Average rent rates across the country have been skyrocketing over the past few years, leaving plenty of people unable to afford the new increases to their monthly expenses. If you're renting, particularly in a city that is highly sought after or in development, then don't be surprised if you receive a rent increase notice from your landlord. When renting a property, you are entitled to rights as a tenant, but your landlord also reserves the right to increase your rent if necessary. However, there are some rules and regulations as to how and when they can do it, so it's essential to understand how to handle a rent increase notice if you receive one.
A Rent Increase Notice is designed to give tenants enough warning about higher monthly costs, which should provide them with plenty of time to decide whether they want to remain at the property and pay or not. If you do not or cannot pay higher rent, the notice should be sufficient to allow you to find new accommodations and move out.
The first thing to be unaware of is that, unfortunately, your landlord does have the right to raise your rent legally. Typically speaking, they can't just jack next month's rent up by double and be done with it. There are some stipulations they need to abide by if they decide to up your monthly payment.
Can Your Landlord Increase Your Rent?
Unless otherwise stated in your lease, the good news is that your landlord cannot raise your rent until your contract is up. So, if you signed a 12-month lease, they can increase the rent at the end of that year, but not before. Most people find themselves signing a one-year rental agreement, so it can bring you some peace of mind to know that you won't be caught unable to pay in the middle of the year. However, do be aware that if you are renting monthly, your landlord can technically increase your rent every month (provided they give you enough notice). Typically, for most states, a 30-day notice is required.
On the other hand, the bad news is that, unless you live in a rent-controlled area, most states don't impose a maximum limit on rent increases. This means that your landlord reserves the right to increase your rent yearly or monthly by as much as they see fit. They cannot, however, increase your rent mid-lease. If you receive notice of a rent increase before your lease is up, the increase is illegal and does not have to be paid.
How much notice does a landlord have to give to raise rent?
Landlords are also required to give you sufficient notice so that you have enough time to make a decision regarding your living situation. In most states, this comes in the form of a written rent increase notice. However, in some states, a verbal notice might be sufficient as well. If you receive news of a rent increase from your landlord by word of mouth, make sure to check if that is legal in your state before proceeding.
If you are fortunate enough to live in a rent-controlled area or city, there will be strict regulations for landlords regarding if they can increase rent, and if so, by how much. Rent controlled areas have laws in place to protect the cost of living for tenants, so your landlord will have to raise rent inline with the appropriate laws and regulations. Currently, New York, New Jersey, Oregon, Maryland, California, and Washington DC are the only states in the US that have rent control.
Rent Increase Notices can never be given in a discriminatory manner or as a means of retaliation. So, if you ask your landlord to complete some repairs and the next month you are told your rent is being put up, it may be possible to take legal action.
Can a landlord increase your rent every year?
The short answer is yes. However, this depends on your contract and the type of apartment you're renting. Once you sign a lease, your rate is fixed, unless the contract states otherwise. If you sign a multi-year lease, then the landlord will not be able to increase your rent every year.
If you're in a rent-controlled or rent-stabilized apartment, your landlord might not be able to increase the rent that often as local laws might dictate when and by how much rents can be increased for rent-controlled units.
How often can a landlord raise the rent?
Assuming you're not in a rent-controlled apartment or that your lease doesn't stipulate otherwise, your landlord can raise the rent whenever your lease renews. This means that would have to wait until the terms of the existing contract are complete. If you sign a 6-12 month lease, then every time the contract is up for renewal, your landlord could hypothetically increase your rent so long as he or she does so legally.
Can you negotiate a rent increase?
Absolutely! While receiving a notice of rent increase is a major pain, you should know that it's certainly possible to negotiate your rent. Often, landlords will try to increase your rent even if the market is soft, simply because they know that most tenants prefer to avoid the hassle of finding and moving to a new place.
What To Do If You Receive A Rent Increase Notice
Firstly, if you receive notice of increasing rent and you know you can't afford it, the most straightforward option would be to move out and find a new place to live with more affordable costs. However, if you receive a notice and you don't want to move or are unable to consider moving, there are a few things you can do:
- Check your state and local laws to ensure that the increase is legal and that your landlord is not illegally increasing by too much per month.
- Know the terms of your lease. Make sure that the landlord meets all regulations outlined in your lease agreement. For example, do you live in a rent-controlled unit? Was the increase given to you at the appropriate time?
- See if there is any possible way to negotiate the rent increase with your landlord. If this is the course of action you are choosing to take, you may want to speak to other tenants and see if they would also be willing to negotiate. The more people who are against the increase, the better your chances of working something out with the landlord.
If you are unable to negotiate a legal rent increase notice, and you choose not to move out, you will be obligated to pay the increase or risk eviction. If you decide to stay, make sure that it is within your budget to pay the higher monthly costs before you sign a new lease. You could land yourself in legal trouble or face eviction if you re-sign a new lease, but find out later you can no longer afford the higher rent.