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What To Do If Your Landlord Tries To Increase Your Rent When Eviction Moratoriums Expire

Trang Nguyen
Trang Nguyen Intern
I am an incoming junior at Columbia University. I am passionate about creating meaningful tech products that can empower underrepresented identities.
landlord increase rent
The CARES Act, passed in March, protected most renters from being evicted until July 25th (not all tenants are protected, however. It largely depends on your landlord's loan). 

Some cities have extended eviction moratoriums even longer. 

Most landlords aren't happy about the moratoriums, especially if they have tenants who aren't paying rent due to COVID-19 hardships. Although landlords can likely delay paying their mortgages if tenants aren't paying rent, many don't want to go through the hassle.

So some landlords are pulling dirty tricks. One such trick is telling tenants they are increasing the rent, even if the tenant's lease hasn't ended.

If your landlord has said your rent will be increased, and your lease is not up, don't assume you have to pay up or move out. You have rights.

Rent cannot be raised until a lease has ended. 

Landlords can raise your rent. But not whenever they feel like it. 

If the duration of your lease is not up yet, the landlord 
cannot raise your rent. Plain and simple. Most leases are for one year, so until you reach the end of your lease, an increase is not legal. 

If you have a month-to-month lease, the landlord can raise the rent each month. However, by standard renting laws, the landlord must notify you about the increase in advance. The typical notice period is 30 days. However, you should check your local tenancy law. Search, “[Your state] rent increase notice” to find out how much time you have.

Of course, if you didn't sign a lease, or your landlord inserted a tricky clause into a standard lease, you may not be exempt from a rent increase.  But in order for the rent increase to be legal, your landlord must abide by these other terms. 

The notice must be in written form.

Most states require landlords to serve the rent increase notice in writing. Until this is done, you’re under no obligation to comply with the increase. 

Rent control exists in many cities.

To help people live in places with high rents, many cities have enacted rent control laws. This means a landlord can't raise the rent in certain units, or can only raise the rent a certain percentage at the end of a lease term.

Currently, Washington, DC, and specific cities or counties in California, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York have rent-controlled legislation that you might benefit from.

An increase can't be retalitory.

If you suspect your landlord is increasing your rent because you made a complaint to a government office about your rental unit, your landlord cannot raise your rent in an attempt to get rid of you - even if your lease is up.

Landlords also can't increase rent for certain demographics (so asking neighbors what they pay can be helpful). 

Try negotiating. 

If you are told about an increase, let your landlord know that you know enough about the law to fight it. Do this in writing, and avoid inflammatory language. Stick to facts. Emphasize any of the following as appropriate:
  • You’ve been a model tenant and this rent hike might result in you moving. Ask if it is possible to reduce the increased amount.
  • You understand the need to increase rent but it is difficult for you to immediately comply with the increase. Ask if it is possible to gradually increase the rent. 
  • If possible, ask if you can sign a longer lease in exchange for a lower rent hike. Landlords might find the consistency in rent payment an incentive to lower the rent increase.
  • It can be difficult to find tenants immediately and the landlord might suffer a loss in income from the period in which you move out to when they get a new tenant. Cite local news stories to educate your landlord about the rental market. 
And if that doesn't work, reach out to us. 

If the landlord doesn't comply with the law, you can file a civil suit against the landlord. That's what we're here for. 

Lawyers almost always help when it comes to landlord/tenant disputes. 

A study in Boston found that two-thirds of tenants facing eviction won their cases when lawyers assisted them. Those who didn't receive legal advice almost always lost. 

We can help you stay in your rental. And you don't have to pay us as much as you may think. 

Court Buddy is here to connect you with an experienced and trusted lawyer who can help you at an affordable rate. The company assists with the management of your case and lawyer relationship. Your lawyer will assess your legal issue in a timely and confidential manner, explain why you need or do not need a lawyer, and only charge you for the legal services performed and associated out of pocket fees. This article is intended to convey general information and does not constitute legal advice.

Ready to get started? We’re here to help.

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