How much can my landlord really increase my rent? Know your tenant rights in your state.
The question of "rent or buy" has always been in the air, but it's especially poignant as rising rent costs reveal some cities where it's cheaper to buy.
In New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Cleveland and Memphis, for example, it's cheaper to pay a typical mortgage payment than rent every month. But in general, home price growth has outpaced rent price growth by almost 70% from 2016 to 2023, USA TODAY found.
With the landscape for renters continuing to change, here’s what you need to know about your rights as a tenant.
How much can a landlord raise rent?
It depends. In areas without rent control, “the sky’s the limit,” says New York Law School professor and author Andrew Scherer.
“In unregulated housing, a landlord has the right to ask for whatever rental amount he or she wants,” Scherer says.
Some states prohibit rent control, which some argue can create unintended consequences like reducing the amount of rental housing in an area or higher rents in an uncontrolled market.
States without rent control, some of which specifically prohibit it:
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These states don’t have statewide rent control, but certain counties and cities may have it:
These states follow the Dillon Rule, which means a local government’s authority is granted by the state legislature. They also have no rent control or preemptions.
Oregon is the only state with statewide rent control, while California has statewide rent control caps and city-specific laws, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council. The District of Columbia does have rent control.
If you think your landlord is raising rent illegally, Scherer advised renters to understand what, if any, regulations their rent is subject to.
“Rents in public housing are correlated to household income, and so they cannot be simply arbitrarily raised,” Scherer says. “They're subject to a set of regulations ... to keep those rents affordable.”
There isn’t much power renters have to dissuade landlords from raising rent. Still, Scherer pointed out that tenants can compare the market rents in the area and threaten to move out, effectively showing the landlord that they may have trouble finding a replacement.
While unusual, tenants could also organize themselves into an association much like a labor union.
“If you get collective action like that, landlords certainly wake up and take notice,” Scherer says.
Sometimes this action happens on a greater level. In September 2022, a group of activists crashed a National Multifamily Housing Council conference where corporate landlords gathered, demanding a stop to rent increases and “corrupt greed.”
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How often can a landlord raise rent?
Landlords can’t just increase rent whenever they feel like it.
“The general principle is that you can't raise rent during a lease,” Scherer says. “Even in unregulated housing, a landlord can't simply raise the rent from one month to the next.”
The heads-up your landlord needs to give you before your lease is over may change from state to state. Make sure you know which laws apply where you live.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How much can a landlord raise rent? Rent control laws by state