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Can my landlord raise the rent by 14%?

The following is an actual conversation between an Uprise RI user and our Helping Hand chat assistant. The most helpful conversations, as determined by our editors, will be showcased on our homepage, with personally identifying details removed when applicable.

Posted May 31, 2024

User: Can my landlord raise the rent by 14%?

The Helping Hand: To provide you with the most accurate advice, could you let me know the following: What type of lease agreement do you have (month-to-month, yearly, etc.)? Also, have you received a formal notice about the rent increase, and if so, how long ago was this notice given?

User: I have a yearly rental agreement. And I was given formal notice of the increase, in the form of a lease renewal, about 2 weeks ago. The landlord is requiring us to decide by May 31 for an August 1 lease start.

The Helping Hand: Given your situation, it’s important to note that Rhode Island law does not specify frequency restrictions for rent increases nor does it limit the amount by which rent can be increased. However, landlords must follow the lease conditions and provide proper notice for rent increases. Since you have a yearly rental agreement and have been given formal notice about the increase in the form of a lease renewal about 2 weeks ago, with a decision required by May 31 for an August 1 lease start, it seems that your landlord is following a reasonable notice period for the lease renewal and associated rent increase.

Although a 14% rent increase might seem high, it’s not illegal in Rhode Island unless the increase is based on discriminatory reasons or in retaliation for tenant actions protected under law, such as complaints about maintenance or housing code violations.

If you find the increase unaffordable, you might consider negotiating with your landlord. Here are a few steps you could take:

  1. Reach out to your landlord to express your concerns about the rent increase and see if there’s room for negotiation, either for a lower increase or for other terms that might make the lease more favorable to you.
  2. Review your lease for any clauses that might limit the amount or frequency of rent increases.
  3. Check if your city or town has any local ordinances regarding rent increases that might apply to your situation.
  4. If negotiation fails and you decide not to accept the new lease terms, start looking for alternative housing options well in advance of your current lease’s expiration.

Would you like more information on how to negotiate with your landlord, or need assistance finding resources for finding new housing if needed?

User: In terms of retaliation, she said the increase is to account for increased regulatory compliance costs. This is directly related to the lead remediation work she did on our unit last year because we had a child

The Helping Hand: It sounds like your landlord is attributing the rent increase to the cost of lead remediation work, which she undertook due to the presence of a child in your unit. It’s crucial to understand that while landlords can pass on certain costs to tenants through rent increases, it should not be done in a way that discriminates against tenants or as retaliation for exercising your legal rights.

Under Rhode Island law, actions taken by a landlord in response to tenants asserting their legal rights (such as requesting necessary health and safety repairs) can be considered retaliatory if they occur within a certain time frame after the tenant’s action. However, the situation becomes complex when the increase is attributed to compliance costs.

Here are steps you can consider:

  1. Document Communication: Keep records of all communications with your landlord regarding the rent increase and the lead remediation work. This includes emails, texts, and notes from phone conversations.
  2. Review Local and State Regulations: Some localities have specific regulations regarding lead remediation and tenant protections. It might be helpful to review these or consult with a local tenants’ rights organization.
  3. Seek Legal Advice: Consider consulting with a legal professional or a tenants’ rights organization. They can offer guidance specific to your situation and Rhode Island law, particularly concerning whether this rent increase could be seen as discriminatory or retaliatory.
  4. Negotiation: You might still try to negotiate with your landlord, especially if you believe the increase is unfairly high. It can be helpful to propose a compromise or discuss how the increase might be phased over time.

The Helping Hand is a free service provided by Uprise RI for Rhode Islanders. It uses state-of-the-art artificial intelligence technology and vast training on RI landlord/tenant law and consumer protection to provide helpful tips and resources specific to the user's needs, at no charge. Help support The Helping Hand with a donation of any kind.