Whether or not your landlord can raise your rent depends on a number of variables, including the terms of your agreement and where you live. But here are some basic guidelines.
A Long-Term Lease Protects You
A lease is a binding legal contract that should specify the length of the lease, such as one year, and the monthly rent. In general, a landlord cannot increase the rent until the lease runs out. Some leases, however, allow the landlord to raise the rent for a reason, such as adding a roommate or a pet, or for significant improvements, such as a kitchen or bathroom remodel. Read your lease carefully before you sign.
Rents Can Go Up When a Lease Is Renewed
Once your lease has ended, the landlord can raise your rent (although some states regulate the percentage increase in rent when a new lease takes effect). Check the laws where you live.
Usually, the landlord will give you a new written lease to replace the lease that is expiring. This new lease, with a new rent amount, serves as written notice that the landlord is raising the rent. If you sign it, you are agreeing to the increase. If you do not sign it, the landlord can evict you.
If you stay on after a written lease has expired without signing a new lease, but you make monthly payments, you now have a rental agreement instead of a lease.
Rental Agreements Are Less Protective Than Leases
A rental agreement is less formal than a lease. In fact, it can be oral instead of written. It generally allows you to rent your residence month by month, or even week by week.
In this situation, your landlord can increase the rent you owe from one lease period to another. You must be given written notice of at least one lease period (usually one month), and the increase cannot take effect until this time has passed. In at least one state (California), if the rent increase is ten percent or higher, the landlord must provide a 60-day notice of a rent increase.
The landlord cannot raise your rent without proper written notice; some states require certified mail.
Sometimes, Rent Is Controlled
Some cities in California, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland are subject to rent control. So is Washington, D.C. Often, rent control is linked to the age or type of the building—for example, rent control ordinances often exempt new buildings or single-family houses.
Rent control is a local law that limits how much, how often, and under what circumstances a landlord can raise your rent. Increases are often tied to the rate of inflation. Landlords in rent-controlled cities can often petition for additional rent increases in order to make capital improvements or to keep pace with operating and maintenance costs.
Most rent control ordinances allow landlords to raise the rent—either as much as they want or by a specific percentage—when one tenant moves out and a new one moves in. To prevent landlords from having the incentive to create a vacancy (and charge a higher rent) by terminating an existing tenancy, many rent control rules place restrictions on eviction.
In addition, rent increases are usually restricted in government-financed housing.
Discrimination and Retaliation Are Illegal
The federal Fair Housing Acts prohibit your landlord from raising your rent for a discriminatory reason, such as national origin. Many state and local laws forbid additional types of discrimination, such as that based on gender identity.
In addition, your landlord cannot raise your rent or retaliate against you in any way (such as by decreasing services or terminating your tenancy) because you exercised a legal right—for example, by complaining about a building, housing, or health code violation, or by organizing a tenants’ group.
Call a Landlord-Tenant Lawyer
The law surrounding when and how a landlord can raise a tenant’s rent can be complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the subject. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a landlord-tenant lawyer.
Questions for Your Attorney
- My landlord told me he was increasing my rent by $50 next month, but he didn’t put this in writing. Do I have to pay the increase or can I insist that he give me a written notice?
- I’m signing a new lease with my landlord which raises my rent from $850 to $1,000. My landlord already has an $850 security deposit from me, and now he wants me to pay an additional $150 for the deposit to match the rent increase. Is that legal?
- After a bunch of assaults on the property, I complained to my landlord about the poor lighting in the garage and hallways. When five weeks passed and she didn’t fix these problems, I complained to local housing agency which got my landlord to put in better lighting. Now my landlord says she needs to increase my rent to cover the new lights. Can she do that?