Rent Increase Laws: What Landlords Can (and Can't) Do. (2023)

No tenant wants to receive notice that the landlord is raising the rent. But lately, it seems renters are experiencing price increases like they've never seen before. But what's the problem with those dreaded rent increases? And how much can a landlord legally raise the rent?

Nationwide rental prices continuereach new highsdue to a number of factors. Higher mortgage rates, skyrocketing sale prices and out-of-stocks have forced potential homebuyers to stay in the rental market, leading to a shortage of rental homes.

This current high demand for rental properties has raised rental prices, but what are the rules for increasing monthly rent? In other words, how much can a landlord raise the rent?

MoreownersPlay Fair. But let's be honest, some don't.

Read on for answers to questions that keep renters up at night, from "Can my landlord raise my rent?" to "How much can a landlord raise the rent?"

Can my landlord increase my rent?

In terms of tenant rights, landlords can't just raise their rent whenever they want; they have to wait until the contract you signed with them expires saysRobert Pellegrini, president of PK Boston, a real estate and collections law firm with offices in the greater Boston area. This means that if you have a lease, they will not be able to increase it until the lease term expires.

How often can a landlord increase the rent payment?

For example, if you signed a one-year lease, it will be a year before your rent goes up, or two years if you signed a two-year lease (which is why signing a two-year or longer lease is prudent, to keep low rent).

Meanwhile, if you are renting on a monthly lease, your rent cannot increase until the end of a given month. simple rules. But real rules.

How much notice must the landlord give to increase the rent amount?

Under rent control laws in most states, tenants must receive at least 30 days written notice before a new increaseis enforced, though this can vary depending on how much the rent actually goes up. In California, for example, whichnotice is extended to 60 daysif the increase exceeds 10% of the income.

These rules are also generally true for an "at-will tenant" (i.e., don't have a lease) and, more surprisingly, a tenant in a boarding house, where you're likely to pay rent on a weekly basis.

“In that case, presumably seven days' notice would suffice. That's not the case!", says Pellegrini. "The tenants of the inn still require a 30-day prior notice for the rent increase."

No matter how strange your lease terms may seem or how unorthodox your housing situation, you may be surprised when it comes to your rights regarding rent increases.

How much can a landlord raise the rent?

As unfortunate as it is, rent increases are common, and many renters expect some type of increase each time the lease expires. Still, some renters may find it hard to believe how much the price of their home increases each year, forcing them to move out if they can't afford the price of their rental property.

“When it comes to how much a landlord can raise the rent, everything flies by,” says Pellegrini. "There are no rules, and it's entirely up to you." Except, of course, if you live in astabilized rent or controlled rent, in which case there are strict government regulations governing how much (or if) the rent can be increased.

Finding one of these rent-controlled apartments is a bit like locating the holy grail. So if you don't know if you have a rent controlled apartment, chances are you don't.

If that's the case, you, your rent, and your wallet aremainlyat the mercy of your landlord and the rental market in your area. However, there are some exceptions to what your landlord can do, such as raising the rent to punish a tenant.

“If it appeared to a judge that the landlord was punitively raising the rent, for example to obtain 'payment' for the tenant's contacting the Board of Health for a health code violation, then that is not right and the owner could be found guilty and obliged to pay up to three times the damages and court costs”, says Pellegrini.

In this case, it's not about your lease, the length of your lease, or even the rising housing market in your area. It's about what's legal and illegal. If you think you may be the victim of a punitive rent increase, contact an attorney.

Can the landlord increase the rent retroactively?

The short answer is no. In most cases, if a landlord has slapped the tenant with a retroactive rent increase, he has been negligent in informing the tenant of the increase at the appropriate time. The tenant cannot be held responsible for a rent increase that he was actually unaware of.

“Often, a landlord notifies the rent increase retroactively, to try to intimidate tenants, knowing that the tenant may be burdened with 'rent rent' and be more likely to evict them,” he says.

If this is your case, remember that the tenant can file a lawsuit against the landlord or simply counter-sued if the landlord has already started an eviction.

What should tenants do if they think the landlord has illegally raised the rent?

So, now that you know a little more about annual rent increases: what if you realize your rent may have been illegally increased and violated tenant laws?

Maybe your rent was illegally raised on a rent-controlled apartment. Or maybe you're reviewing your contract and you realize you didn't need a raise. You mustsue your landlord. There are some cases where you can, and one of them is illegally raising the rent. But it can be expensive and time-consuming, and you don't want to keep living there if you do, so it's best to exhaust all your other options first.

There are things you can do to protect yourself from an illegal rent increase.

“A tenant should keep track of all the mail they receive,” says Pellegrini. "They should also take notes when the communication is verbal and keep track of the dates of each communication." This is especially important when it comes to proving harassment (to pay rent or otherwise).

But don't assume your landlord is automatically the bad guy.

“In my opinion, the vast majority of owners do the right thing, and of the small percentage that don't, they don't even realize they've done something wrong,” says Pellegrini.

“Therefore, in almost all cases, I strongly recommend that the tenant contact the landlord first if something doesn't feel right. If the tenant ends up in court or starts things off in a threatening way, remember that the landlord owns the property. And, if the landlord finds the tenant difficult to work with, the landlord has the right to let the lease expire and find a new tenant.”

So you should protect yourself (and your money) from an unfair raise, but don't go so far as to threaten your landlord and jeopardize your housing situation. Remember that your landlord may have made an honest mistake.

It's also possible that you miscalculated a raise in the future. If you are too strong to correct the situation, you could end up facing eviction.


See: Is it smarter to rent or buy?

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