Landlords typically have the right to raise your rent, but only under specific conditions. As a general rule, they can’t do so in the middle of your lease. When your lease period comes to an end, however, the agreement is no longer valid, and the landlord is within their right to set new terms for the renewal.
If your rent agreement is currently month-to-month, week-to-week, or something similar, then the landlord can raise your rent at nearly any point. However, they have to provide you with sufficient notice.
Depending on your state, your landlord may have to inform you of the rent increase anywhere from 15 to 60 days before it would go into effect. Generally, the notification must be in writing. Some states even require it be delivered in a specific way, such as by certified mail, though this is by no means universal.
Finally, if there is a clause in your lease that specifically provides openings for rent increases, your landlord may be able to charge more before the term in the agreement ends. Usually, these clauses cover changes in your situation, such as adding a roommate or a new pet.
However, other lease conditions could also trigger an increase. As a result, it’s best to carefully review your lease to determine what scenarios could lead the landlord to raise your rent.
When a Rent Increase Isn’t Allowed
If your lease doesn’t allow a rent increase, your landlord can’t do it – it’s as simple as that. A lease is a binding agreement and states what you are required to pay for the specified period. Attempting to raise your rent during that timeframe violates that agreement unless there is a clause that covers the scenario at hand.
Typically, one-year leases have a set rent amount for the entire period. Usually, the only exceptions would include bringing in a roommate or a pet, though that has to be covered in the lease. If there is no clause that gives the landlord the ability to raise your rent, then an increase isn’t allowed.
Additionally, if you rent month-to-month and your landlord fails to provide you with proper notice, the increase isn’t enforceable right away. But that doesn’t mean it won’t go into effect later.
For example, let’s say you pay rent on the 1st of the month, and live in a state that requires 30 days’ notice of an increase. If you received a legal rent increase notification on the 15th of October, you wouldn’t be legally required to pay the higher amount on the 1st of November. However, once the 14th of November passes, the increase could become enforceable. In this scenario, you’d owe the higher amount on the 1st of December.
However, if the landlord gave you verbal-only notice of a rent increase, that may not be enforceable at all. Many states require the notification to be in writing for it to be valid. Without a written notification, the rise in rent has no legal standing.
Finally, rent increases used as a form of retaliation or discrimination are barred. For example, a landlord can’t try to raise your rent in response to a tenant’s complaint about incomplete repairs. Similarly, if the landlord tried to raise rent, but only on tenants that are part of a specific group, that could also be illegal.
How Much Can My Landlord Raise Rent?
In most cases, landlords can increase rent rates as much as they want. As long as the terms of your original lease no longer apply, they abide by any clauses in your lease, or you’re month-to-month and receive sufficient notice, the sky may be the limit, legally.
However, there are exceptions. If you live in a rent-controlled area, state or city law may limit how much your rent can go up within a specific period. In those cases, landlords can usually only increase rent by a maximum percentage of the current amount or by a particular dollar amount.
Rent control rules can vary dramatically. If you live in a rent-controlled dwelling, you’ll need to review local laws to determine the maximum rent increase that’s allowed.
Additionally, there may be some alternative protections. For example, some states or cities may have laws regarding rent increases for tenants that are senior citizens or disabled individuals. Similarly, certain kinds of housing voucher programs have rules that govern rent increases on residents who are participating in the programs.
If you have questions, review local laws. You can also contact a local housing authority or, if you are part of a voucher program, the program administrator to see what protections or limits may apply to your situation.
How to Respond to a Rent Increase
If your landlord is raising your rent, it’s wise to go through a specific process. First, spend a moment to review local law. That way, you can make sure that the rent increase is legally enforceable.
Next, review the terms of any existing lease agreement, if there is one in place. Again, the purpose is to determine if the higher rent amount is enforceable, or if the landlord’s rent increase is in violation of the existing agreement.
After that, if the rent increase is legal, you can attempt to negotiate. At times, if you have a good history with the landlord and can make a reasonable counteroffer, they may be open to a lower amount. This is especially true if you’ve been a reliable long-term tenant, as they might be willing to go the extra mile to keep you.
If you do reach an agreement through negotiation or are all right with the increase that was originally proposed, you can accept the agreement. This could include signing another lease or, if you’re renting month-to-month, simply paying the higher amount.
If you disagree with the amount, you may need to seek out a new place to live. That way, you can find a place that’s affordable.
Generally, you can stay in the unit until the end of your existing lease or the end of the period you’ve paid. You may be able to negotiate with the landlord to get a little more time if needed. For example, you may be able to ask for a one-month lease extension.
However, the landlord only has to give you as much time as is required by law, nothing more. While it doesn’t hurt to ask, they may say “no.”
Additionally, understand that if you are still in the lease period, you may have to stay for the remainder of the period, even if you don’t intend to renew. Otherwise, you may be breaking your lease, and that can be costly.
Inform your landlord of your decision to leave, ensuring you give them as much notice as you’re required to provide, in accordance with state or local law and any existing lease agreement. Then, plan your move-out carefully. Try to time it to where you can transition from one dwelling to the next while respecting your current lease or month-to-month agreement. That way, you can move on seamlessly.