How to Respond if You Raise the Rent and Your Tenant Hands in Their 30 Day Notice

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There are things you should do to keep good tenants. Chris Clothier wrote a great article entitled How to Keep Tenants Longer…and a Strategy for Finding New Renters. We should all jump onto this discussion because, if you own properties, you know the importance of keeping your good tenants!

But what if you’ve:

  • provided a good property
  • been available whenever the tenants called
  • responded quickly to their needs and requests
  • perhaps even, as Chris suggested, lowered rents when needed.

Sometimes, you’ve provided all the above and your tenant is still moving onto another rental. And, of course, there’s the dreaded fear of raising rents. Fact is, we all need to raise rents from time, and most of us fear losing tenants when we do.

Anytime a tenant decides to move on, and especially if you raise the rent then receive a move-out notice, try sending a “sorry to see you go” letter and include the following:

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Let your tenant know how much it will cost them if they decide to move:

First month’s Rent and Security deposit. To begin with, no matter where they go, chances are they’ll be required to pay not only first month’s rent, but a security deposit as well.

Utility Deposits. They may be required to pay utility deposits. Have they checked what those costs will be?

New items. For any new property, there are always needed purchases such as window coverings, shower curtains, even furnishings.

Moving Truck. A typical U-Haul (our local rate) is $19.95 per day for a small truck. There is an additional charge for mileage, blankets, boxes, insurance, and tax.

Time and Effort. Few people ever calculate how long it will take to pack and unpack everything they own, in addition to the carrying, loading, and unloading time and effort. Even if friends and family pitch in, what is everyone’s time worth? Not to mention the effort involved in gathering enough boxes and packing materials for everything they own.

Children. Will they be able to keep their children in the same school district or near their friends? Moving is a very stressful time for everyone involved, including pets.

Show them the numbers:

If the move is in an effort to avoid a rental increase, show them some numbers. For example: a three percent (or $30 per month for $1000 per month property) means they pay an additional $360 per year. The time and cost to move may be far higher.

Explanation for the increase:

They may not be aware so let them know about your ever growing costs to maintain the property. Property taxes and insurance rates increase every year necessitating an increase in rental amounts in order to continue to maintain their home.

It will happen no matter where they go:

Let them know that, no matter where they move, their new landlord’s costs will also continue to increase and so will their rent.

You might offer to help:

For example, you may want to offer longer term leases to keep rental increases to a minimum. Five percent increase per year for a one year lease, three percent per year for a two year lease, two percent per year for a three year lease.

Interestingly, we’ve had people decide not to move after receiving this letter. Sure, not everyone will decide to stay, but you’d be amazed how few people consider all this before moving. I don’t want my tenants to go through the move then decide, “wow, if I’d known how much it was going to cost to move, I would have stayed.”

I want to give them the opportunity to make that informed decision up front.

What can you add?

Photo: Steven Moreno

About Author

karen rittenhouse

Karen Rittenhouse has been investing in real estate full time since January 2005. In that time, she has purchased hundreds of single family properties, opened a full-service real estate company, a property management company, a coaching/training business, and written three books on real estate.


  1. Excellent post, full of great ideas Karen. Many fear raising rent, but by simply providing facts it makes complete sense for the tenants to stay in most cases. I imagine this will be very relevant and helpful to many. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Karen,

    Excellent post! As a new Investor/Landlord, I have been pondering when to raise rates. Hesitate because of fear of losing a good tenant. Your post makes it easier to not only raise the rate, but to explain why as well. Then, provide them with additional information, should they wish to move. These are great points!!



  3. Hi Karen,
    Nice post, the biggest pain in the back side for any tenant is finding a new home. New home hunting as a tenant is painful.
    How much time is this going to take? How much traveling will they need to do? How many hours of work will they need to take off? And then how much will the new property cost on admin expenses.

  4. I do not have my 20 unit apartment building anymore but I have made all the examples above
    before to tenants.

    It depends on the sophistication of the tenant. Most tenants unless they are higher end with college degrees etc. I have found DO NOT think like a landlord or an investor.
    They do not analyze which is cheaper for the whole situation.

    It’s like a car in that all they care about is the MONTHLY PAYMENT. They do not analyze how much the car repairs will be, if the car has a great track record, how many times that brand of car is stolen, if it is pulled over more frequently for tickets by cops, the gas mileage, the full coverage insurance rates, how fast it depreciates, etc.

    I have put together 1 + 1 = 2 and the tenants still do not get it. The main point in raising the rent is how long have they been living there? if you want to raise 50 a month and they have lived their 10 years etc. then most likely you will be putting thousands and thousands and thousands of repairs to get it rent ready again when they leave. You might be better off going up 30 dollars and having them stay instead.

    The 50 dollars for the 1 month lost rent and the repair costs would take you 3 to 5 years to recover depending on the monthly rental rate. Most landlords I know do not push the market. They increase but stay under to incubate the tenants and not make them want to leave by always having slightly below market rents for the area.

    Turnover is not your friend and you want to eliminate it as much as possible but at the same time cannot give in to unreasonable tenant requests where they want way below market etc. to stay.

    • “The 50 dollars for the 1 month lost rent and the repair costs would take you 3 to 5 years to recover depending on the monthly rental rate.”

      I could have said this better. What I mean is if the tenant leaves because of the 50 month increase your potential extra profit is 50 X 12 = 600 a year for the one unit.

      If you lose a month before reconditioning and re-renting then say rent is normally 700 and you spend 2,500 to redo a unit.

      That is 3,200 out the door. It would take over 5 years of the 50 increase a month to recoup that money to where it is paying off. Sure you will have to do repairs to the unit over time with the same tenant but I have found once tenants live in it awhile they do not notice all the run down things like a brand new tenant does and expectations are much lower.

      • karen rittenhouse

        So well said, Joel! Tenant turnover can be VERY costly. Which is why we, as landlords, do everything we can to keep good tenants, including lowering rents if necessary and possible.

        Sharing the above information will certainly not work with every tenant but, as you pointed out, most people never consider all the additional costs to move. Once they are aware, some will be grateful for the warning and realize that staying put is actually the cheaper alternative.

        Thank you for contributing to this post.

  5. Mike McKinzie on

    While no landlord likes a vacancy, it is something that comes with the territory. In the example of large repairs if a tenant moves out, a good landlord should NEVER have large repairs due to a vacancy. It is the responsibility of the landlord to keep the property up at all times. Repairs have a way of increasing exponentially and not geometrically when they are ignored. What was once a small roof leak is now a whole new roof.

    I have had four vacancies this year and the longest period of time of my house being vacant was 14 days and two of them were less than seven days? Why? Because I had kept up the maintenance on them while the tenant was in it and thus when they moved out, all that was needed was a little cleaning and painting. So keeping the maintenance up has several benefits.

    A large majority of tenant moves will cost the tenant more money, and many times a LOT more money than if they had of stayed. It is that old saying “spending a dollar to save a dime.” The advice Karen gave is excellent. But most tenants are not “reasonable.” Which is why they are tenants in the first place, and that is not a “put down” but just a realization the tenant mentality is different than a homeowners mentality.

    • karen rittenhouse

      I want to point out that, for the first time ever, there are more tenants renting single family homes than apartments. I think that may be in part due to the number of owners who lost their homes to foreclosure. They are not the typical tenant and I think landlords are seeing a much higher quality renter than used to be the case.

      Thanks for your comments, Mike.

      • Mike McKinzie on

        You are correct in that we have a unique pool of tenants today. Many of the folks who lost their homes to foreclosure still have a homeowner mentality and take good care of the property. But they are also the first ones we will lose from the “tenant pool” as soon as they can afford to purchase a home again. No matter what incentives we offer them, when they buy again, they will move.

        But your advice is good for the “perpetual tenant” There are many times that all I had to do was install something new to keep a tenant. They just wanted a little extra attention.

        The other area that was addressed was fear of raising the rents because the tenant might move. I saw my parents do this and the losses mounted up. Most tenants are going to whine and threaten to move every time you raise the rent. When I took over, one of their rentals that had a Fair Market Value of rent of $2,000.00 a month was rented for $1,200.00 a month. They had lived in the house for 24 years and their first years rent was $1,000.00 a month. If the market will allow it, I raise the rent every year. If the market would allow a $50 a month raise and they have been really good tenants, I may raise it only $25 a month. But if you go a year without raising the rent, the tenant will use that against you every year after that. The point is to NOT let the threat of a tenant moving stop you from raising the rent with the market forces. And while you can be flexible for the good tenants, remember, your mortgage holder is not flexible no matter how good you are with your payments.

        • karen rittenhouse

          Good points again, Mike.

          “Many of the folks who lost their homes to foreclosure are the first ones we will lose from the “tenant pool” as soon as they can afford to purchase a home again.”
          This is why we spend so much time communicating and working with them. We hope that, when they do buy, they will buy from us – either the home they are currently renting or another that we help them find (we also have a full service real estate brokerage).

          And, we never let our tenants make our ultimate decision about rental rates. We charge what we do and, sometimes, they can’t afford it and move. Occasional vacancies are part of the cost of rentals. We do what we can to keep them but not at a financial loss for our company.


    • Mike,
      I have seen many of your replys on other sites and would love to pick your brain more on how to set up a team on the ground if you are buying properties in other states, I am a recent college grad and have always been interested in this, my parents have a few rentals but not across state lines. Do you have a facebook or anything?


  6. Great article as usual, Karen. I think Joel raised an important point that tenants often only look at the monthly payment. I’ve found that I can “raise the rent” in a roundabout way by saying I will no longer pay for a utility or other service that I previously paid for. I think this psychologically makes it easier for the tenant because it keeps their monthly rent the same. They also feel like they have more control, because they could change their utility usage habits to keep their new expense as low as possible. In the end, it still leaves more money in my pocket at the end of the month.

    • karen rittenhouse

      Fabulous idea! That is an excellent way to cover your additional expenses but not upset the tenant.

      At this time, we don’t pay any additionals for tenants. But we did go 3 years without raising rents because of the economy. Most of our tenants, fortunately, understand our increase in expenses forces us to do so now.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  7. Hi Karen,

    I recently bought a newly build house which is due to close in July. I already have a rental contract for one year upon closing. This rental will net $500 cash flow every month.

    I want to take care of this house and also have the tenants feel good being taken care of. I already committed to have pest control done once a quarter. Now I am thinking of changing the AC air filter every quarter too. But is it the expense should come out of the landlord’s pocket? If it’s, I have no problem for it, just want to make sure I am not doing things unnecessary.


    • Eve –

      I always include pest control in my leases, but why commit to do it every quarter? Why not simply do it on an as needed basis? Regarding the AC filters, in most states it is technically the responsibility of the tenant to purchase and replace the air filters. However, I always do these myself as you can never count on the tenants to do it reliably. You can purchase a box of 12 filters from for around 13 bucks. Thats a whole year of filters for a fraction of what it costs to replace the entire AC.

    • karen rittenhouse

      Hi Eve:
      I don’t have a problem with you paying for those things. We do property inspections twice a year and use “changing the air filters” as one of the reasons we need to come in. We always leave a couple of extra filters and ask the tenants to please change them out monthly. Some do; some don’t. With inspections, we are able to keep an eye on how the tenants are caring for the property.

      And paying for pest control protects your property so that’s not really an expense to you but an investment.

      You’re getting a very good cashflow on this property so it won’t be a financial burden for you to do these things and, like you said, should make the tenant feel good that they are being taken care of.

      If you have additional landlording questions as you go along, feel free to ask me.

      Thanks for your question.

  8. Great post Karen.

    I agree with some of the others; tenants often can’t see the big picture. I have seen a lot of landlords not raise the rents for some years due to the market. Then they want to make up all of those years of stagnant rents in one swoop. This is always a mistake.

    Even in bad times, most tenants will accept a small increase of say $5 a month. If things stay bad for 4 years then, you have still gotten a $20 increase that 4 year time period. Not great, but you don’t have to suddenly go up $30-$50 in one rent increase. If you gotten some increase over time, then they will be more accepting of a more standard rent increase when things improve.


    • karen rittenhouse

      Great suggestion, Sharon.

      We have held rents steady (except for raising when new tenants moved in) for 3 years. We are now raising rents 3%. So far, so good. No one has moved though some have called to discuss. We send an explanation letter along with the increase.

      We also sent letters with renewals when we didn’t raise rents saying something like, “due to the tough economic times, we are not raising your rent.” We wanted to be sure that our tenants knew we could and that they appreciated we didn’t.

      Thanks, as always, for sharing your experience.

  9. Thank you Karen for the next great idea. Currently I am having exactly this situation you have described above. On July 1st I stopped at my tenant house to prolong the lease agreement and she said that she had to move out because she lost her job and the rent for the house was not affordable for her anymore. Besides she said that she had already found an apartment for $500/mo and would be moving after the holiday the 4th of July. The only thing I could say was, “OK, it is understandable. If something does not work with your new place let me know and we can renegotiate a new price for you.” But because of your post now I know what to do; I will write and submit a “Sorry to see you go” letter to my good tenant and see what happens. At list I will get a hope that she may rethink her decision.
    Thank you again,

  10. Karen,
    I saw your comment about your “sorry to see you go” letter on Chris’ article and I think that it’s an amazing tool! I also agree that communication in other ways is key, such as your letter about not raising rents due to tough economic times. A letter like that shows the tenant their PM cares about them and I believe that will go a long way to keeping that tenant.

    • Thanks, Michelle.

      Communication and support are both key. We also give every tenant a copy of my buying book and let them know that our ultimate goal is to help them be able to eventually buy a home. We strive to let them know that we’re more than simply their “landlord”.

      To your investing success!

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