Rent can be a very touchy subject to tenants especially if they are on a tight budget. Whether you’r a business leasing commercial space or renting out an apartment, its important to know what your rights are when it comes to rent increases. The first thing a tenant should do is to read their lease agreement to find out if it goes over rent increases. Some leases may automatically increase the rent after a specified period of and the property owner may not have to give you advance notice if its in the lease. Although there are some cities that require the landlord to give advance notice even if there is a clause in the lease stating that there is an automatic increase, so its also important to research the local laws as well.
While each city can be different, landlords are usually required to provide advanced notice whenever there is an increase in rent. This is usually sent to the tenant regular or certified mail. If your landlord is telling you that your rent increased and its not in the lease and/or you did not receive anything in the mail, then your best bet is to ask for some type of documentation showing that notice was sent to you. If the property owner can’t provide you with documentation, simply let them know that you did not receive notice but that you understand that it will be increasing.
Alternatively, you could also just tell them you did not receive notice and not say anything more just to see if they send proper notice later on. This truly depends on the type of relationship you want to have with your landlord and if you plan to stay in the property longer. Since you were in communication with the property owner, they could assume at that point that you were given notice. However, if its not in writing, it never happened. Stalling could help postpone the increase while you get your thoughts together so that you can decide what your next move is. Of course this approach will likely upset the property owner and strain your relationship with them.
So your landlord increased the rent, didn't say anything and they are holding you to it, now what?
Don’t panic. If you have read through the lease already and didn't find anything outlining future rent increases then the next step is to find out how much advanced notice a property owner is required to give to a tenant. Unfortunately, if you’re a business you may not have a lot of recourse since there are fewer laws in place when it comes to leasing out commercial real estate.
Once you know how much notice the landlord is required to give, send them a certified letter informing them that you did not receive notice of any rent increase and that as far as you are aware the rent amount is the same. If this does not work, wait for property owner to initiate the eviction process. When the first notice arrives, file an answer at the local court house and be sure to that you keep your monthly rent in a safe place. In some cities, you may have to deposit the rent with the court so they know you have and that you are challenging the amount due.
The court will then notify you of the hearing date which will give you an opportunity to present your case. Most tenants have not spent a lot of time in the court room. Its important to dress appropriately and to remain calm. You don’t have to wear a suit and tie, but business attire is strongly suggested. The worst thing to do when going before a judge is to talk too much. Stick to the facts and try not to get emotional or long winded. Just answer the questions that are being asked. Often times a tenant says too much which can lead to more questions that are not relevant to their point.
You are now at the mercy of the court. Fortunately, if you have done your homework verifying what is in the lease agreement and how much notice a landlord is required to give to a tenant, then you should not have much to worry about.
August 8, 2013