When to Raise the Rent

Posted in Blog  
  on Jul 22, 2015

Maybe the cost of maintaining your property has increased, or maybe you want to find a polite way to show problem tenants the door, even if they haven't broken the lease. Regardless, you have decided that you want to raise the rent.
Asking existing tenants to pay more rent can be a dicey proposition. Many landlords and property managers aren't sure how to make such a request. They may fear a confrontation or they may not be sure if they're legally allowed to ask for more rent. Follow these guidelines to navigate this thorny issue gracefully and within the boundaries of the law.

Can You Raise the Rent on Your Properties?
There are different laws in different jurisdictions, so be sure to check rent regulations before making a decision. Landlords are typically free to raise the rent, except for when rent regulations are in place. You probably already know if a given property is subject to rent regulations, but you should double-check your local laws to see if the rent can be raised, how much, and when. Even for non-rent-controlled properties, there are often regulations in place dictating how much the landlord can raise the rent.
Keep in mind that you can never increase the rent in a way that's discriminatory. In other words, you can't raise the rent solely because a tenant belongs to a protected class.

When Should I Announce a Raise in Rent?
Often, the amount of increase determines the notice you need to give a tenant. A great rent raise may require more notice than an incremental increase.
Also, if tenants are on a yearly lease, most jurisdictions only permit landlords to change the rent once the annual lease is due. This gives tenants the opportunity to decide if they want to pay the new rent, or if they'd rather look for other housing.
A month-to-month lease generally functions on different rules than an annual lease. With this kind of lease, the landlord is usually more free to raise the rent when they please. Regulations often require the owner give at least 30 days notice in anticipation of a rent increase—perhaps more if the increase is larger than a certain percentage. Check local regulations to determine that percentage.

How Should I Notify My Tenants of a Raise in Rent?
It goes without saying, but always give tenants fair warning. Let them know of the rise as far ahead as you can, so they can react accordingly, and you can get new tenants into the property, should the raise not be agreeable.
If you're raising the rent because a tenant is problematic, it's a good idea to try to talk to them to get them to clean up their act. For example, if they're damaging the property (but not to the point where they're violating the lease), tell them you may need to raise the rent if this behavior continues to cover the costs of repairs.
It's also always a good idea to let the tenants know why you're raising the rent. It may be tied to inflation, utilities may have spiked, or you may have had to do more frequent maintenance. Whatever it is, letting them know your rationale lets them know that you respect them and that you want to keep them in the loop.


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