Raises in Rent

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Raising rent is always a contentious issue among Massachusetts landlords and tenants.  I often get asked, are raises in rent allowed?  The answer depends upon the rental agreement between the parties: whether there is a lease or tenancy-at-will.

A lease is where the landlord and tenant contract for the rental of property, most often in one year terms.  With a lease, the rent is fixed, and unless the lease says otherwise, raises in rent are not allowed.  Some leases have provisions that apply to raises in rent if the lease continues beyond its original terms, so landlords and tenants should read these agreements carefully.

A tenancy-at-will is an ongoing, indefinite rental agreement, which either party can break at any time (with proper notice to the other side).  Here, raises in rent are allowed: the landlord must provide the tenant with at least thirty days notice (and more if the rental period is longer than the standard month that these types of rental agreements usually go for).

For subsidized housing (such as the federal government’s Section 8 program), special rules often apply for raises in rent.  Landlords and tenants should carefully check on the terms of these leases and applicable laws and regulations.

Raises in rent are not allowed as a form of “retaliation” against a tenant for reporting bad conditions about the property.  Landlords who raise rent solely for this purpose face stiff legal penalties.  The same is true if the raise in rent is due to discrimination based on a protected class, such as race or ethnicity.

To avoid potential problems down the road, landlords who want to raise rent should reach out to their tenants in advance and discuss the need for these increases.