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Notice to Increase Rent After Lease Self-renewed

According to our lease, our lease self-renews every year, unless we provide a 30-day notice that we do not plan to renew. Our lease was to Auto-renew April 1st, and I did not hear anything about our lease renewal until I received a letter in the mail from my landlord, dated April 1st. In this letter, he confirmed the auto-renewal,and stated that he was increasing rent by $70/month. He also stated that I had to include an extra $70 (on top of the new rate) in May's rent check to make up for the new increase that started April 1st (this is after he accepted my rent check for April, at the old rate). I am very upset by this, as if I knew the rent was going to increase significantly, I may have looked at other apartments, or asked for more money at my annual review at work. I looked in the Mass general laws, and I could not find any laws stating a landlord must give x amount of days notice before increasing the rent. It does not seem right that he can let me know of a rent increase after the lease has self-renewed, and then tell me I need to pay for April's rent increase in May's rent check. I expressed my concerns about the lack of notice given regarding the rent increase, and asked that we negotiate the new rate. He declined my offer, and said that he is not allowed to treat any tenant differently.

Our lease includes a "cost of living adjustment" clause, which makes it seem like he can raise the rent at anytime as long as he gives written notice. Does this clause mean that he can increase the rent at any time?

Has my landlord acted within the law? I would like to stay at my apartment, but the new cost would really put a strain on my already tight budget.

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Submitted Tue, 05/03/2016 - 14:31

If you lease automatically renews, the lease will renew at exactly the same rate that you paid the first year. In order to increase your rent, your landlord had to provide you with the notice required by the lease in order NOT to renew the lease, and then offer you a new lease at the increased rate. Once the lease has begun they cannot increase the rent.

The only legal rent escalator clause has to do with property taxes. Any other clause is illegal and will not be enforced. By including this clause in your lease the landlord has also committed an unfair and deceptive practice and could be liable under Ch. 93A.

You should inform your landlord that the rent increase is not legal and absolutely refuse to pay it. If they decide to take legal action retain an attorney.

Attry. David M. Owens
Grolman, LLP

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