Tenant Troubles: When Can My Landlord Ask For My Annual Rent Increase?

I live in a pre-1979 apartment in a building that includes six units. We signed a one year lease on June 1st and our deposit included first month rent, last month rent and a security deposit.

Recently our landlord sent us a letter saying that our rent had increased by 1.9% starting May 1st. I’m aware that landlords are able to increase their rent by 1.9% in order to accommodate for inflation, however, I thought they were only able to do that at the start of a new year. Since my lease ends May 31st, I understand why I need to start paying the rent increase at the start of June, but can my landlord start charging me in May? I would like to not have to pay the extra $70 of rent for May if I don’t have to.

I would really appreciate any information you could give me!

Tenant Troubles Archives

Dave’s here to answer your questions every Wednesday, so send them to him at tenant@sfappeal.com. Here’s what to make sure to include in your letter.

Your one-year lease guarantees your rent for one year, not 11 months. This is even true in Bakersfield and Yuba City!

Your landlord is confused about how to apply the annual rent increase allowed by the San Francisco Rents Ordinance. Here’s an excerpt from the Rent Board’s information about imposing the allowable rent increase:

The first annual increase can be imposed 12 months after the date the tenancy began. The effective date of the annual increase is known as the tenant’s “anniversary date.”

This applies even if your tenancy is based on an oral month-to-month lease and, as I stated, no landlord anywhere can increase the rent during the term of a lease (unless terms allow it) without breaching said lease.

The Rent Board establishes the amount of the annual allowable increase in the December prior to the year the increase can be applied. This year’s 1.9% increase was “based on 60% of the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for All Urban Consumers in the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose region for the 12-month period ending October 31, which was 3.2% as posted in November 2012 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

The increase became effective on March 1, 2013 and any rent increases imposed until February 28, 2014 must be 1.9% unless the landlord hasn’t increased the rent in years past.

I’m guessing that your landlord sent you a form letter that may have been effective for other tenants in the building, forgetting that your tenancy isn’t even a year old.

You should inform the landlord that the notice is ineffective. He will have to serve another notice. He can still serve a 30-day notice to increase the rent for June 1, but let him figure that out.

Now you can go out and stimulate the economy with your 70 bucks!

the author

Dave Crow is an attorney who specializes in San Francisco landlord tenant law. However, the opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author, do not constitute legal advice, and the information is general in nature. Consult the advice of an attorney for any specific problem. You understand that no attorney-client relationship will exist with Dave Crow or his firm, Crow & Rose unless they have agreed to represent you. You should not respond to this site with any information that you believe is highly confidential.

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  • Why is this a Headline story? A year is 12 mos… not 11. End of story….EXCEPT:
    that the tenant need not even pay the increase effective with the 13th month… The Notice was defective on ifs face, and, so…a nullity… Let the owner come to his senses, and issue a proper, binding Notice….

  • Why is this a Headline story? A year is 12 mos… not 11. End of story….EXCEPT:
    that the tenant need not even pay the increase effective with the 13th month… The Notice was defective on ifs face, and, so…a nullity… Let the owner come to his senses, and issue a proper, binding Notice….

  • PS,…I am a realtor, not a lawyer, so I am just giving my experienced opinion, not Legal advice…

    ..New Thought: Why is there no movement in SF to create “Community Land Trusts”, that would own the underlying land, and let renters get a piece of equity, even if they don’t have enough for the usual downpayment, or don’t want to “jump in” with both feet, into the sometimes risky business of buying a home.???

  • PS,…I am a realtor, not a lawyer, so I am just giving my experienced opinion, not Legal advice…

    ..New Thought: Why is there no movement in SF to create “Community Land Trusts”, that would own the underlying land, and let renters get a piece of equity, even if they don’t have enough for the usual downpayment, or don’t want to “jump in” with both feet, into the sometimes risky business of buying a home.???

  • alissa anderson

    I have a question regarding this topic. We have lived in our flat for 9 years. Last year our landlord increased our rent by $100 to “make up for the years she hadn’t increased it”. We though you could only increase it by a certain amount per year, so it would have been just from the past year, right, not the previous years as well? If this is not legal, how can we correct it and her her to reduce our rent?

    • LibertyHiller

      IANAL, but landlords are allowed to “bank” rent increases, as the link in Dave’s article explains.

  • alissa anderson

    I have a question regarding this topic. We have lived in our flat for 9 years. Last year our landlord increased our rent by $100 to “make up for the years she hadn’t increased it”. We though you could only increase it by a certain amount per year, so it would have been just from the past year, right, not the previous years as well? If this is not legal, how can we correct it and her her to reduce our rent?

    • LibertyHiller

      IANAL, but landlords are allowed to “bank” rent increases, as the link in Dave’s article explains.