So your landlord’s notified you that your rent will be increased beginning next month. Since your lease agreement specifies that a particular amount of rent will be paid each month for the term of the lease, you’re wondering what entitles your landlord to raise the rent in this manner. The good news is that your landlord is likely not legally able to raise the rent in violation of the lease agreement. Read on for more information about when—if ever—your landlord may be allowed to raise the rent.
Lease is law
The terms of your written lease agreement govern your landlord’s ability to change the rent in any way. If your lease has a clause that allows for your landlord to raise the rent for a particular reason, you may be obligated to pay the additional amount. Some leases may allow the rent to be raised if improvements, such as hardwood floors or any kitchen or bathroom remodeling, are added to the property. Be aware of this possibility when signing your lease agreement, and determine whether you’re willing to pay more to get what may not be more in your eyes. Most lease agreements will not include a provision for rent raising, so if you disagree with this concept, let your landlord know. Management will generally be accommodating and allow for improvements to be made between, rather than during, tenancies.
However, if you have a short-term (like a month to month or even a week to week) lease, or an oral lease agreement, be aware that your landlord may increase rent from one lease period to another—provided that you’re given at least one lease period’s notice. That is, at the beginning of one month, your landlord can give you notice that the rent will be raised next month should you renew your lease at the new rental rate. The same goes for a week to week arrangement—you can be notified at the beginning of one weeklong term that rent will be raised over the next week. If your landlord tries to raise rent without having notified you, contact your attorney or a local tenant’s rights association for assistance.
Because it’s easier for a landlord to raise rent in a short term lease situation, you’ll likely wish to avoid a short-term lease situation unless you only need to rent for a month or two before establishing a new, longer-term housing arrangement. Likewise, an oral lease agreement is subject to misunderstandings and disagreements, so document your lease terms in writing whenever possible.
Battle the bill
If a landlord is threatening to raise your rent and the manipulative move doesn’t appear to be allowed by your apartment’s lease contract, you can take action. Document your landlord’s request for increased rent, and verify that your lease agreement does not allow for this request to be made. If your landlord makes demands for the difference between the rent specified in your lease, counter with the lease that does not allow for such a raise in rent. Your landlord should back down once it’s clear that he or she has no grounds for the shift in price. If you have a short-term or oral lease agreement, you’ll probably have less success fighting an attempted rent increase, but if your landlord attempts to enforce an increase without prior notice, you may have a case. As always, be sure to do your research and make sure local laws are on your side before refusing to pay your rent.
In general, there’s no limit to the amount a landlord can raise your rent once your lease has ended. Some apartments offer special rates for existing tenants; these rates may be higher than your former rent but lower than what renters new to the apartment complex would be required to pay. If you don’t like the new rental rate, ask your landlord if you can possibly get a deal.
If the increase in your rent seems outrageous, look around for comparison prices, and check into your state’s tenant laws. Some states do have laws that regulate the percentage increase in rents from lease term to lease term. If your landlord’s rental request is in violation of these regulations, you may be able to renew at a better rate.
In sum, always make sure your lease agreement specifies the length of your lease and the consistent monthly rent you’ll have to pay. If you have a written, long-term agreement with no clause allowing for rent increase in any situations, you should be protected against any fluctuations in rental rates. If you have a short-term or oral lease, you incur a higher risk of rent hikes. Whatever your situation, always strive to find and obtain the best rental deal possible, and to get that deal in writing.