Renting a home generally comes with a few problems, from noisy neighbors to total strangers parking in your allocated garage space. While most of these problems are solvable, nothing compares to an unexpected rent increase.
You may feel helpless, angry, or a little of both right now, but you need to remember to explore your options before you start packing up your belongings and calling friends looking for shelter.
Check Local Tenant/Landlord Laws
Very few cities these days have rent control. Those that do typically only protect current tenants, meaning you’re subject to prevailing policies (i.e. no rent control) if you’re just moving in. The good news is that many cities and counties have a cap on how much rent can be increased each year, and it’s usually around 10 percent.
If the rent increase notice you receive arrives less than a year from your last one and/or exceeds what is allowed by local laws, gently point this out to your landlord. It could be that they were misinformed by a former landlord, or that the laws only recently changed. In any case, don’t be confrontational; just kindly ask for an explanation.
You’ll also want to investigate how the rent increase was presented to you. By law, most increases have to be done in writing, and some even require the increase notices be delivered to you by certified mail. You may still get the increase in the end, but if the process has to be started all over again, it’ll at least buy you some time.
Of course, if the landlord seems uncooperative or claims that they can charge whatever they want, contact your local tenant support association and ask them to intervene or suggest other solutions.
Compare Rental Rates On Similar Properties
Check similar rental rates in your neighborhood. You may find that even with the increase, you’re getting a good deal. In that case, consider how you could adjust your budget to afford the new expense. A part-time job may be the solution, or perhaps reducing cable services, entertainment expenses, or other non-essential costs could solve your problem.
On the other hand, if rental rates around you are significantly lower that yours, you may want to start shopping around to see what your options are. And who knows? You may find an ideal place that actually saves you money every month.
Attempt To Negotiate
Depending on how much influence the landlord has on the property management company or landowner, they may be able to negotiate the increase to your benefit.
For instance, if the rent increase is 10 percent, ask if they would consider 5 percent for the coming year and another 5 percent the next year. Of course, you’ll have to renegotiate that increase sooner or later, but it will give you a much-needed year to figure out how to increase your income.
Another bargaining tool if you have a month-to-month rental agreement on a place you really love is to offer to sign a long-term lease. Many landlords would rather have a guaranteed five-year tenant who they know and trust than go through the hassle of revolving renters. Just make sure you have airtight terms in a long-term lease regarding rent increases and penalties for breaking the lease if your situation changes.
Tenants who pay their rent on time (or even early), have never elicited complaints from neighbors, and don’t regularly complain about minor repair issues are a landlord’s dream come true. For that reason, now is the time to remind your landlord what an asset you are and how they could benefit from keeping you around. This may get you nowhere in terms of monetary considerations, but it’s definitely worth a try.
Regardless of how your conversations with the landlord end up going, don’t panic. Remember that no matter what, you at least have 30 days to decide what to do. Discuss the matter with friends and family, as they might have some creative solutions you never considered.
Taking in a roommate cuts your rent in half if you have an extra bedroom to spare. Offering someone a couch or futon in a den or basement space won’t bring in as much money, but it could very well cover the cost of the rent increase.
Also, look into shared housing for yourself. A spacious apartment shared by two or three people is a thrifty option worth considering, and while it does have its challenges, it can still be positive and character-building under the right circumstances.
Psych Yourself Up For A New Adventure
Moving can and should be a positive experience. After all, you can probably remember having a few reservations when you moved into your current residence, but now you don’t want to leave! Plus, changing residences means meeting new people, discovering new stores and restaurants, exploring new neighborhoods, and taking a new route to work. You’ll also get to rid yourself of a lot of junk to make the transition faster and easier and a chance to put your signature touches on a whole new canvas called home.