Rent increases are pretty common these days.
It’s almost like clockwork. As the end of your lease term approaches, many landlords will send out that dreaded notice of rental increase.
But if you get one in the middle of your lease, it can really throw you for a loop, especially if you are living on a tight budget.
If you’re wondering whether your landlord is trying to pull one over on you, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll answer this and delve into the details.
Now if you’re in a rush and just want a summary, the short answer is as follows:
Generally speaking, a landlord may not increase rent in the middle of a lease term, unless the lease specifically permits it, both parties agree to it, or there is a significant change in the rental relationship.
We’ll cover each of these scenarios in greater detail below and also offer helpful tips along the way on how to deal with unwanted rent increases in general.
Now, as we mentioned at the top of the article, the answer is quite different once your lease term ends. In most cases, your landlord will be able to increase your rent, but state and local laws may limit the amount of the increase or even prohibit an increase (in jurisdictions with rent control, for example).
Similarly, market forces may act to keep rent increases from happening. For example, landlords understand that if you raise the rent too much, you may leave for a more reasonably priced home.
Ok, now that we’ve for the introductory stuff out of the way, let’s get into the heart of the discussion.
The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice. You should seek the advice of a qualified legal professional before making any decisions relating to the topics covered by this article.
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Does the Lease Allow a Mid-Term Rent Increase?
As with most thing related to your rental arrangement, your lease is going to be the first place you want to look in answering any questions you have about your tenancy.
Leases that have a set term will identify (i) the length of the lease (e.g., 6 months, a year, etc.), (ii) the monthly rental amount, and (iii) the total rent for that term, which is usually just the number of months in the term, multiplied by the monthly rental amount.
As a general matter, none of these three things may be changed by either party during the term without the other party’s permission.
But there may be exceptions. For example, your lease may have a clause that permits rental increases if you bring on a pet. This type of provision may also require an added security deposit.
Of course, this is just one example, your landlord may be extra sensitive about certain things and may include a clause that deals with that. For example, if you rent out a room for Airbnb purposes, your landlord may insist that should come with a higher rent because of the added wear and tear on the property.
And let’s not forget about month to month leases.
If your lease is not for a set term, then your landlord has the right to increase rent at the end of the current term (which is the end of the month). This is true, even if you have lived in the dwelling for years with no rent increase.
It’s something to be aware of and if you plan on living there for a while, you may want to negotiate a longer term with your landlord.
Bottom line: check your lease and make sure there is nothing that would give rise to an increase in rent mid-term.
Both Parties Agree to Rental Increase Mid Term
Now I know this may seem crazy – I mean why would you agree to a rental increase when you don’t have to? But it’s actually not as insane as it sounds.
For example, you may be operating on a month to month lease and want a longer term for some peace of mind. They may be willing to do this in exchange for a higher rent.
Or you may want your landlord to repaint the walls, get a new fridge or give some other concession that they do not have to give in exchange for a higher rent.
In short, when both parties are in agreement, a mid lease rent increase is certainly permitted.
There is a Change to the Rental Arrangement That Warrants a Rent Increase
This one is sort of a catch-all that may apply.
For example, if you want to get another roommate to help with the rent during the middle of the term, that’s a significant change to the rental arrangement.
You would likely need to add that person to the lease and the landlord may very well require a bump in the rent to account for the added wear and tear on the property.
The same holds true for new pets, starting a home-based business that requires meaningful changes to the premises, or any other significant development in the rental relationship.
If these developments are not already covered in the lease, then you will likely need to sign an amendment to the lease and that could come with a rental increase.
What Can I Do If My Landlord is Raising My Rent Mid-Lease Without Permission?
As mentioned, most leases protect you against increases in rent during the term of the lease, so if your landlord is trying to do this without your permission, you can certainly object to it and point to your lease’s protection against such increases.
If they persist, you can file a claim against them for breach of contract. Of course, it is best to talk to a lawyer before doing so. If you can’t afford one, a good first step might be to contact your local tenant rights organization to ask for help.
But before you go down that path, it’s important to note that this type of rent increase will usually not come out of the blue.
Your landlord will usually give you a reason for this. You should hear them out, but don’t get bullied. Know your rights under the lease and do what makes sense for you given your situation.
Now if they are within their rights to raise the rent during your lease term (for example, via any of the reasons we cited above), then all is not lost.
Landlords are people too and many will want to work something out. So if you have a good relationship with your landlord, try to negotiate with them. If you are flexible on how long you can stay, offer to sign up for a longer term in exchange for a lower rent increase.
Many landlords may prefer the stability of a longer term tenant over a bigger increase in rent. Turnover costs between tenants can be significant and your landlord may find that it is worth it to avoid those costs and keep you on longer.
Can a landlord raise rent in the middle of a lease? As a general matter, no, but the answer may change depending on several factors, including the terms of your lease, mutual agreement or a significant change to your rental relationship.