Raising Rent the Right Way: 6 Essential Practices (And Mistakes to Sidestep)

Discover how to raise rent while strategically balancing profitability and tenant satisfaction. Dive into 6 essential practices and common pitfalls to avoid.

Gemma Smith
Last Updated
September 1, 2023
Raising Rent the Right Way: 6 Essential Practices (And Mistakes to Sidestep)

It's clear that the rental market is undergoing profound changes. For landlords, navigating the delicate balance between competitive rental prices and tenant expectations is more critical than ever. With a significant percentage of U.S. households living in rentals, keeping abreast of market trends is essential.

Recent data released by NerdWallet highlights that asking rents in the U.S. have reached an average of $2,062, marking a 3.6% increase from the previous year. Furthermore, the rapid growth in rental costs observed since 2020 can be attributed to diverse factors such as inflation, housing shortages, and the repercussions of the pandemic on the rental landscape.

Faced with these dynamic market conditions, many landlords must adjust rental rates to safeguard their profitability. The challenge? How to strategically determine rental prices that align with the current market and ensure the retention of loyal tenants.

Read on to explore best practices for raising rent while balancing profitability and tenant satisfaction.

Reasons for raising rent

Rent adjustments are an essential aspect of property management. They're not arbitrary decisions, though; they're responses to various economic, local, and property-specific factors. Here's a deeper insight into the primary reasons landlords might consider raising rent:

Inflation and cost of living

Impact of inflation on property costs

Inflation diminishes the purchasing power of money over time. As a result, the real costs associated with maintaining a property—such as repairs, utility bills, and services—tend to rise. What once cost $100 might now cost $110 or more, even if the property hasn't changed.

Adjusting rents for inflation

To ensure that the rental income maintains its real value over time and to cover property-related expenses, landlords often need to adjust rents. This adjustment helps to keep pace with the general increase in the price of goods and services, ensuring that property ownership remains financially viable.

Property improvements

Investing in the property

Landlords may renovate or upgrade their properties. This could be in the form of new appliances, structural improvements, landscaping, or other amenities that enhance the tenant's living experience.

Rent increases for value addition

Such investments increase the property's value and offer tenants a better living standard. As a result, landlords may increase rents to reflect this added value and recoup their investments' costs over time.

Rising property taxes and insurance

Correlation with local finances

Property taxes can rise due to various factors, such as local government budgetary needs or increased property assessments. Similarly, insurance premiums can surge based on regional risk assessments or increased claims in an area.

Passing on the increase

While these costs are external to the property, they significantly impact the overall cost of property ownership. As such, landlords may raise rent to compensate for these heightened expenses, ensuring their rental business remains sustainable.

Market demand

Assessing local rental trends

Like any market, the rental market is subject to the laws of supply and demand. A surge in demand for rentals in a particular area, perhaps due to a new business hub or improved local amenities, can increase rental prices.

Aligning with market rates

To ensure they're not undervaluing their properties, landlords must keep a pulse on local rental trends. If comparable properties in the area are renting for more, it might indicate that the market can sustain a rent increase. However, this should always be done reasonably, considering long-term tenant relationships and occupancy rates.

While rent increases might be contentious, they're often necessary for property management. Understanding the underlying reasons can foster transparency and mutual respect between landlords and tenants.

6 best practices for raising rent

Remaining profitable in a competitive market requires a sound investment strategy — not to mention sensitivity to the market conditions your tenants are facing. If you're wondering how to raise rent on a tenant, here are six proactive practices to keep tenants feeling informed and supported:

1. Provide advance notice

Your tenants shouldn't be blindsided by an increase in monthly rent. They must have enough time to consider their finances, adjust their budget, or prepare to find new housing long before their lease ends. Giving them a chance to plan demonstrates that you care about their living situation and don't want to put them in a challenging position.

2. Offer clear written communication

It's imperative that tenants receive written notification about a rent increase; it may even be required by local law or your lease agreement. Be clear, concise, and firm about communicating the new cost of rent and when it goes into effect — this way, tenants won't feel confused or uncertain about the future of their housing.

3. Be consistent with market conditions

It’s no secret that inflation is at an all-time high. As a landlord, you must remain attune to market conditions and ensure your rent is competitive with similar units on the market, but is still within reach for tenants. Periodically reevaluate your rent prices and adjust pricing in accordance with the market and your neighborhood's rates.

4. Make a reasonable rent increase consistently

Instead of dramatically increasing rent, consider making small, reasonable increases or higher rent over time. For example, some landlords raise the rent by 2% or 3% each year. This is more financially feasible for tenants than a sudden 10% increase.

5. Include terms in your lease to avoid surprises

The best way to manage tenant expectations is to give them all the information they need from the outset. When creating your lease, be clear about your expectations and the possibility of a rent increase. That way, tenants won't be surprised if something changes when preparing to renew.

6. Make upgrades or repairs to your rental property

Part of being a successful landlord is giving tenants a positive living experience. If you’re going to raise rent, making upgrades or repairs to the property demonstrates you care about delivering a great tenant experience — while also increasing the value of your rental property.

Understanding the legal framework for rent increases

Navigating the intricacies of property rental management involves more than just determining the right rent price. It also requires a foundational understanding of the legal landscape that shapes how, when, and by how much landlords can adjust rental amounts. Here’s a more focused breakdown of the legal aspects of raising rent:

Local, state, and national compliance

Every level of governance, from local to national, can impose specific regulations around rent adjustments. You might be asking yourself, why is adhering to these so crucial? Well...

1. Tenant-landlord relations: By following these regulations, both landlords and tenants are ensured their rights are protected. This compliance fosters mutual respect and understanding, maintaining a harmonious living environment.

2. Legal protection: Not adhering to regulations can lead to severe repercussions. These include penalties, potential legal action, and a damaged reputation within the rental market. Being compliant is a proactive step in preventing these pitfalls.

3. Setting the standard: Consistent adherence to these regulations serves as a benchmark, showcasing best practices in the rental community and promoting fair and ethical rental practices.

Notice periods and percentage increases

Before increasing rent, landlords are often legally obligated to notify tenants.

Notice requirements

Typically, jurisdictions require a 30, 60, or 90-day notice, ensuring tenants are prepared for the upcoming change.

Capped increases

Many places have laws limiting the allowable percentage increase in rent over a specific period, ensuring that hikes align with economic trends and aren't arbitrary or excessive.

Navigating rent control laws

Certain regions have rent control regulations to stabilize the rental market and ensure housing affordability.

Purpose behind rent control

These laws often aim to preserve a city or region's demographic diversity, which aids in maintaining the economic viability of property ownership.

Landlord implications

While rent control can sometimes limit the potential income from a rental property, understanding and respecting these rules is essential for legal and ethical operations. Incurring a fine or penalty for not adhering to local regulations can result in severe financial implications.

Knowing the exceptions

There are often exceptions or specific nuances within rent control laws, such as properties built after a certain date or those that meet specific criteria. Landlords should be acutely aware of where their properties stand in relation to these rules.

While the motivation to increase the current tenants' rent might stem from various valid financial reasons, implementing these increases is heavily governed by law. A landlord's best approach is always to be informed, prepared, and, above all, compliant with the legal expectations of their jurisdiction.

The don'ts of raising the rent

Raising the rent is a nuanced task for property managers and landlords, and while there are many best practices to consider, there are also pitfalls to avoid. Here are some don'ts of raising rent:

Neglecting tenant feedback

It's a mistake to overlook what tenants say about rent increases. Their feedback can provide valuable insights that highlight potential oversights on your part. Engaging in open dialogue can help understand their concerns, which, in turn, can foster better landlord-tenant relations.

Inconsistency and inflexibility

While staying attuned to market conditions is crucial, avoid raising rent too often or arbitrarily. Such unpredictability can lead to tenant complaints and increased tenant turnover. Moreover, it's wise to be a tad flexible, especially with tenants who've been loyal and consistent over the years. Offering renewal incentives or being willing to negotiate can go a long way in maintaining trust.

Overlooking property issues

It's unfair to raise rent if there are outstanding maintenance issues. Address these concerns first. Remember, you're not just offering space; you're providing a living experience. Ensuring the property is in top shape is a cornerstone of that experience.

Failing to monitor the market

While your property is unique, it's still part of a broader rental landscape. Don't neglect to monitor competitor pricing and offerings. If similar properties offer more value or better rates, tenants might think twice about renewing a lease, especially if they're faced with an increase.

In essence, while raising rent might be essential from a business perspective, how it's done can make all the difference in tenant retention and overall satisfaction.

How to raise rent on a tenant with confidence using Azibo

Navigating the rental business, especially when it comes to decisions like raising rents, hinges on current market rates and a holistic understanding of property values, tenant turnover, and property management dynamics. Fluctuations in market value and rent, property taxes, property improvements, and market demand weave a multifaceted tapestry for landlords to interpret.

Paramount to raising rent responsibly are attention to local laws, such as rent control regulations, as well as understanding the nuances of property taxes and insurance premiums. To maintain a thriving rental business, landlords must strike the right balance: keeping tenants satisfied while ensuring rental income mirrors rising market trends. Open lines of communication with tenants are crucial. By being transparent about the reasons for raising rent, whether tied to inflation or property enhancements, landlords can manage tenant expectations and mitigate potential grievances.

In this complex landscape, having an experienced partner like Azibo can make all the difference. Azibo offers insights that empower landlords to make informed decisions while streamlining the rent collection process. Dive into a new world within property management, and see how the proper support can revolutionize your rental endeavors.

Reasonable rent increase FAQs

What is the most a landlord can raise rent?

While there is no specific monetary amount to reference, the maximum amount a landlord can raise rent typically depends on local laws and any rent control laws that might be in place. In areas with rent control, strict regulations often govern rent increases, ensuring they align with a fair market rent value per rental unit. Landlords must also consider factors like market demand, the average rent in the local market, and any recent property improvements or amenities they've added. Furthermore, it's essential to notify tenants with a rent increase notice well in advance, as stipulated by lease agreements or state law.

How much can a landlord raise rent in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, there aren't state-wide rent control laws in place. This means that, theoretically, a landlord can raise the rent as much as they deem necessary. However, they must abide by the terms set out in the lease agreement and provide adequate notice, usually with a rent increase letter. Landlords and tenants must be aware of the current rent, any reasonable rent increases, and market dynamics, such as fair market rent and market rates, to ensure the new rent remains competitive with similar properties in the area.

How often can a landlord raise rent in Oregon?

In Oregon, landlords can usually raise the rent once every 12 months for month-to-month tenants. Recent state law changes have resulted in the implementation of rent increase regulations to ensure they remain reasonable. Oregon has specific restrictions on the percentage by which the rent can be increased annually, ensuring that it aligns with local market values and fair market rent considerations. Before raising the rent, landlords need to provide a rent increase notice in line with the state's regulations, keeping the tenant's rights and the lease or rental agreement terms in mind.

Simplify the process of raising rent with a partner that understands the rental market and supports you throughout the rent collection process. Try Azibo’s free platform for landlords today.

Gemma Smith

With 7 years in property management, Gemma serves as a key content strategist at Azibo.com. While excelling in writing, editing, and SEO, she also enhances Azibo's social media presence. Passionately, Gemma educates others to make informed real estate investment decisions in the ever-changing market.

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