How to Successfully (& Legally) Raise the Rent as a Landlord

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It is no secret that rents are now at all-time highs. Demand for rental housing has pushed rents up higher and higher over the last few years, and short of a huge building boom or crash, there is no end in sight. This is good news for us landlords, as higher rents equal more income and an increased property value. If you are a landlord who has not raised the rents on your rental properties in a while, perhaps now is the time you should. At the very least, you should consider it, as the current set of market conditions may never again be so favorable.

Raising the rent sounds like something that would, and perhaps should, be very easy to do. But, as with everything in life, there are pros and cons to raising rents, and there are good and bad ways to go about it. Some ways will be more effective than others. Some will cause you less pain and grief.

So if you are considering raising your rents, here are some steps to follow to make it as easy as possible on both you and your tenants.

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Assess Your Market

First, you must carefully consider if you can raise your rents in your market. All markets are local, and while rents in some communities may be skyrocketing, in others they may be barely climbing or even on the decline. The only way to consider this is with a bit of market research. You simply have to see what other landlords in your market are charging for comparable properties. Most of you are probably doing this all of the time anyway, but if you are not, check rental ads and online sources like Rentometer. Talk with other landlords in your area. If you find that your rents are lower that almost everything else or under market, then you can move to raise rents.

Finding that your rents are under market does not mean that you can instantly raise them. Remember that lease you signed with your tenant? (I really hope you are using a written lease!) That lease is a contract, and per the terms of that contract, you cannot alter any of the terms, including rent, for the specified term of the lease. That means you cannot raise the rent in the middle of a lease term. You have to wait until the lease expires or is up for renewal. If there are six months left on a year lease, you can begin planning for that increase in six months. Of course, both you and your tenant could both agree to a higher rent, but the chances of that happening are likely quite slim.


Related: How to Successfully Raise Rents Without Risking Costly Vacancies

Understand Local Laws

Now that you have determined that you can raise rents and when you can do it per your lease terms, what’s next? You next need to know and understand your local laws. Laws regarding the landlord/tenant relationship vary considerably across the country. What might be legal in one city might not be legal in an adjoining one. When it comes to rent increases, the law will generally address a few specific areas.

  • How much notice the tenant must receive before a planned rent increase. In most cases, it will be one month, but some jurisdictions may require as much as 90 days.
  • How the rent increase notice must be delivered. Can you just call or text your tenant, or will you need to send a certified letter?
  • How much you can increase the rent. Some jurisdictions with rent control may not allow you to increase the rent at all. Others may only allow a certain percentage. Know your laws and stay compliant.

So, you have finally done some market research, examined your lease terms, and ensured compliance with local laws. What else should you consider? You also should carefully consider how much expense and turmoil you want in your landlording business—because no rent increase will likely occur without it.

Related: Raising Rent (& Risking Tenant Turnover) vs. Playing it Safe (& Missing Out on Rent): Which Wins Out?

Is Increasing Rent Worth It?

Some tenants will, of course, accept the increased rent, but others will decide to move. How many will move really depends on how much you increase the rent, but any tenant turnover will increase your expenses. You will lose income while the property sits vacant, and you will likely be spending money to find new tenants and get the property in rent ready condition. Will these expenses negate your rent increase? Only you can determine that, and only you can determine how much hassle and turnover you are willing to deal with. Sometimes it is better to let sleeping dogs lie or just gently move them, so to speak.


4 Tips for a Smooth Rent Raise

If you do decide to increase your rents, here are some final thoughts on how to go about doing it.

  • Give your tenant as much notice as you possibly can. Thirty days, in my opinion, is the bare minimum, with 60 days being much more desirable. More notice gives the tenant more time to make a decision and possibly gives you more time to find a replacement tenant if your current one decides to move.
  • Send notices of rent increases in writing, and then make them a part of your lease.
  • Try to only increase rents as units turnover. This way, you do not upset your existing tenants nor do you rock your business boat too much.
  • Improve the property a bit if you increase rents. It does not have to be much—a bit of paint here or there, some landscaping, installing ceiling fans or even a new appliance or two. A few improvements along with increased rents may help your tenants feel like they are getting a bit more value for the increased costs, thus softening any blow.

We’re republishing this article to help out our newer readers.

Landlords: What has been your experience in raising rent? How have you mitigated vacancies during the process?

Let’s talk in the comments section below!

About Author

Kevin Perk

Kevin Perk is co-founder of Kevron Properties, LLC with his wife Terron and has been involved in real estate investing for 10 years. Kevin invests in and manages rental properties in Memphis, TN and is a past president and vice-president of the local REIA group, the Memphis Investors Group.


  1. Kyle Critchnau

    One question I have, you mention Rentometer as a service to use when finding market rents. How accurate is that service? To me, without being able to compare apples to apples (i.e. seeing pictures and square footage) I have to discount the reliability of seeing rents just based on bedrooms.

    • Kevin Perk


      I have found it to be fairly accurate in my market, but that may not be the case in yours. Honestly, it was the first one that came to mind when I was writing this post. Of course there are many other sources of comparison out there. You are wise to make the point of comparing apples to apples and seeking the most accurate information available. Not all two bedroom apartments are created equal.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment,


  2. Lauren H.

    If your lease is holding you back from being able to raise rent mid-lease, you should alter the language of the lease! I have a lease clause that allows me to raise rent mid-term for any reason. Of course you have to check with local laws and such, but if your state allows it, you should have a rent increase clause written into the lease.

    • Kevin Perk


      Good point! You could even write in automatic increases as you say. We can do that here in Tennessee and it is common to find such clauses in commercial leases. But other states may frown on such language as you also point out. Plus, getting the tenants to sign such a document may be difficult as well.

      Thanks for the great tip and for reading my post,


  3. Casey Murray

    This is some great info, Kevin. I work for a commercial RE property management company and we structure rent increases with either a fixed CPI increase each year ranging from 2%-4% or have scheduled rent increases ($8K in year one and $8,200 in year 2, etc.). This lets the tenant know well in advance that we’re increasing rents each year and increases our NOI so it’s a win/win situation.

  4. Mr. Perk says, “It is no secret that rents are now at all-time highs…”

    Harvard University agrees, “An analysis by Enterprise Community Partners and the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, finds that the number of households spending 50 percent or more of their income on rent is expected to rise at least 11 percent from 11.8 million to 13.1 million by 2025. At a time when rents are rising, incomes are stagnating and homeownership rates are declining, the number of renters facing affordability challenges has increased significantly.”(

    Therefore, HUD is rethinking the 30% rule, “The 30-percent rule — that a household should spend no more than 30 percent of its income on housing costs — has long been accepted in academic circles and is often included in blogs and websites on family budgeting. A recent Business Week article, however, argues that the 30-percent rule is “nearly useless.” The authors suggest that calculating housing cost burden using only income ratios oversimplifies the issue of housing affordability. Frank Nothaft, chief economist at Freddie Mac, is quoted in the article as saying, “If your income is $500,000 a year, you can pay 40 percent and still have money left. But if your income is $20,000 a year, it will be hard to make ends meet if you’re paying 30 percent of your income on rent.” (Notice that the rule says a tenant should not be spending more than 30% of their income on rent. It does NOT say landlords should set a rent amount and require tenants to make 3 times as much).

    If you live in one of the above average states (, perhaps you think more about whether you should raise rent, and less about whether you can raise rent even further. Maybe market rent and reasonable rent are not actually the same thing.

    • E. Barret

      I suspect everyone who thinks of their real estate holdings as more than numbers harbors inner conflict: Assessing rental performance as a business owner whose purpose is maximizing profit, yet caring about the humans who are necessary for such success.

      When it comes to ‘Can vs. Should I raise the rent’, in the past I’ve let tenant behavior make the decision. If someone has responsible spending habits as I do, never complains, and/or is an asset to the community, etc then I have no reason to declare I deserve more of their earnings. I bought very low, and leaving the rent alone will not take food off my table or slow the growth of my cap ex accounts. On the other hand, if someone is throwing their money at optional pursuits then I ensure a top-market rent is also one of those expenditures. This has allowed me to treat both groups fairly without subsidizing frivolous purchases. This may seem arbitrary but I’m not punishing anyone; worst case scenario they are asked to pay market rates. After all, those who choose large new SUVs for urban commutes are not a protected class. (yet)

      As an aside, is the national poverty count still based solely on food prices? I’m sure the percentage living under the poverty line would be far higher if they utilized a more realistic housing expense figure instead of the 30% you mentioned.

  5. Alex Craig

    IMO, you also have to evaluate your property. Is it better, worse or on par with other vacant units. For the properties we manage, this is often overlooked. Just because you are $100 cheaper then everyone else does not mean you can achieve that rent if your property does not have the same features (better counter tops, flooring, fans, vanities, etc). More then ever, I am seeing the better the property looks, the quicker it will rent. We are even putting in granite on select homes and those rent out very quickly. Bottom line, take a honest look at your property to make sure that if you raise your rent, the tenant will not simply move to a better house in the same area.

    • Kevin Perk



      But it is also the service you as a manager/owner give. Many of out tenants like our service so they stay with us. Many have returned after testing the waters elsewhere. So yes the other property may be better looking, but if the level of service is not there, it may not be worth it for them to move.

      How to compare all of this (appearance, features and level of service) and make apples to apples? Nearly impossible. But we have to make our best guess when looking at the overall market.

      Thanks as always for reading and commenting,


      • Adam Cranmer

        Kevin –
        You wrote this a long time ago, but since this was republished, I figured I’ve give it a shot at a response.

        When you say “Many of our tenants like our service so they stay with us…” – do you have any examples of what you’ve focused on, service-wise, that you believe keeps them around? Is it the timeliness of repairs, once-a-year parties, grounds maintenance…?

        Thank you!

  6. brendon woirhaye

    We set expectation that there will be an increase on an approximately annual basis. We try to batch our raises so they come out once per quarter, rather than exactly on the year anniversary, an optimization which simplifies our process but does leave some money on the table.

    By raising every year, we train tenants to expect it, even if the raise is only a token amount.

    We will position rents for longer term good tenants at around 95% of market, but avoid increasing more than ~5% in a year unless there is a significant gap.

    When a unit turns over, we bring it to market.

  7. Krista Riggs

    I like the idea of building in an automatic rent increase after the year lease is up, usually tenants end up month to month after that at the same price, but I lived in an apartment rental for one year and a month and that last month they automatically raised the rent pretty high! Interesting to see how the big dogs did it.

  8. Stephen Shelton

    I’m new to this (first renter signed in Jan 2014) and have not raised rent on either of my established rentals because the tenants are great and I’d rather have less rent than run the risk of chasing them off. Hell, one missed month of rent on my lowest property would require a new tenant pay $77 more a month for the other 11 months of a year!

    I hate that I will have to do this at some point, local politicians get greedier every year. While I lowered my insurance costs, taxes always go up… A lot.

  9. Anthony Wick

    New landlord here. I hadn’t even thought about a 2 year lease with an automatic rent increase in year two. I love the idea of offering long term lease discounts, but still a rent increase each year written into the lease agreement!

    • If you are going to have a long-term lease, then it should have fairly generous provisions for breaking the lease. No one knows the future, and no one should be disproportionately punished for future events that might interfere with the lease.

      • Anthony Wick

        The lease is in writing and everybody knows the commitment. As a landlord, I commit to not raising the rent more than is written into the lease, and as a tenant you are saying you will be there for the duration of the lease. Tenants don’t have to sign a lease at all, but they may not get the place they want either. If you feel a multi year lease isn’t for you or you won’t be staying in the area that long, simply don’t sign a multi year lease. I offer a discount for commitment. Nothing illegal or punishing about that.

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