Dear PoPville – Anything I can do about this Rental Price Increase?

Photo by PoPville flickr user caroline.angelo

“Dear PoPville,

I rent from a newer apartment building in the Navy Yard neighborhood. I have a contract on a new-construction condo that was originally due to be delivered in December. I got a 6-month lease in my building to coincide with the condo’s delivery. Now the delivery date has been pushed back to late January to mid-February. My building just sent me notice that my lease will be ending at the beginning of January. If I choose not to renew my lease for a year, I will be on a month to month lease with a rent twice my current rate- an increase of over 2k. Since I can’t do anything to quicken the delivery of my condo, is there anything I can do about such an egregious rental increase? Is such an increase legal? Btw, I moved here last year from Atlanta. So, I don’t have any family with whom I can live in the gap time between the end of my lease and my condo delivery, whenever that turns out to be.”

29 Comment

  • I don’t think that there’s much you can do about it, considering that all newer buildings are exempt from rent control (i.e. they can raise the rent as much as they want). That said, everything in life is negotiable, especially if you’re willing to pay upfront.
    Personally, I’d find a short term sublet for the period and put your stuff in storage. That will be much cheaper. Heck, it might even be fun to live in a new neighborhood in a few months, just to try it out!

  • I’m curious to hear from others if it’s legal – I suspect it is. If a $2k increase is double your current rate, that means you’d be spending $4k per month. At that price, you might want to look at pricing for extended stays at some area hotels. It’s however long or short you want it to be, and might be cheaper and provide a nice place to hang out for a little while. Or, look at a short term sublet from someone on craigslist.

    • Or Air BnB. I’m sure you can negotiate a very good deal with someone on there, probably 20-30% cheaper than the a la carte per night rate. And that would even include housekeeping!

      • Seconding the AirBnB suggestion. Friends who are moving to town signed a 2-month deal for this summer, in Columbia Heights, for a very reasonable rate. And they will only be a few blocks from me!

  • What the penalty for breaking your lease? You lose your security deposit? Might be more economical to sign another year-long lease, then break it.

    • These big “luxury” rental building leases usually say that they can go after you for multiple months of rent, if you break the lease early. My guess is that they can get the bill collectors on your ass and screw with your credit report.
      My colleague broke her lease early one of these buildings in Pentagon Row to move in a house she just bought. Her lease says that they keep her deposit ($400) and that she would owe two months of rent ($5000 in total), if broke the lease early. They don’t have her forwarding address, so she’s not sure how they will bill her for it.

      • If the management company ran a credit report when she signed her lease, they probably have her social security number on file. I assume your friend paid her rent via check, EFT, or credit card? Is she sure there isn’t language in the rental contract allowing the management company to automatically recover outstanding balances?

        I wouldn’t rely on the lack of a forwarding address serving as a shield against any legimite fee. If the management company really wants to find her and bill her, which I assume they would consider the outstanding balance is five grand, it’s probably not going to be too hard to track her down.

        • I have no idea what her lease says, but I will bring it up to her. She is actually moving out this weekend; however, the current management office is a bit of mess (the bldg was recently sold to Bozzuto and they are taking over operations this month) and did not know she was breaking a lease, despite informing them last month.

      • You’re friend is a cheat and a fraud if she knew what she would in be for if she broke the lease, 2 months rent. She signed an agreement saying she knew what the terms were. It is a legal document and she can be sues and it will ruin her credit if she does not pay. She should pay. This is NOT related to the rent increase issue. I hate people that do these things. They don’t ever want to play by the rules. I’m sure if it were her rental, she wouldn’t appreciate someone not abiding by the terms.

        • Lighten up, Francis.

        • please… leases are made to be broken. get over it and stop crying for a corporate-run building. I broke my lease too when I bought a house. I gave notice and worked with my idiot landlord to get outta there.

      • Your friend is a cheat and a fraud if she knew what she would in be for if she broke the lease, 2 months rent. She signed an agreement saying she knew what the terms were. It is a legal document and she can be sued and it will ruin her credit if she does not pay. She should pay. This is NOT related to the rent increase issue. I hate people that do these things. They don’t ever want to play by the rules. I’m sure if it were her rental, she wouldn’t appreciate someone not abiding by the terms.

    • This isn’t a terrible idea if the penalty isn’t so bad. It would also account for if there is another delay in the condo being ready which unforunately may happen with construction. Or like someone else said just assign the lease to someone else when you are ready to move out. DC has a pretty active housing craiglist with reliable people for the most part.

  • Sign a one year lease and have take the time to find someone to take over your lease when you need to leave.

  • I would strongly suggest going on airbnb and securing a month to month rental – probably even cheaper than your current rate and spending the savings on a storage place. most ppl offer monthly rates, just message the hosts 🙂 you could end up saving in the end, since your building is being unreasonable

  • Have you called your management office for the current place? If there are empty units, you might be able to convince them to keep you at your current rent. If all units are filled and people are clamoring to rent there, then you won’t likely succeed. But a phone call only costs a few minutes, certainly a lot less than finding a new place.
    But new buildings are not subject to rent control laws, so they can raise your rent as much as the market will bear.
    If talking to your current place doesn;t work out, throw your stuff into a POD and get a short-term rental on craigslist or airbnb.

  • I don’t know if it’s legal or not. But I can emphatically recommend the Office of the Tenant Advocate. They are a treasure. Give them a call or shoot their main email a note, outline your situation, and they will tell you what’s what. This is a municipal agency set up to represent tenants in landlord/tenant disputes when they don’t involve sums of money that might necessitate going to superior court. If your timing is short, tell them you want to make an appointment to speak to someone asap.

    I’d add that raising rent by 2k seems like they’re trying to force you out or to sign a long-term lease, which may or may not be retaliation, but at least raises a not implausible argument that they are retaliating against you for not signing a new lease. This would of course prevent them from raising your rent. On the flip side, these large developments generally have and can afford better legal representation than your average slumlord.

    • I don’t think this is retaliation. This is a pretty common tactic in “luxury” rentals. They lure people in with fairly low rents, then raise them significantly the following year. I think they rely on the fact that many people don’t want to go to the hassle and expense of moving and will pay the higher rent.

      • You’re definitely right that its technically legal. But its not within the “spirit” of the law I’d say. I’m not sure OP has much to lose save a few minutes of their time reaching out to the OTA. Granted, its designed for low-income folks who are getting screwed instead of higher income folks getting screwed, but I’ve had pleasant experiences there. They’re there to give you info, more than anything.

        • But for new buildings there is no law, so there’s no “spirit of the law” to violate.
          The OP should talk to OTA, though I don’t think there would be much they could do. But it’s never a bad thing to be informed.

    • I’m surprised to learn that somebody actually talked to someone at the Office of the Tenant Advocate. I kept calling a few years ago when I had a problem and never heard back.

  • We ought to name and shame this rental company — this is a blatant strategy to gouge a tenant in a bind, even if it’s technically legal. It’s not as if a $2k a month increase is just a reasonable step up along with the market. Future renters should be advised to beware of a company like this.

    • Bozzuto is a common participant of this practice and manager of many a building throughout the DC area, however, every landlord, big or small will design their leases to favor long term leases (year or longer). By offering a 2 month extension etc to every tenant at no additional cost, they’re signing on to endless extensions at the tenants schedule and turnovers during bad months instead of nice summer months. The rates for month to month are prohibitively high, but their also a big cost burden for the building to do such small extensions. It appears not to be fair, but they’re offering their “fair market” terms for a standard 12 month or a much higher rate if you want to customize to your terms. Why should they pay for your convenience just because you’re a tenant? It’s a business after all…

  • I ran into the same issue three years ago when I bought my place. I opted to rent a cheap apt. in VA (month-to-month) for three months.I also rented a small storage unit and place most of my stuff into the unit. The cost for the 3 months rent and two moves, were less than the cost of the two months to remain in the rental unit while my house was ready.
    It was worth it to me to move for a brief period to live out of boxes. I certainly had no intention of paying the robbery month-to-month they were asking. They can ask but you don’t have to pay. Good luck!

  • Find a couch to crash on for a few moths (not ideal i know) and put your things in storage

    question… is there any type of penatly or give back for your condo not being ready when you were first told?

  • agree with the AirBNB recommendations by all. @OP– i’m actually a host in columbia heights and would be happy to host you (1 br apartment, 2 blocks from the metro). message me or reply if you’re interested!

  • Is this Foundry Lofts we’re talking about? That seems like the type of place that would lure you in with a reasonable monthly rent, only to jack it up after a year. And it’s really the only place down there that I would consider luxury rentals.

  • i don’t think this is legal in the district. if you are in va, then good luck.

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