It's bound to happen, especially if you stay in an apartment for more than a year. One day, you'll get that dreaded notice from your property manager, a rent increase is looming. The average national rent increased by more than 4 percent in 2018, but ultimately it's up to the individual property owner whether rent rises each year or not.
Your first instinct, if you're unlucky enough to get a notice, may lead you to pack up and move out, but what's the assurance your next place won't get hit with a rent increase down the road? If you love where you live, and want to stay, don't get out the packing tape and permanent marker yet. See if there's a way to make it work for you.
As rents vary from building to building, so, too, will rent increases. Your property manager doesn't have to give you a reason why they're raising the rent, although knowing might help you come to terms with the extra hit to your budget.
Motives can be economical, financial or purely for the sake of making a little more money, but often stem from:
According to Holly Welles from The Estate Update, “You'll want to know the specifics of why some apartment rents rise every year, so you can make sure the new rate makes sense." Doing a little research into average rent prices within your building and those close by with comparable units can help confirm the rent increase is appropriate. It may also give you a reason to fight it.
Realizing that there's no consistency anywhere when it comes to rent increases leaves the topic open for some negotiation. After talking it out with your property manager, you may decide staying is the best option. You also may leave the conversation ready to find somewhere new.
Setting up a meeting to discuss a pending rent increase with your property manager gives you a chance to understand why they've made this decision. It also allows you to negotiate the terms of the increase. A diplomatic approach to the conversation is best, since they don't owe you an explanation for their choice, nor do they have to consider your argument for decreasing the increase.
If you have something to offer them and can negotiate terms, there's a possibility you'll get something out of this, too. If not a reduction in the rent increase, at least an extra amenity or two. Consider offering to:
It also can't hurt to remind your property owner of how great of a tenant you are. “A tenant who pays on time, maintains the apartment and complains infrequently should remind their landlord of that. Landlords would rather keep well-behaved tenants than pay turnover costs to find an unknown tenant," says Caitlin McCabe from RIS Media.
Rent increases don't always come as a flat notification that you'll be paying more for exactly what you have right now. Property managers may try to sweeten the deal a little bit with some renewal incentives. These can range from in-apartment maintenance like a free deep clean of your carpet or actual upgrades like replacing outdated fixtures or adding better security. If incentives weren't included when you got notified about the rest increase, talk to your property manager and see what plans they have. It might be worth sticking around.
Another big argument for accepting the increase is actually the price. While it may feel like you'll have to pay a lot more each month to stay, add up the increase over the year. Is it less than what you'd have to pay to move? Moving is expensive. It's also tiring, time-consuming and pretty inconvenient. You may struggle to find another apartment you like as much as where you're currently living. All these inconveniences on top of having to pay potentially more upfront than what you'll pay in increased rent over the course of a year may not be worth it.
A rent increase notice may be the last straw in helping you decide if it's time to move to a new apartment. Other factors in your current home could have already been pushing you in the direction of not renewing your lease, but with a rent increase, you're now certain it's time to leave. You may also already be dealing with:
There's also cost, once again, to consider as a reason for moving out. If your rent increase is higher than other tenants or the new rent price is more than what similar units are costing in the area, you may be working with a property manager who's trying to take advantage of you. If that's the case, it's definitely time to find a new place to live where you'll receive better, fair treatment.
The good news is, you can't get completely blindsided mid-lease with a rent increase. Your property owner either has to explain their rent increase policy up-front within the lease you sign or must wait until your current lease is over.
Georgia Legal Aid offers this advice:
“The lease determines whether or not and how often the landlord can raise the rent. The best protection against rent increases is a lease that prohibits or restricts rent increases during its term."
If a rent increase notice comes to you out of the blue, you may have the law on your side to fight it and should consider consulting a lawyer.
There's no consistency in how much a property owner will raise rent from year-to-year. It's most likely to go up if you stay in an apartment long enough, but the average rent increase percentage varies based on a lot of different factors that also impact the cost of living. Rent increase percentages can average on the high side one year and end up significantly lower the following year, which makes it hard to prepare to face an increase.
The best thing to do is not feel surprised if you receive a notice of rent increase, but instead use these tips to have a productive conversation with your property manager should you want to stay in your apartment.