Renting an apartment is supposed to be an experience that is pretty straightforward, and normally it is, especially if you sign a lease for a set length of time. The amount of rent you pay is likely something that you carefully considered to make sure you could afford it, so when the landlord suddenly tells you it's going up, it can be both a shock and a strain.
So what do you do when your rent is raised? Do you just skip the Monday morning latte and pay it? Or do you fight? It depends on the situation, and the amount of the increase.
When the rent increase violates your lease
One of the first things you want to do is check your lease, and make sure your apartment complex management is not overtly violating your lease. If you signed a lease agreeing to pay $800 a month three months ago, and your landlord is suddenly saying that they want $900 next month, it's a clear violation. If your apartment is locally managed, but owned by someone else, it's important to contact the owner and let them know what's going on, and that your lease indicates you have nine more months at your current rent. Hopefully, you'll get an apology and the owner will reconfirm that your rent isn't going up anytime soon.
If there is no offer to rescind the increase, you may have to get legal help. Your state's Attorney's General or Legal Aid may be able to help you present your case more forcefully, and find out if the owner or management company has a history of unscrupulous behavior. You can also check with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) who may be able to direct you toward other renter's rights resources in your state.
When the increase is steep
Most of the time when rent goes up, it is by a small about and is in conjunction with renewing the lease. In most cases, renters just pay these rents because the reality is that life gets more expensive as it goes. But if the increase is high, there could be something wrong. Some states limit the percentage that landlords are allowed to raise rents each year, so finding out that information, and reminding your landlord of it may help limit the rent increase.
Another thing you can try is negotiating. Sometimes simply asking or pointing out that new residents are paying less can help keep your rent from going up too much. Of course, if all else fails, you could also move out.
When the increase is small
In most cases, small rent increases are to be expected from time to time, and most people just go with the flow and pay them. You can ask for the rent to stay the same or the increase to be lowered. Some rental management companies may offer deals to those who sign longer leases, so that may be a bargaining chip if you want to stay there anyway.
No matter what the circumstances are surrounding the rent increase, knowing your rights and handling the situation diplomatically is usually best to assure a friction free living experience.