Home US News UK News Australia News Saudi Arbia News United Arab Emirates News Test Series India News List My Startup Chat With PDF Cheap Flights Free Url Shortener Contact Us Advertise More From Zordo

What to do if your landlord raises your rent

3 days ago 24

Renters across the country are feeling the squeeze of higher prices.

According to the latest annual report on the state of rental housing from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, half of the 22.4 million renting households in the U.S. were cost burdened, meaning they spent more than 30 percent of their income on rent in 2022. Evictions also increased, along with homelessness.

“Right now the problem for tenants is there’s a housing shortage, so landlords [generally] have leverage in negotiations,” says C. Scott Schwefel, an attorney at Shipman, Shaiken & Schwefel in Connecticut who has represented both tenants and property owners. “Another problem is that most new apartment buildings are catering to high-income renters, and owners are setting rents that are not affordable to the majority.” Add in inflation, increased property taxes in many markets, and higher operating costs — all of which can be passed onto tenants as higher rent.

So, as a tenant, what recourse do you have if your landlord notifies you of a rent hike? Your first step is to research local laws to figure out if the proposed increase is legal. Rental laws vary widely by state and city, and some places afford renters many more protections. Track down your state’s landlord-tenant handbook — often found on the website of your city or county government, or local housing or health department — to get started.

Here’s what else you can do.

According to Gabby Cruz, a real estate agent at Compass who works with clients in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia, some leases state that the landlord can raise rent along with the consumer price index (CPI), which measures the average change in prices people pay for basic goods like food and shelter. Carefully read your lease to see if a specific rent-raising process such as this is outlined. If you find one, compare it to local laws to make sure it’s allowed. You can also contact a real estate agent for an analysis of rental prices in your area to check whether the proposed increase aligns with the overall market.

You should also verify whether your property is rent-controlled or covered by other protections. If your unit is rent-controlled, you’ll want to confirm immediately whether your landlord’s increase falls within the legal parameters of that policy.

You don’t have to figure out all the answers on your own, says René Moya, tenant organizer with the Debt Collective and a member of the Los Angeles Tenants Union. “You should really look for a local tenant union, community group or nonprofit that works to organize tenants specifically for guidance on your rights and what to do next.” These organizations can help advise you on interactions with your landlord, get familiar with local laws and regulations, and assist with collective or legal action if necessary.

Reaching out to neighbors to inspire some collective action can also strengthen your position. Whether you create a formal tenant union or just have a conversation, building these connections can make everyone feel more supported. “Tenants have much more power and leverage when they’re able to make demands as a collective and not as individuals,” Moya says.

Talking with your neighbors can inform the requests you make of the landlord and lend further insight into what’s happening in the building. You may learn that other tenants are being offered buyouts to vacate, or dealing with pests or other problems. Some may have even fought off proposed increases in the past and have tips they can share. If you ultimately decide to negotiate the rent increase alongside your neighbors, Moya advises coming to an agreement about goals beforehand to prevent the coalition from weakening during the process.

Cruz recommends doing a public records search of your landlord’s name or the LLC that owns their properties, or using their basic business license number (BBL) to find which properties they’re licensed to rent. “This research is crucial because you can see how many properties they own and whether their license is active.” (If it’s not, you’ll suddenly have significant leverage, she says.)

You can also request housing disclosures from your landlord, which “disclose everything a tenant would want to know about a property,” she says, like any infractions or notices from the government, or issues with the property. In other words, these could yield potential leverage as well.

Some jurisdictions specify that rent can’t be increased if a building is out of compliance with local safety laws. Note whether your rental has the required number of smoke detectors and staircase railings, and whether any window bars open easily, then document any shortcomings. These can become helpful leverage when negotiating (or perhaps you’ll determine the building is too dangerous to continue living in).

Even if everything is on the up and up with your landlord and building, and the increase does not violate any laws, there are still ways of convincing a landlord to keep rent the same or reduce the proposed hike.

“Put the landlord hat on and think what would make me happy too, so you can come to a win-win situation,” says Karen Kostiw, a real estate agent at Coldwell Banker Warburg who works with clients in New York.

Ask your landlord or property manager for a meeting, whether in person or by phone, to discuss the increase. Aim to keep the conversation respectful and open-minded so you can find a solution. Take copious notes, and if you come to any agreements, get those in writing.

Kostiw and Schwefel say it’s helpful to bring up a record of on-time payments or otherwise good tenant behavior. “Property managers value tenants who are easy to manage and don’t cause headaches,” Schwefel says. If you’ve made improvements to the unit on your own, mention those as well.

Use your research to bolster your points; if your landlord proposes an increase that’s out of step with the rest of your area, bring that up. You might also emphasize that keeping you in the building means the property owner won’t have to pay to market your unit or list it with a broker.

Most landlords try to avoid turnover and vacancy, so offering to sign a longer lease in exchange for nixing the rent increase is an option, too. Seasonality may also be on your side. Kostiw says generally spring and summer are hotter rental markets, so you may have more leverage if your lease ends during a slower period.

Ultimately, there’s no guarantee that you’ll avoid a rent increase but all the experts say it’s definitely worth trying. “There’s always the opportunity to go on the offense,” says Moya. “Your options are never zero.”

Read Entire Article