Like many other business relationships, the relationship between a tenant and property owner is built on a contract. A property owner agrees to provide a suitable residence for the tenants, and in exchange, the tenant agrees to pay a set amount of rent each month. Just as with most services, the price of rent may increase occasionally. While these periodic rent hikes may be undesirable to most renters, aside from a few situations, property owners are free to raise rents at will.
In some areas, there are rent control ordinances that dictate how much a property owner can charge for rent and how often they can raise the rent. Properties controlled by these ordinances are typically older homes that were constructed before a certain year. For these properties, property owners may be allowed to raise the rent by a set percentage annually. Property owners may also be able to raise the rent on a property in between tenants or if they gain approval by a rent control board.
For all other properties that do not fall under rent control ordinances, a property owner may choose to raise the rent at any point if the proper notice has been given to the tenant. Typically proper notice must be given to a tenant in writing 30 days prior to taking effect. This ability to raise rent is more often used for month-to-month properties. If the property owner of a leased property wishes to raise the rent, they may do so at the end of the current lease. The exception to this rule would be if the current, signed lease allows a rent increase at any time. Once the lease term is expired, and the property owner wishes to increase rent, the tenant and property owner may choose to enact a new lease agreement.
For property that is not controlled by rent control ordinances, property owners may increase rents after giving proper notice to tenants or upon an expired lease. Property owner and tenant agreements can be quite involved and complex. A thorough understanding of all that a lease agreement entails may require the help of an attorney.