How Much Can a New Owner Raise the Rent, Part Two

by Shilpi Paul

How Much Can a New Owner Raise the Rent, Part Two: Figure 1

Last week, UrbanTurf tapped Joel Cohn, the Legislative Director of DC’s Office of the Tenant Advocate, to help answer the question of how much a new owner can increase the rent on a tenant who still lives on a pre-existing month-to-month lease. Cohn’s initial response assumed that the unit was under rent control; a commenter wondered if there were any limitations on units that were not bound by rent control.

We reached out to Cohn again, who gave us this prompt reply:

If the unit is not under rent control, generally speaking, the only limits on the amount and the frequency of rent increases are the terms of the rental agreement itself.

The D.C. Court of Appeals has indicated that there is an exception to this general rule. Specifically, the landlord cannot use the threat of an exorbitant rent increase to deprive the tenant of the ability to meaningfully exercise a statutory right. The key case in point is the tenant’s right to continue the tenancy on a month-to-month basis following the expiration of the initial lease term. Thus, the landlord may not threaten too exorbitant a rent increase to compel the tenant to sign a renewal lease. How exorbitant is [too exorbitant] is up to the Court.

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This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/how_much_can_a_new_owner_raise_the_rent_part_two/6337


  1. mona said at 9:41 pm on Tuesday November 27, 2012:
    can the landlord use the increase in rent to compell a bad renter to move on? Say a 15% increase
  1. Anonymous said at 10:05 pm on Tuesday November 27, 2012:
    Did Cohn provide the specific law/case to which he was referring? My landlord is making just such a threat right now. I think a lot of times, landlords care so much about making every last cent that they forget that it is somebody's home.
  1. David Bediz said at 10:19 pm on Tuesday November 27, 2012:
    Two Points: 1. An owner who is not subject to rent control (one who owns four or fewer rental units in DC) may raise the rent by any amount for a tenant after their lease term ends PROVIDED the rent amount charged is considered "market" rent for the unit in its location. Any increase beyond "market" is considered "constructive eviction" which is illegal. 2. Mona, a tenant who is "bad" should be dealt with in a direct, legal way. But that is assuming that "bad" means they violate the lease in some way: use of illicit drugs, paying late or never, etc. Raising the rent doesn't solve the problem any easier than legal action for breach of the lease in any other way. If the tenant is abiding by the lease, the rent can be increased but under the restrictions I mention in #1.
  1. Shilpi Paul said at 12:02 am on Wednesday November 28, 2012:
    Hi Anonymous, We reached out to Joel, who gave us this answer: The case is “Double H Housing Corporation v. Brian David,” 947 A.3d 38 (DC 2008)(“Residential landlord was not precluded from conditioning rent discount on month-to-month tenant's execution of new 12-month lease agreement, absent finding of large disparity between discounted rent and rent charged as month-to-month so that tenant was effectively coerced into abandoning month-to-month tenancy that he was otherwise entitled to maintain.”) Shilpi
  1. nancy said at 12:50 am on Sunday February 10, 2013:
    When Archstone/Smith bought the building I'd lived in happily for 4 years they raised my rent $300/month. I moved out immediately And will never, ever, rent from them again.

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