not charities and if they can find another tenant able to pay full price, they probably will. More than anything else, you must earn your rent decrease. You cannot hope to demand favours while being a bad tenant.
Other issues: landlords under pressure
Increasingly, landlords must have licences to practice. This depends on the local council rules – here are the rules in place - https://www.londonpropertylicensing.co.uk/.
They are also coming under pressure from potential changes to the law. This new bill https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/draft-tenants-fees-bill is being discussed and it may change the law and the letting model in general: It’s worth keeping an eye on it, because it should affect the way landlords practice and how they treat you.
Fact: The Tenant Fees Bill, if passed, will mean a major change in the fees charged to tenants. In fact, it proposes getting rid of tenant fees altogether. Keep track of its progress here.