Landlords Increasing Rent

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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If you have a written lease your landlord can’t raise the rent until the end of the lease period. So, if you have a one-year lease at $1000 a month, the landlord can’t raise the rent until the end of the year. A lease is a rental agreement that covers a specific period of time, such as a year or six months. See lease or rental agreement or more information on residential leases.

If your agreement doesn’t say it’s a lease for a specific period of time or if you don’t have a written agreement, you have what is called a month-to-month tenancy. With a month-to-month tenancy a landlord can usually raise the rent as much as she or he likes after giving 30 days notice.

State laws have different requirement for how the landlord has to inform the tenant of a rent increase. For example, the notice usually has to be in writing and might need to be dated and given personally to the tenant or sent by registered mail. If the landlord doesn’t give the notice of a rent increase is the right way, the tenant usually doesn’t have to pay the increase, and the landlord has to do it over again. The tenant should be careful to pay the old rent. It’s a good idea to inform the landlord in writing at the time the rent increase was supposed to take effect that the rent increase was not done according to state or local law. Keep a copy of the letter. The landlord might bring an action for nonpayment of rent, and you will need the letter as part of your defense.

The landlord can’t raise the rent in order to force the tenant to move out for an illegal reason. Federal law forbids discrimination against tenants because of race, gender, national origin, or religion, and some state and local laws forbid discrimination because of things like marital status, sexual orientation, children, or disability. So if your landlord raises your rent 50% after you convert to Islam, there’s a good chance this is illegal discrimination because of religion. On the other hand, if the landlord raises the rent $50 a month after two years, it probably isn’t because you had a new baby.

The landlord can’t raise your rent in retaliation for asserting your rights as a tenant. For example, if you’ve complained to the local authorities about building code violations in your unit or have insisted that the landlord make necessary repairs the landlord can’t raise your rent to get even. Some states forbid the landlord to raise the rent for a period of time, like six months, after the tenant has demanded repairs.

If you believe that the landlord is raising your rent for an illegal reason, you should write a letter saying that and keep a copy. You can then refuse to pay the rent increase. If you do this, the landlord might try to evict you for nonpayment of rent and you will have to prove the landlord’s bad intent in court. Another alternative is to contact the federal, state, or local authorities in charge of housing discrimination and ask them for help.

The situation is different in those places, usually cities, where there are rent control or rent stabilization laws. In those places there is often a limitation on when rent can be raised and how much of an increase is allowed. Check to see if your unit is covered by rent control or rent stabilization.

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