With rising property values and limited housing supply, many landlords opt to increase rent prices at the end of each lease term. While it is legal for landlords to raise the rent, they’re often restricted by federal and state laws as to how often they can increase prices for tenants.
That said, as a renter, it’s essential to know the ins and outs of what is a normal rent increase and how often can a landlord raise rent if you’re expecting a rent increase—and what you can do about it.
Are There Limits to How Often Landlords Can Raise Rent?
Before the discussion of rent control law and rent regulation enter the conversation, it helps to know the limits on the annual rent increase. So how much can a landlord increase rent and how often? Throughout most of the United States, there are two controls on how often rent can be raised. These include:
- Your lease agreement – The lease or rental agreement you sign when you move in should include a monthly rent price and a period of time—often one year—for which that rate applies. This document provides legal protection for both the landlord and the tenant, and should prevent the landlord from raising rent for its duration.
- Written notice laws – In most states, landlords are required to give 30 to 60 days advance written notice of increased rent. Search for “rent increase notice” and your state and city to find the laws that apply to you.
Your rental agreement may also include language about renewal, notice period, and rent increases applicable at the end of your current written lease.
How Often Can Cost Increase on Month-to-Month Rental?
Renting month-to-month frees you up from a long-term lease if you’re between places or moving to a new area, but it also leaves you vulnerable to frequent rent hikes. Barring rent control laws, a month-to-month lease means your landlord can legally raise rent at the end of every month.
However, state laws on rent increase notices still apply. As such, in some states the landlord may have to plan ahead to provide the tenant with a 60-day rent increase notice. They can still raise rents each month, it’ll just kick in two months down the road each time.
Some longer-term leases have a transition to month-to-month agreement built into the lease—unless you provide proper notice of leaving or arrange a new long-term lease with the landlord, your lease automatically rolls from a one-year to a one-month cycle, for instance.
Read the fine print on your rental agreement—even if you’ve stayed in the same place for years, landlords strapped for cash may take advantage of this loophole that allows them to raise rents more frequently.
When Is a Rent Hike Illegal?
Landlords can raise rent—within the limits of signed leases and the allowable rent increase laws of their states, cities, and counties—as often as they choose. However, there are two broad situations where a rent hike from either an ongoing or new landlord is illegal:
- Discrimination – Under the federal Fair Housing Act, a landlord’s rental increase cannot be based on your protected class status. This includes:
- Race, color, or national origin
- Sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation
- Familial status, including children
- Disability, including service animals
- Retaliation – Tenant protection applies against retaliation of any kind related to filing a complaint related to the Fair Housing Act or other federal programs.
The majority of states also prohibit landlords from raising rent as punishment in response to you acting within your legal rights. For instance, if you report a health hazard that results in an inspection or action against the landlord, they can’t raise your rent in response to that action.
If you suspect that your landlord is presenting you with an illegal rent hike, you can:
- Contact your state—search for “tenant rights” and your state to proceed
- File a claim with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development here
- Seek legal advice from a firm that specializes in tenant rights (often free or low-cost)
Will Rent Control Laws Help Me?
Rent control laws limit how often and how much landlords can increase monthly rent prices, but they’re rare. They can be found in:
- Oregon – Statewide rent control
- California – Statewide rent control caps plus 20+ cities and counties with rent control
- Washington D.C. – District-wide rent control
- Maine, New York, Maryland, and New Jersey – Cities or counties with rent control
Additionally, legislation addressing both control over rent price raises as well as longer advance notice periods for rent increases is either under consideration or in contention in many cities and counties nationwide, including:
- Boston, Massachusetts
- Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota
- Orange County, Florida
- Kenmore, King, Redmond, and Kirkland in Washington state
With rental trends and housing prices rising nationwide, rent control ballot measures are being promoted even in some of the 37 states that have specifically prohibited them.
How Can I Keep My Monthly Rent Costs Low?
Feeling like you have no control over rising costs of gas, food, and housing is a recipe for anxiety. But you do have choices and options to help keep your monthly rent prices affordable for your budget. Consider the following tips.
#1 Understand Why Your Rent Is Increasing
The first step in any negotiation is understanding the other party’s perspective and needs and asking why is rent increasing. Rather than a cash-grab, your landlord may need to increase rental income to cover:
- Higher property taxes as a result of the rapid rise in property valuations since 2020
- A bigger mortgage payment if they opted for an ARM, based on rising interest rates
- Strain on their budget or family needs as one of the effects of inflation
For smaller rental property landlords, their real estate investment may be targeting eventual sale as the primary profit source, and charging rent in the meantime to cover mortgage and maintenance costs rather than produce much ongoing income. If that’s the case, then rising costs may be forcing them to increase rent just to break even.
If the property you rent has been sold to a real estate investment firm, they may be responsible for producing maximum profits by increasing rent prices to current market value.
These differing motivations and circumstances will have an influence not just on how often and how big your rent increases are, but how to approach your landlord for a meaningful negotiation.
#2 Be a Good Tenant
Tenant turnover is time-consuming and costly for landlords. Tenants who damage property, don’t pay rent on time and eventually require eviction (which can lead to retaliatory property damage) are a landlord’s nightmare.
Keeping a steady, pay-on-time, responsible tenant at a slightly lower rent versus losing that tenant and gambling on a new one may be worth it to your landlord.
If you haven’t been a model tenant in the past, apply it going forward. If your record has fluctuated in the past, focus on the good points and have answers ready if your landlord questions your record.
For instance, if you’ve had some late rent payments, mention what you’ve done to improve your budget scheduling, such as auto bank transfers or recurring calendar reminders.
#3 Negotiate With an Open Mind
If you’re faced with an unexpected rent increase, ask for a sit-down meeting with your landlord and calmly, courteously let them know your concerns and budget limits.
That good-tenant claim is a great starting point, but also consider other ideas that can reduce the rent total, such as:
- Giving up a garage or parking space that could be rented individually
- Taking responsibility for minor building chores or maintenance
- Bartering professional services that benefit your landlord’s business or hobby
#4 Add a Roommate
If you’ve been flying solo but have room for another bird in the nest, consider seeking a roommate who’ll be a good fit for your living style. Make sure you:
- Check both financial and personal references
- Allow a trial period that lets you give them proper notice if it’s not a good fit
- Confirm you can add a roommate under your written lease agreement terms
#5 Choose a Coliving Model
If you’re ready to find a new living situation, consider looking for the just-right match to balance your needs for private and shared spaces. Unlike traditional apartments, coliving homes provide communal areas for socializing and connection.
In a coliving home, you’ll have a private bedroom in a fully-furnished shared suite.
#6 Negotiate a Longer Lease Term
While most leases are signed for either one year or one month, longer leases are possible. Negotiate with your landlord for a multi-year lease that locks in a set annual rent increase that you can both agree on.
Mention that although rent prices have recently spiked, a set rate will also protect the landlord from a decline in fair market rent prices.
Optimize Your Rent With Common
Generally, a landlord can raise the rent after a lease term is completed. However, specific states and cities may set further restrictions in regards to rent control policies.
Fortunately, Common offers one way to optimize your living costs.
Common coliving isn’t just about all-inclusive living—it’s about gaining community. You’ll have access to beautifully designed indoor and outdoor community areas, fully furnished spaces, a chat app just for your neighbors, and amenities such as high-end kitchens and cleaning services.
Our homes are an ideal choice for young and middle-income professionals looking for space and amenities in Birmingham, Chicago, Jersey City, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, or San Francisco.
Book a virtual tour of Common homes today.
Stessa. How much notice should you give a tenant for a rent increase? https://www.stessa.com/blog/how-much-notice-for-rent-increase/
Nolo. Landlord Retaliation. https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/free-books/renters-rights-book/chapter11-1.html
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Housing Discrimination Under the Fair Housing Act. https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/fair_housing_act_overview
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. How to File a Complaint. https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/online-complaint
National Multifamily Housing Council. Rent Control Laws by State. https://www.nmhc.org/research-insight/analysis-and-guidance/rent-control-laws-by-state/
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WESH 2 News. Orange County commission votes in favor of ordinance to protect tenants. https://www.wesh.com/article/orange-county-commissioners-to-shape-rent-stabilization-ordinance-tuesday/40715593
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