Friday, 5 February 2016

The War Rents Act Takes Effect

Saturday 5th February 1916: Difficulties have arisen over the interpretation of the War Rents Act which introduced rent controls for the first time on 23rd December, hoping to prevent tenants being subjected to high rent increases. War conditions have meant an end to house building and the demand for houses has outstripped supply. Outside of London the Act applies to all houses for which the weekly rent is under ten shillings.  Landlords may not raise the rent from the level in force on 3rd August 1914 unless they first give four weeks' notice explaining the grounds for the increase. Increases must be justified by changes such as structural alterations or an increase in rates, and full particulars must be provided; the amount by which the rent can be increased is limited to the amount which can be proved in this way.

There has been some confusion about the changes and a number of instances where increased rents have been imposed by landlords inappropriately. Any increased rents which have been enforced since 23rd November without waiting for the end of the notice period must either be returned to the tenant or the tenant may deduct the amount from future rent payments. Any coercion of tenants by landlords, for example by bringing forward increases in the rent book as arrears, is illegal.

In Leighton Buzzard a number of landlords had been campaigning for an all round increase in rents. Many landlords refused to join them, and in other cases tenants successfully resisted their landlords' attempts to impose increases, but others have already been paying higher amounts. A  committee has been now been formed to review the figures on any notices served on tenants in the town and ensure that they are in accordance with the act.

Source: Leighton Buzzard Observer, 8th February 1916

[1] The Increase of Rent and Mortgage (War Restrictions) Act 1915 also restricted the rights of landlords to evict tenants.

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