Good Question: Can a landlord raise my rent during the pandemic?

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) —We’ve all been living in this pandemic for more than a year now. That means for a lot of people renting homes or apartments, they’re coming up on renewals for leases, if that hasn’t already happened.

Here’s the message News10NBC’s Brennan Somers got from one viewer: I just received a notice that my rent is increasing again. I am employed, but I thought it was the law that during pandemic rents cannot be increased?

Somers checked online and went through the rules and regulations for rent. Here’s what he found from the NY Attorney General’s Office:

Your landlord can’t do anything until your current lease is up. When that day comes, there are certain rules and caps on how much they can raise the rate depending on your circumstance.

There are also key deadlines for giving a written notice.

Here’s the exact language from the NYS AG’s website:

If you have a current lease, your landlord cannot increase your rent until it expires. If you are rent-stabilized or rent-controlled, the landlord is limited in the amounts it can increase your rent (currently 1.5% for a one-year renewal and 2.5% for a two-year renewal).
For market-rate tenants whose lease is expiring or are month-to-month tenants, your landlord must provide you with advance written notice of any rent increases above 5%:

  • 90 days written advance notice if you have lived in your apartment two years or more, or if you have a two-year lease;
  • 60 days written advance notice if you have lived in your apartment for more than one year, but less than two years;
  • 30 days advance written notice if you have lived in your apartment for less than one year or have a lease for less than one year.

Even if you are given proper advance notice of the rent increase, your landlord cannot charge you the increase in rent unless you accept it by signing a lease, paying the increase, or take another affirmative step evidencing you accepted the increase.

So let’s simplify it: Your lease is coming up, your landlord wants to start charging you $700/month instead of your previous deal at $600.

Mark Muoio from The Legal Aid Society in Rochester walked Somers through your options.

“If someone can’t afford the $700 then I think they should have a conversation with their landlord that I can do $600 or whatever the budget might be,” Muoio said. “If the landlord is determined to raise the rent by $100 then they are probably just not going to have an agreement anymore. The tenant could leave of their own but they could not be forced to leave unless the court issued a warrant of eviction.”

Some eviction cases are starting to pick up once again but remember, you have options when it comes to protection. Federal and state bans on kicking people out are still in place.

This is for those struggling financially due to the COVID or if moving poses a health risk. If that’s your situation, you must sign a hardship declaration. It will at least buy you some time.

The CDC just announced the federal ban on evictions now runs through the end of June. New York’s ends May 1, 2021, but state lawmakers are considering extending it as well.

If you need more help with a rent situation, you can reach out to the Tenant Defense Project, or call (585) 504-6195.