You love your place, you’re getting a deal, and you’re all set to renew. Your landlord slips the renewal notice under your door … and then you see it. Your rent is going up. Way up – like 30% or more. You’re floored. You love your place, and now you have to move. How can this be? What are your options?
First off, can your landlord raise your rent by a lot? With a few restrictions, the answer is yes. If you’ve signed a lease that specifies your rent payment amount (which is most leases), the landlord must wait until the lease expires to raise rent. And, if you rent month-to-month, there are often notice requirements. For example, in California, your landlord has to give you 30 days written notice for a rent increase of less than 10% and 60 days written notice for a rent increase of more than 10%. Otherwise, though, if you’re given proper notice, particularly if your lease is up for renewal, there’s not much you can do.
Some municipalities, such as San Francisco, LA and NYC have some rent control provisions. While your landlord will likely be aware of (and in compliance with) these provisions, it doesn’t hurt to double-check to make sure the rent increase is lawful. There’s one other thing to consider: a rent increase could be illegal if it’s done for retaliatory or discriminatory reasons. Say, for example, that you reported your landlord for not providing fire extinguishers in the building … and then the next month your rent went up $500. In a situation like that, you may have a legitimate legal argument.
Generally, though, if your rent goes up, you simply have to decide if you want to pay the increase or move. It helps to understand why your landlord raised the rent. Most often, it’s because your neighborhood is gentrifying and the rents all around you are also going up. Or, sometimes a landlord will be so out of touch that he will list an apartment well under the market rate for years without knowing any better – and then when someone clues him in, he (quite reasonably) decides to raise the rent.
In either case, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to move nearby for roughly the same amount you had been paying. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to double-check – use some of our favorite apps to see the rental market in your neighborhood.
If the listings nearby are also for more than you’d been paying, you’ll have to decide how much it’s worth to you to stay put. Maybe you’ll swallow hard and pay the new rate. Or, if you’re willing to put up with some rent increase, talk to your landlord, who may be willing to lower the increase a bit to keep you on, particularly if you’ve been a reliable tenant.
Otherwise, if you have to move, you have to move. You can either look at nearby-ish neighborhoods that are just a stop or two down on the train, or look on the fringes of your current neighborhood – or you can start exploring totally new areas. That’s up to you.
While a huge rent increase may be a frustrating inconvenience – and it may feel totally unfair – in the long run you’ll be fine, even if you’ll no longer be getting the deal you once had.