Was That An Illegal Rent Increase? How To Tell

There are plenty of sad truths in life. To name a few: you have to pay taxes, your beloved dog won’t live forever, and your apartment rent will go up, not down. While it’s important to accept these facts, it’s equally as important to keep an eye out for things that seem unfair. For example, your landlord cannot raise the rent whenever they feel like it! Rent laws vary by state, but there are some general guidelines that can help you figure out if you’re dealing with an illegal rent increase. If your rent has recently increased or your landlord has announced that one is coming, you’ll want to read this.

Illegal rent increase or not?

Maybe – if your landlord gave you less than 30 days notice.

Your landlord must give you 30 days notice. This number may differ from state to state, but a general rule is that landlords must give you a 30-day notice of rent increases. This gives you time to accept the increase, to negotiate the rent increase, or to refuse the increase and find a new place to live. Additionally, your landlord must provide this notice in writing so you have written a record of the increase amount and the date it becomes effective.

Maybe – if your rent increased in the middle of your lease.

Your landlord cannot increase the rent in the middle of a lease agreement (unless the lease says otherwise). When you sign a lease, you’re agreeing to pay a specific amount in rent for a specific amount of time. If you signed a 12-month lease with a monthly rent of $1,000, your landlord cannot decide to raise the rent four months in. Once your lease is coming to an end, that is your landlord’s chance to renegotiate the rental price. Of course, there are a few ways to try and stop your rent from increasing! One thing to keep in mind: a month-to-month lease means your landlord has more potential chances to raise your rent, so a year-long lease is a better option if you plan to stay somewhere!

Unless you live in a rare, rent-controlled area, your landlord can increase the rent as much as they see fit. Of course, it’s up to you if you stay there or not!

No – not if you signed a lease that allows for a rent increase.

Reference your lease agreement. If your landlord has announced a rent increase that you find suspect, reference the lease you’ve already signed. If they stated in your original rental agreement that lease can be changed for certain reasons – and you signed the lease on the dotted line – you may be out of luck.
Keep in mind that there are also specific situations that merit a rent increase. For example, your rent may increase if you get a new pet or a new roommate. This is another instance where you want to check your lease agreement for specifics.

Yes – if your rent increased due to discrimination or retaliation.

Chat with your neighbors about their rent increases. Although discussing rent prices may seem tacky, this can be helpful when you’re figuring out if a rent increase was legal or not. Unfortunately, tenants all over the country have faced illegal rent increases due to discrimination or retaliation. If you believe your rent was increased because of your identity or because you’ve offended your landlord in some way, check with your neighbors. If you’re the only one on your hall who is receiving a rental increase (or a larger-than-normal increase), you probably want to investigate further.

Even though rent increases are often expected and an unfortunate part of life, it’s crucial that you know your rights as a tenant and keep your eyes peeled for illegal rent increases. Whether your rent increase was fair or unfair, legal or illegal, you can always find an affordable apartment when you use ApartmentSearch – the only apartment finder website that actually pays YOU for using it!