Many people choose to rent a house instead of an apartment because they like the idea of living in a private home without having to deal with the hassles of homeownership. Most renters know that rent increases are part of the risk you take when you lease a home. Property owners can raise your rent as much as they think the rental market will bear, but your lease and local laws will dictate when and how they are able to do so.
Check your Lease
If a property owner is going to raise your rent, it will probably happen at the end of your lease term. When you rent a house, you sign a lease agreement, just as you would when you rent an apartment. This contracts you to live in the home for a specific period of time and pay a specific amount of money in rent. Unless the lease allows the owner to raise rent at any time, your landlord cannot raise the rent until the end of the lease. If you rent a home on a month-to-month basis and you have no lease in place, the property owner can raise your rent at any time with the appropriate notice.
State and Local Laws
Each state has different landlord and tenant laws that govern rental homes, and many cities have their own ordinances that apply. Before an owner raises your rent, you will have to be notified, usually in writing and usually at least 30 days in advance of the increase. Some states require notification by certified mail. Legally, a property owner cannot raise your rent as retaliation or in an attempt to discriminate against you. If you think your rent is being raised illegally, consult a local property manager or real estate attorney who knows the laws in your area.
Tenants living in a rent control area are able to count on minimal and gradual increases in rent every year, but in most rent control cities, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, single-family homes are exempt from rent control ordinances. Unless there is a special exception for the house you are renting, local rent control laws may only apply to apartments and other sorts of dwellings. Find out before you rent if the house and your rent are protected by rent control.
Communication With the Landlord
Property owners who rent out houses do not like vacancies, and they don't like losing good tenants. If you pay your rent on time every month, maintain the property, and act like a good neighbor in your community, there's a good chance that your landlord is not going to want to lose you over an extra $20 to $30 every month. Talk to the property owner before the end of your lease and express your willingness to renew the lease if the rent stays the same.
Cari Oleskewicz is a writer and blogger who has contributed to online and print publications including "The Washington Post," "Italian Cooking and Living," "Sasee Magazine" and Pork and Gin. She is based in Tampa, Florida and holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications and journalism from Marist College.