Rent Increases and Tenants’ Rights

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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: Sep 3, 2020

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If you’re facing a sudden rent increase, you’re probably feeling upset and frustrated. But don’t panic.

It’s true that – except in rent controlled jurisdictions – once the lease providing for a fixed rent expires, tenants can be subject to rent increases by landlords at just about any time. But, you still have legal rights, and your landlord still has legal responsibilities.

Landlords cannot increase your rent on the basis of illegal discrimination such as race, veteran’s status, sex, or religion.

It is also illegal to increase your rent in retaliation for your exercising any of your legal or contractual rights under the lease agreement, such as requesting reasonable repairs, or notifying local government authorities of uninhabitable conditions in your apartment. In fact, tenants can often challenge such illegal rent increases before a court or local rent authority. In those cases, tenants may be able to recover damages – including punitive damages – from the landlord.

Each state (and even some cities) has its own laws and procedural requirements that a landlord must follow to get a rent increase. Some of the laws and rules specify how much the rent may be increased, others set out the minimum advance notice required. Some jurisdictions even have rules that specify how the notice must be given to you and the information it must contain. Whatever your jurisdiction’s rules, however petty they may seem, if your landlord has not precisely followed every one of them, you may have recourse to postpone, modify, or even invalidate a notice of rent increase.

Be sure you have all the facts about your situation, and keep detailed notes about all communications that you have with your landlord – including in person, phone, email, and snail mail.

If you think your rent increase may be unlawful, or are unsure if your landlord followed proper procedure in your area, then seek out legal advice from an experienced attorney who represents tenants in your area.

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