The National, November 29, 2023
Renters across the country are feeling the pinch as landlords hike up prices amid a housing crisis that has left many people struggling to find affordable and decent accommodation. According to the latest data from Rent.com, the national median rent price for a two-bedroom apartment increased by 13.7% year-over-year in October, reaching $1,978. This is the highest annual increase since the company started tracking rent prices in 2012.
Demand outstrips supply in major cities
One of the main factors driving up rent prices is the imbalance between demand and supply in major urban areas, where many people are looking for work, education, and entertainment opportunities. The pandemic has also accelerated the migration of people from rural and suburban areas to urban centers, as remote work becomes more flexible and accessible.
However, the supply of rental units has not kept up with the demand, resulting in a shortage of available and affordable housing options for renters. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the rental vacancy rate in the third quarter of 2023 was 5.4%, down from 6.4% in the same quarter of 2022. This means that there are fewer vacant units for rent, which gives landlords more bargaining power to raise prices and attract tenants.
Some of the cities that have seen the highest rent increases in the past year include Boston, MA (36.8%), New York, NY (35.4%), San Francisco, CA (28.9%), Seattle, WA (25.7%), and Los Angeles, CA (24.2%). These are also some of the most expensive cities to live in, where the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment exceeds $3,000 per month.
Renters face financial and emotional stress
The rising rent prices have put a lot of financial and emotional stress on renters, who have to spend a larger portion of their income on housing costs and often have to compromise on the quality and location of their living space. According to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2023, 78% of renters experienced a rent increase in 2023 and 55% say their decision to move was directly tied to the raise in rent. As the landlord, you may decide to increase rent if:
- Market rates have increased.
- There are property maintenance expenses that need to be covered.
- You want to improve the property or add amenities.
- You want to align with the lease terms or local laws.
However, as a renter, you may have limited options to negotiate or challenge a rent increase, depending on the terms of your lease agreement and the regulations in your state or city. Some of the common ways that renters can try to lower their rent or avoid an increase are:
- Asking for a longer lease term in exchange for a lower rent.
- Offering to pay a few months of rent in advance or increase the security deposit.
- Requesting a rent freeze or a smaller increase due to financial hardship or COVID-19 impact.
- Looking for rent-controlled or subsidized housing programs in your area.
- Moving to a cheaper or smaller unit or sharing with roommates.
- Taking legal action if the rent increase is unlawful or discriminatory.
Renters’ rights and resources
As a renter, you have certain rights and responsibilities when it comes to your housing situation. You have the right to:
- Live in a safe and habitable unit that meets the health and safety standards.
- Have reasonable notice before a rent increase or a termination of tenancy.
- Have your security deposit returned within a specified time frame after moving out.
- Have your privacy respected and your property protected from unauthorized entry or damage.
- Have access to essential services such as water, electricity, heat, and garbage disposal.
- Have repairs and maintenance done promptly and properly by the landlord or property manager.
- Have reasonable accommodations for disabilities or special needs.
- Have protection from harassment, discrimination, retaliation, or eviction without cause.
You also have the responsibility to:
- Pay your rent on time and in full according to the lease agreement.
- Follow the rules and regulations of the property and the lease agreement.
- Keep the unit clean and in good condition and report any damages or problems to the landlord or property manager.
- Respect the rights and privacy of your neighbors and avoid causing excessive noise or disturbance.
- Inform the landlord or property manager of any changes in your household or contact information.
- Give proper notice before moving out or breaking the lease agreement.
If you have any questions or concerns about your rent or your rights as a renter, you can contact your local housing authority, tenant association, or legal aid organization for assistance and advice. You can also find more information and resources on the following websites:
- [U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)]: Provides information on federal housing programs, fair housing laws, tenant rights, and rental assistance.
- [National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC)]: Advocates for affordable housing policies and provides research and data on housing issues and solutions.
- [National Housing Law Project (NHLP)]: Offers legal and policy guidance on housing rights and protections for low-income and marginalized communities.
- Rent.com: Offers a comprehensive database of rental listings, market trends, and rent reports across the country.