UrbanTurf Reader Asks: How Do I Increase Rent?

by Shilpi Paul


Recently, a reader wrote in to UrbanTurf asking for advice on how to increase the rent on her rental property. She is in the process of creating a new lease for a current tenant and is having trouble figuring out the allowable rent increase. Additionally, she wants to shift the burden of a few more utilities to the tenant.

We reached out to Joel Cohn, the Legislative Director of DC’s Office of the Tenant Advocate, for some advice on the best approach to take.

Here is Cohn’s response:

1. For any unit under rent control, the maximum standard annual rent increase is based upon the CPI percentage for the current “rent control” year, which is published each February by the DC Rental Housing Commission. The “rent control” year runs from May 1st through April 30th of the following calendar year. The cap for elderly tenants (age 62 and over) and tenants with disabilities is the CPI percentage itself. For all other tenants, the cap is the CPI plus 2 percent. The current CPI figure is 3.6 percent. Thus, for elderly tenants and tenants with disabilities, the maximum rent increase is equal to the current rent charged multiplied by 0.036. For all other tenants, the maximum rent increase is equal to the rent charged multiplied by 0.056. (Unless the housing provider has properly registered the unit as exempt, the unit does fall under rent control and all rent increase restrictions apply.*)

2. After the expiration of a lease term, a tenant in the District is entitled to continue the tenancy on a month-to-month basis on the same terms except for allowable rent increases. Tenant’s refusal to sign a renewal lease is not a valid basis to evict the tenant, regardless of whether the unit is under rent control. Of course, if both parties agree to do so, they may execute a renewal lease.

3. Generally nothing prohibits a landlord from shifting the cost of a utility (like water and sewage) onto the tenant, except that the tenant may have a legal claim if this violates a lease term. If the unit is under rent control, however, then the landlord must reduce the rent charged to reflect the reduction in services. This is done through a “reduction in services & facilities” petition, which the landlord must file with the Rent Administrator’s office.

*To find out if your unit qualifies for exemption, check the relevant section of DC’s Tenant Survival Guide.

Readers, what do you think? If you have any experience with the matter or additional insight, please respond in the comments.

Update: As some readers pointed out, Joel Cohn’s original answer omitted a key consideration regarding the maximum allowed rent increase. We have replaced the paragraph — point 1 — with Joel’s updated response.

See other articles related to: urbanturf reader asks, landlord

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/urbanturf_reader_asks_how_do_i_increase_rent/5675


  1. anon said at 2:03 pm on Wednesday June 20, 2012:

    what about for a non-rent controlled unit?

  1. Tom A. said at 2:18 pm on Wednesday June 20, 2012:

    DC has rent control? First I’m hearing it!

    Don’t we have among the top rents in the nation?

  1. Andi said at 4:00 pm on Wednesday June 20, 2012:

    Generally, a landlord who owns 4 or fewer units is not under rent control. Units do not have to be in the same building.

  1. Michael said at 4:21 pm on Wednesday June 20, 2012:

    Most jurisdictions that have rent control (DC, SF, NYC) have high rents. These things are not unrelated.

  1. Brandon Harris said at 5:34 pm on Wednesday June 20, 2012:

    I think what was meant to be quoted is that annual rent increase is capped at 3.6% for seniors and the elderly. For all others it is capped at CPI (3.6%) plus 2 percent.

    So that would mean a 5.6% increase for the majority of D.C. residents living in a rent controlled building.


  1. SMH said at 9:44 am on Tuesday June 26, 2012:

    As a landlord of 3 units, I am not limited by the rent control law (I have registered as exempt with city). I am writing a new lease and want to include that the rent will increase with the average DC rent increases. How/where can I find that information?
    But again, I am limited to the CPI+2.2% since it is not a rent controlled unit.

  1. MM said at 12:42 am on Tuesday November 20, 2012:

    How much can a new owner increase rent for a tenant who still lives in a condo on a pre-existing month-to-month lease? How does rent control work when ownership changes?

  1. mona said at 4:43 pm on Tuesday November 27, 2012:

    A lease is durable through a sale. If your on a month to month then you are limited by that month to month agreement

  1. LH said at 11:46 am on Wednesday December 12, 2012:

    DC Superior Court has a Self Help Center where they will answer these kinds of questions for landlords and tenants alike.

Comments are closed.

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