If you’ve ever rented an apartment, you’re probably all too familiar with the nagging worry that your landlord will eventually raise your rent. In some cities, this practice is more common than in others, though it is fully legal throughout the U.S. That said, there are rules on how landlords must go about raising your rent. Read on to learn more about the laws landlords are required to follow when raising your rent.
Rent can’t be increased mid-lease
A lease is a formal contract that can only be amended if all people who have signed it agree to the changes. This legal structure prevents landlords from increasing your rent mid-lease. The initial terms of your lease will apply for the entire duration of your lease, so your landlord can only increase the rent upon the start of a new lease.
Landlords often have no limits on rent increases
Generally speaking, your landlord can raise your rent as much as they want, provided they do so at the start of a new lease rather than during your current one. Whether your landlord is increasing your yearly rent by 5 percent or 10 percent, there are no laws banning them from doing so.
The exception to this rule comes in the form of rent-controlled and rent-stabilized apartments. Landlords who own these buildings must adhere to strict government caps outlining the maximum amounts by which rent can be increased. Outside these units, though, landlords are free to raise your rent by whatever amount they please.
Tenants must be amply warned of rent increases
Although landlords have free reign to raise your rent, they can’t just do so on a whim. The majority of states require landlords to give their tenants at least 30 days notice of a rent increase. Certain states vary this timespan if the rent increase is larger, as in California, where a rent increase of more than 10 percent requires 60 days notice. These rules tend to apply both to month-to-month leases and yearly leases.
Landlords can’t use rent raises to discriminate or retaliate
Despite the relative lack of rules that landlords have to obey when raising their rent, the law does make two things crystal clear. The first is that landlords can’t use rent raises to discriminate against current tenants based on sex or race (though sexual orientation is not always protected in housing affairs). The second is that rent raises can’t be used to retaliate against tenants.
Discrimination is a fairly clear-cut issue, but retaliation may be harder to define. You may feel your landlord is using a rent raise to retaliate against you if, for example, you’ve filed many maintenance requests, followed up on them many times, and still gotten little to no help from your landlord. In this case, your landlord could potentially be using a rent raise to drive you out in favor of a prospective tenant who might file fewer maintenance requests.
How to fight illegal rent increases
If your landlord attempts to raise your rent in any way that’s not in accordance with the above rules, you may be able to take your case to court. Keep in mind that retaliation claims can be quite subjective, whereas cases involving mid-lease rent increases or failure to give adequate notice are clear-cut. Make sure to consider your situation thoroughly before resorting to legal intervention.