Bekah Steenbock
rent increase

You’ve just received what every resident dreads from their landlord: a rent increase notice. Your first instinct may be to move out when the lease ends so you don’t pay another dime. Don’t make the first rash move that comes to mind – there are so many more things to consider when you receive a rent increase.

Can my landlord increase my rent?

Most likely, yes. They can’t do it in the middle of a lease, but if it’s near the end or you lease month to month, they just need to give you notice and the rent can be increased.

There’s also the possibility that it’s against the law, but those cases are few and far between. If your building is rent-controlled or rent-stabilized, you may have a good case. It’s also illegal to raise the rent as retaliation (such as reporting a building code violation to the city), discrimination (on any grounds, not just racial), or to give themselves an excuse to evict you for not paying. If you think any of these issues apply to your situation, get a lawyer involved as soon as possible.

Why do landlords raise the rent?

There are many reasons a landlord may need to raise the rent: upgrades and repairs to the property, increase in property taxes, inflation, and rising costs in the neighborhood are just a few. Even if the only reason they want to increase the rent is that they want to make a little more money off their property and think you’ll pay it, there’s nothing illegal about that.

Can I negotiate with the landlord?

You can try and reason and negotiate with your landlord, just keep in mind that you don’t have a position of power to work from. You’re essentially at their mercy, so if you want to get them to decrease or get ride of the rent increase, you need to be very diplomatic.

You need to have something that you can offer the landlord. Since you’re trying to get them to charge you less money, you need to show that something you can offer is worth taking less money now. Try offering a longer lease term in exchange for the old rate – it might be worth less rent to have another year of not having to try and find someone else to move in. You can also offer to sign a lease that ends at a different time of year – apartments tend to lease for more in the summer than the winter, so if you trade a lease ending in the winter for a lease ending in the summer, they’ll have a better opportunity to make more off the new tenant when it comes back on the market.

If these won’t work, you’re essentially left begging with them. You might be able to convince them of your value if you’re a model tenant, never making noise late at night and generally making the community a better place to live, but it’s not a lot of leverage.

In short, landlords are looking for more money and fewer headaches, so if you can show them you won’t be a headache, you just might be able to negotiate your way out of a rent increase.

Whats in it for me?

You may be able to get something out of the deal, even if you can’t talk them out of the rent increase. Renewal incentives, like high-traffic-area carpet cleaning or replacing outdated fixtures in your apartment, are options we’ve seen in the past.

What kind of rent increase can I expect?

Your rent increase is typically calculated based on a percentage of your current rent, typically something along the lines of 2-3%.

I dont care Im leaving!

Not so fast. When you’re considering whether to stay or go after a rent increase notice, the cost of moving should be at the top of your list of consideration.  Moving is NOT inexpensive, not just in money, but also in energy and time. If the rent increase is fairly small, and you like where you live, moving is more trouble than it’s worth .

To help make the decision easier, here’s a list of reasons for and against moving out:

Reasons to move

  • The rent increase is more than you can afford and not comparable to nearby similar complexes
  • Moving would be more cost-effective over the course of a year than staying
  • Management is inattentive and unprofessional
  • Maintenance does not make repairs in a timely manner
  • The upkeep of the property is unacceptable
  • Your apartment is still dated, despite an increase (particularly true for a large increase)
  • Common-area amenities are not updated or maintained
  • Management has changed their standards for how they qualify prospective tenants, so the dynamics of the property are changing
  • You learn that some of your neighbors are paying substantially less rent than you for the same size apartment and amenities

Reasons to stay and renew your lease

  • The rent is comparable to other apartments in the area
  • Maintenance requests are completed in a timely manner
  • Management is professional and has a sense of urgency regarding the care of the building
  • The landlord is reliable and easy to contact. He or she follows up with residents
  • The landscaping and building exterior are maintained and appealing
  • The interior of the building is kept up, and common-area furniture is up to date
  • The neighborhood is safe and located near work, friends, and recreation
  • Moving is expensive , inconvenient, tiring and time-consuming
  • The change in rent is small and you can find that money in your budget
  • It may be high season for moving, and thus you’ll have more competition for few available apartments.
  • Rent increases can be frustrating, but the cost of doing business does not stay stagnant. Many landlords put your rent increase to good use. If you suspect that’s not happening, it’s time to look for a new home. If you love where you live, and can afford to renew your lease , then that’s a great choice to make.

 

Whatever you do, it’s going to be difficult. For all the benefits of renting, changing costs are one of the trade-offs you have to make. A rent increase is something you never want to have to deal with, but it’s not the end of the world. It’s all a matter of how you respond to it.

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About The Author

Bekah Steenbock is a freelance writer with a background in real-estate and business growth. She is a native Austinite, but has called Seattle, Mankato, Milwaukee, Las Vegas and Atlanta home. Bekah, her husband, and their three children love exploring the outdoors in their spare time.

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