From the Forum – Landlord Raising Rent

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Landlord Raising Rent

“I needed some advice on something. My landlord has raised our rent from $2600 to $2750. I went to the Office of Tenant Advocacy and their site says, “the most common allowable increase in rent is an annual adjustment, based on the increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). For most tenants, the most that their rent can increase is the CPI percentage plus 2 percent, but not more than 10 percent.” There is more info in the below link.

I called up the office and they said CPI for 2015 is 1.5%. If this is the case, my landlord can only raise my rent by $91. Am I missing something?”

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52 Comment

  • I believe that amount only applies if the landlord has more than four units.

  • I think the most common exception to the rent control provisions in DC is that it doesn’t apply if your landlord is a person that owns no more than 4 rental units. So if you are renting from someone that only owns the apt you are living in, then they don’t need to abide by the rent control limits.

  • Is your landlord exempt? Did you go to OTA or did you go to their website? You should go to OTA and give them the details of your situation. Or give more details here.

  • From what I remember from time as a renter, I don’t think there is a cap on rent increases if the landlord owns less than a certain number of properties. I think that number is 10, but am not sure. I do recall there was a loophole around the CPI cap.

  • justinbc

    That only applies if they own more than 4 units in DC. If this is his/her only property (or one of 4 or fewer) then your rent increase is well within reason.

    • It may be legal. That does not mean it’s “within reason.”

      • Disagree strongly. If not subject to rent control, and if done at the end of tenant’s lease period, a 5.7% increase in rent ($150 over $2600) is certainly within reason.

      • If folks don’t want rent raised on these units then the City needs to cap the taxes on them. I used to rent out a condo and would have raised the rent every year to keep up with the tax increase. It amazes me how many people don’t understand the basics of costs. I will also point out that rent control has never ever been shown to effictively deliver affordable housing to people who need it most. Since there are no salary requirements, you just have to get lucky. (signed someone who made 80k in a rent control unit for 10 years).

  • yes. you are missing the very important question of whether your unit is subject to rent control. Read the tenants’ survival guide put out by Georgetown law or contact the Department of Housing and Community Development to help you figure this out (or you might have gotten a notice about it when you leased the place). If it’s not rent-controlled, there’s no cap on what the landlord can charge (except if they’re raising it high above market rate in an effort to do a constructive eviction or something, but a $150 increase doesn’t make me think this is likely).

    Even if it’s subject to rent control, there are exceptions where a landlord can raise the rent more than CPI+2%: substantial renovations, agreement by a certain percentage of tenants, hardship petition, etc. the survival guide has a lot of information about this.

  • OP–Is your unit subject to rent control?

    From the DC Tenant Bill of Rights:

    ““Rent control” limits the amount and the frequency of rent
    increases. For units that are exempt from rent control, generally only the lease terms limit
    rent increases. If rent control applies, the landlord may not raise the rent: (a) unless the
    owner and manager are properly licensed and registered; (b) unless the unit and common
    areas substantially comply with the housing code; (c) more frequently than once every 12
    months; (d) by more than the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for an elderly tenant (age 62 or
    over) or tenant with a disability, regardless of income, if registered with the Rent
    Administrator; (e) by more than the CPI + 2% for all other tenants. A rent increase larger
    than (d) or (e) requires government approval of a landlord petition, which tenants may
    challenge. You also may challenge a rent increase implemented within the prior 3 years.”

  • Is this apartment subject to rent-control?
    I find it hard to believe that any government can restrict a landlord’s ability to increase rent on property that is not officially subject to rent-control regulations.
    Also, the information taken from the website seems useless because it has a bunch of qualifiers – the “most common” allowable increase; for “most tenants.”

  • Pretty sure that only applies to buildings built before 1975. If you were paying $2600, I’m gonna take a shot in the dark and guess your building is newer than that.

    • west_egg

      There are quite a few rowhomes built before 1975 that are going for well over $2,600.

      • yeah, +/-$2,600 is pretty common for a 2 bedroom in many neighborhoods in DC. Trust me I’ve looked. We ended up buying a house a year and a half ago when we started looking at how much $ we’d need to rent a 3 bedroom after our youngest was born.

        Also, if that rent increase is a hardship talk to your landlord and see if you can negotiate down a little.

  • It is a requirement that when landlord has you sign a lease, landlord provides notice that he/she is/isn’t exempt from rent control. Landlords who own 4 or fewer units are exempt from rent control and may raise the rent as much as they like as long as it doesn’t conflict with the lease you signed. If your lease is up and is running month to month, landlord can raise your rent and ask you to leave. Now, landlord can’t FORCE you to leave, but landlord is allowed to raise your rent more than CPI.

    When I write leases, I make this very clear to my tenants. I generally don’t raise rent unless the apartment turns over. But if I chose to raise it at the end of a tenant’s one year lease, I wouldn’t want tenant to be surprised. Surprise rent increase means less chance that increase will go smoothly. Irresponsible landlord if he/she did not confirm his/her exemption when you signed the lease.

  • If your landlord owns only one, two, or three rental units in the District, they can raise the rent at the end of a lease term by however much they want to. Rent control only kicks in with your fourth unit in the District, and even then there is a myriad of exemptions. $2,750 for a two bedroom sounds about like market rate in most neighborhoods. Your best bet is to ask if he/she will honor the old rate for a 90 day lease extension to give you time to move, or to suck it up and pay the asking price.

  • It depends. Is your apartment rent-controlled? If it’s not, then your landlord can raise the rent to whatever they want.

  • While you may or may not be right in a legal sense (as others have weighed in), have you discussed this with your landlord at all? What’s your relationship with him/her/them? Are you happy with where you live and the service? My point being, especially for a private rental, if I had a good relationship with my landlord, liked where I lived and had a reasonable discussion about why they felt $150 was appropriate, I’d really hesitate to go to war over $59, *especially* if I wasn’t certain of my legal footing.

    • When I was renting, my landlord violated her own notice requirement in the lease (more than what DC law requires, and was stupid enough to do *year-to-year* renewal) and also attempted to raise my rent more than allowed (while she was likely exempt from rent control, she didn’t provide me with the paperwork necessary to claim that exemption). EVEN THEN, since where I lived was convenient and affordable for me, as soon as I got her notice, I picked up the phone (not the pen, not the lawyer…the phone, to call HER). I expressed that an 18% rent increase (yeah, that insane) wasn’t something I could really afford, but I’d be willing to meet her somewhere in the middle, if she *really* didn’t want to find a new tenant and was willing to deal. She balked and insisted a little bit, but finally said “fine, how about {$X}?” “That works, provided that you actually replace my fridge, which I’ve been complaining about for months now. It’s older than me, runs constantly, and food spoils in it all the time because the seal is blown and it can’t keep to under 40 degrees. The rent increase you’ve proposed will cover a cheap but new fridge in just a few months. Do we have a deal?” “We have a deal. Can you be there to accept delivery of the new fridge?” “Tell me when as soon as you know and I’ll be here. Just let them know I can sign for the delivery.” I had a new fridge within a month and could still afford my rent…
      So, I guess, know your rights, read your lease, and deal as necessary…

  • I’m under the impression (from my rent raise notices) that it’s CPI-UW (wage inflation) over the prior year plus 2%.

    Also, did you have some special introductory rent? Because that’s a common way of getting around this: The “real” rent is 2700, but they give you “one month free” and pro-rate that savings over the course of the year. Then they raise the rent by the maximum, plus you don’t get that prorated free month, so your effective rent skyrockets.

    • Rent control uses the CPI-W. The CPI-U is something else. Not sure what the CPI-UW is (there are so many CPIs…chained, CPI-E, etc.!).

  • The landlord is likely not subject to rent control. Also I just do not understand renters that get into such a huff when their rent is raised. If you do not want your rent going up…then buy a home. That is the best kind of rent control that there is. We live in an area where it is typically cheaper to own than to rent. So buy!

    • Well, then you still have to contend with taxes and home insurance premiums going up every year, which they inevitably will. Not to mention the maintenance costs for a home of your own.

      • Both are tax deductible, so you’re not actually paying more than the mortgage principal. My home insurance hasn’t gone up in years. My taxes went down then up pretty much in line with market but still below it’s appraised value. You’re usually better off buying.

        • Yeah I own my home so I know how it works. My taxes went up this year (seeing as we’re assessed well below market value, I imagine they’ll continue to go up for the foreseeable future). And home insurance sent a packet explaining building costs have gone up so they are increasing premiums. I’m just saying…the monthly cost of your home when you sign the paper at closing is not always going to be the exactly same forever. Not to mention unexpected maintenance costs like having to replace a failed AC system or plumbing that goes awry (both of which we had happen this past year). It’s very easy to say “everyone should just buy- you’re better off!” when the reality is not so cut and dry. Most people can’t just slap together $100K for a down payment plus have cash leftover for renovations or maintenance.

          • The flip side, of course, is that you’re a renter and your landlord has to replace a roof/boiler/etc. Then your rent goes up.

          • I don’t know stats, but I’m guessing many ppl aren’t putting down 20% on a first purchase. Zero down in some cases. There are a number of programs offered to first timers here, so yea, I think it’s feasible for many more people than do it. It’s lots of responsibility, sure.
            You may want to shop around on the insurance as I know many owners with different companies who haven’t received such letters. If you filed a claim, maybe that’s why.
            I said usually better off…we’re Not living in a vacuum after all.

          • Tsar of Truxton

            As someone who spent 2 years looking for a house and lost 12-15 bidding wars, I can assure you that not having a big down payment makes buying significantly more difficult. People are throwing around cash offers with no contingencies on the good properties. Sure, maybe you could be a not very desirable property with a small down payment, but you aren’t getting anything good.

          • figby

            Thanks. And you know, some people just don’t want the big commitment of buying, for lots of reasons.

        • “Both are tax deductible, so you’re not actually paying more than the mortgage principal.”
          Um, not quite. Tax deductible means you deduct it from the amount you are taxed on, not from the amount of tax you have to pay. If you pay $10,000 of real estate tax, your income tax bill doesn’t go down by $10,000.

          • Uh, yea…tax deductible generally means it can be deducted on ones taxes not that it comes from the owe tax directly. You pay 5k in property tax & deduct 5k from your income. The net impact is zero.

          • the net impact of a deduction is not 0. Let’s say you’re in a 20% tax bracket. A $5000 deductible expense reduces your taxable income by $5000 less. That saves you only $1000 in taxes. So you just spent $5k to save $1k.

            You might be thinking of a tax credit.

        • Home insurance premiums are not tax deductible unless you engage in income-generating activity in the house, and even then only a portion is. PMI can be under certain circumstances, though.

          • HaileUnlikely

            This is correct. However, year-over-year increases in homeowners insurance premiums aren’t so large as to have a noticeable impact on a tenant’s monthly rent. Even if you are renting an entire single family house, it is hard for me to imagine increase in homeowners insurance premium, even if passed along to the tenant in its entirety, working out to more than about $5/month unless the landlord had a claim recently.

  • Right Russell, median home price here is nearly 500k, these people just need to whip together a down payment and they’ll be good to go. Very simple solution.

  • Did you know that only landlords with 4 or more units are subject to rent control? I don’t think anyone has pointed that out yet.

  • I’ve heard that a landlord loses the 4 and under unit exemption if he/she establishes an LLC to operate the building/ collect rent. Does anyone know if this is true?

  • Unless the landlord is under rent control rules, he can charge what he wants or raise rent to whatever – you decide whether you want to stick around or not. You could go back with a counter-offer – over 5% in a year is a little steep but not unheard of. If you are considered a good tenant, the landlord has an incentive to work with you so that you stay, rather than go looking for a replacement – speaking as a landlord, that’s always a big hassle.

  • A basic understanding of math?

    “the most that their rent can increase is the CPI percentage plus 2 percent, but not more than 10 percent.”

    10% of $2600 is $260. They raised it by less than $260.

    • Um…that means that if the CPI plus 2 percent was greater than 10 percent, they would only be able to raise it by 10 percent. The max is whichever of those two calculations is lower. Here, if CPI is 1.5 percent that means the most that it could be raised is 3.5 percent ($91), not 10 percent.

    • The phrase you quote means that CPI + 2% can’t be more than 10% (e.g. if CPI were 8.5%, they couldn’t raise rent 10.5%), not that they can raise rent as much as 10% every year.
      But as many have pointed out, if the landlord has few units or the building was built in 1975 or later, rent control doesn’t apply.

      • Ah, I was confused by the “For most tenants…” statement, and read it as “MOST people will get CPI + 2% (i.e., suggested), but it CANNOT exceed a total of 10% (i.e., max increase by law).”

        The “most common…” and “most tenants…” phrases make it sound like this is more of a suggestion or guideline than enforceable, hard limit – that’s where my misunderstanding came in; I thought the “not more than 10%” phrase was the actual hard limit.

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