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Proper Notice of Rent Increase

Produced by Lauren D. Song
Reviewed May 2017

To legally raise your rent, your landlord first must give you valid notice of the rent increase demand. The type of tenancy you have will determine when a landlord must send a notice of rent increase, and whether this notice is likely to be joined with a notice to quit. To figure out what type of tenancy you have, see Chapter 4: What Kind of Tenancy Do You Have.

1. Tenants with Leases

If you have a lease, the landlord can seek a rent increase only based on the terms of the lease. For example, your lease may prohibit a rent increase or it may allow a rent increase (but only under certain conditions). Also depending upon what type of lease you have, a landlord may only be able to seek a rent increase at certain times.

a. No Increases during the Lease

Your landlord typically cannot increase your rent during the term of your lease. The one time when a landlord can increase your rent during the lease is if your lease has a “tax escalator clause.” This clause allows a rent increase during the lease if the property tax goes up.46 For more see Tax Escalator Clause.

Even if you and your landlord agreed to an increase during the leaseperiod, a judge may not find the agreement valid if you received nothing in exchange for the higher rent.47

b. What Kind of Lease Do You Have

Make sure you know whether you have a self-extending lease or an option to renew lease.

  • Self-Extending

    With a self-extending lease, if you or your landlord do nothing, the leaseautomatically continues. You must give the landlord written notice if you want to leave, or the landlord must give you a timely notice to quitif she wants you to leave. If you have a self-extending lease, and your landlord wants to increase the rent, she must send you a proper notice of rent increase before the date your leaseautomatically extends. If the landlord sends the notice of rent increase after the leaseautomatically extends, there can be no rent increase until the next time the leaseends. (Sometimes a landlord gives a notice to quitwith a notice of rent increase so that if a tenant does not accept the rent increase, the leasewill not automatically extend and the tenancy will end).

  • Option to Renew

    With an option to renew lease, if you do nothing, the lease will end. An option to renew is not automatic. If you want to stay, you must give the landlord notice that you are exercising your option to renew your lease. Read your lease to be clear about exactly how and by when you must give notice that you want to renew.

Also read the lease to determine if your landlord can increase the rent if you renew. If your landlord does not give you the notice as required in your lease (if there is such requirement), your rent cannot be increased during the renewed lease period.

If your lease already says what the new rent will be if you renew, your landlord may not have to give you a separate notice of rent increase. Your rent must stay the same for the renewed leaseperiod if your lease says so, or if your landlord continues to accept the current rent.

To determine whether your lease is self-extending or whether you have an option to renew see Chapter 4: What Kind of Tenancy Do You Have - How Long Is My Lease Valid.

2. Tenants at Will

a. Getting Legal Notice

If you are a tenant at willand do not have a lease or live in public or subsidized housing, your landlord can propose a rent increase any time. For all tenants who do not have a lease, a legally valid rent increase notice has to do two things:

  1. Terminate (or end) your existing tenancy at the current rent, and
  2. Offer you a new tenancy at a higher rent.

Landlords often combine the notice of rent increase and a 30-day notice to quitso that if you refuse to pay the rent increase, they do not have to wait to bring an eviction case in court. The notice to quitand notice of rent increase can be given as 2 separate documents, or as a single document combining both notices. In any case, you must receive timely notice that your landlord is terminating your tenancyat the current rent and offering you a new tenancy at a higher rent. You must receive the notice terminating your current tenancy at least 30 days or one full rental period (if it is longer than 30 days) before the proposed date of the rent increase.48 A notice of a rent increase by itself cannot and does not end your existing tenancy at the current rent.49

For example, if you pay rent on the 1st of the month and your landlord wants a rent increase as of September 1, she must make sure you actually receive the offer of a new tenancy at the higher rent and a notice terminating your existing tenancy before August 1. If you decide to accept the rent increase but do not receive the notice of termination of tenancyuntil after August 1, your tenancy at the existing rent continues to the end of September, and you do not have to pay the increase until October 1. But you must continue to pay the current rent.

Remember

It is the date you actually receive the notice to quit that matters, not the date written on the notice or the date the notice was mailed or served.

b. What If You Refuse to Pay the Increase

If you do not to accept your landlord’s rent increase demand, you are still obligated to continue to pay the current rent. Make sure you get receipts of the payments so that you can prove that you paid the current rent. See Keep Records.

If you continue to pay the current rent, a landlord cannot send you a 14-day notice to quitfor non-payment, but must send a 30-day notice to quit. Often, landlords do not understand this difference and try to evict tenants improperly after giving a 14-day notice to quitfor non-payment of the rent increase. If your landlord makes this mistake and files an eviction case, you should ask the court to dismiss the case because the notice to quitis defective.

Important

A notice to quit or notice of a rent increase does not mean you have to move out of your apartment, even if you choose not to pay the rent increase. A notice to quit is the first document your landlord must give you before she can start a court eviction process. A landlord must always go through the court eviction process. For more about the eviction process, see Chapter 12: Evictions.

3. Tenants in Subsidized and Public Housing

If you have a housing subsidy, the landlord can seek a rent increase only if the rules of the housing subsidy program allow a rent increase. This includes the Section 8 voucher program and other housing programs for private landlords.

To figure out what rules apply, first figure out what kind of subsidized housing you have.

For information about rent increases in public housing,

Endnotes

46 . A tax escalator clause allows your landlord to pass on to you any increase in your landlord's property taxes by increasing your rent before the lease term ends. A legal tax escalator clause includes three things: (a) a statement that you are obligated to pay only the proportionate percentage of any increase in taxes attributable to your apartment; (b) the exact percentage of any tax increase you are obligated to pay; and (c) a statement that if your landlord receives an abatement or refund, you will receive a proportionate share of the reduction assessed to your apartment, less attorney’s fees. G.L. c. 186, §15C.

47 . Torrey v. Adams, 254 Mass. 22, 28 (1925) (holding that a written agreement to increase the rent was invalid if the landlord gave the tenant no additional rights in exchange for the increase).

48 . G.L. c. 186, §§12 -13.

49 . Williams v. Seder, 306 Mass. 134 (1940).

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