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What to do if you’re worried about a big rent hike


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Things have come a long way from the peak of the Covid pandemic, when rents in major cities were hugely discounted and concessions were common.

Across the U.S., average monthly listed rents are up more than 14% from last year, according to real estate firm Redfin. In New York, the costs have risen more than 30%, and in Austin, Texas, 40%.

As a result, many tenants who moved into a rental at a reduced rate over the last two years could face a big hike when their lease is up.

Here’s what to do if you’re worried about one.

Learn as much as you can

Allia Mohamed, co-founder and CEO of Openigloo, which allows renters in New York City to review landlords, recommends all tenants get informed about their rights and protections, which vary by location.

For example, there’s a mounting movement across the country to regulate rent increases.

In Oregon, most hikes are already limited to 7%, plus inflation. Recently, Santa Ana, California, passed legislation capping rent increases in most buildings to no more than 3% during any 12-month period. And residents in St. Paul, Minnesota, voted last year in favor of a rent control policy that will also limit increases to 3% a year beginning May 1.

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While most landlords are still free to raise your rent at renewal as much as they’d like, some have to provide you with notice.

Landlords in Seattle, for example, are required to alert their tenants 180 days before any change, and most renters across Washington state are guaranteed at least a 60-day heads-up.

In Seattle and Portland, Oregon, your landlord may be required to pay for your moving costs if you can’t afford to stay in your home after a hefty rent increase.

You can also get a sense of how fair your lease renewal rate is by comparing it to the rents of similar apartments in your neighborhood, Mohamed said.

Openigloo.com has a rent calculator that can help New Yorkers learn if they’d be overpaying. At Zumper.com, tenants can look up the median rental prices in many cities.

“If you find that other places in your area are going for less, start making a list of examples,” said Patty Crawford, vice president of strategic accounts at Zumper. “The more data you have, the better.”

In addition to the hard numbers, finding out other information about your landlord and building can also be useful at negotiation time.

Have a conversation with your landlord

“Do you have a small landlord that lives in your building?” Mohamed asked. Perhaps you want to emphasize how considerate and quiet you are as a tenant, and that they should want to keep you as a neighbor, she suggested.

“Does your landlord have vacancies?” Mohamed added. “You could offer to spread the word and make referrals to your friends to help them fill apartments in exchange for a rent concession or discount.”

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What to do if you’re worried about a big rent hike