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Rent Increased for Lease Renewal without 60 Days Notice

My lease is up November 30, 2016. Terms dictate I need to give 60 days written notice if I intend to leave, otherwise the lease is renewed automatically, but only month to month. I do not intend to leave and did notify my Lessor that I intend to stay. On November 16 my Lessor provided a new lease with a rent increase and requested it be signed and returned by November 22. I am being given 2 weeks notice of an increase with 1 week to sign.

After reading several Q&As online, it seems like they should have been held to the same 60 day notice to increase my rent that I was held to if I wished to move. However, after thorough review of my original lease, it appears the Lessor does *not* have to commit to a certain time frame, other than abiding by the law to not increase the rent until the lease expires.

My lease states at the end of my lease on November 30, the auto renewal is for a *month to month* basis and during that time not only are they allowed to increase the rent as they please without a specific amount of days of prior notice, they will also add an additional $100 monthly fee until I sign the new yearly lease. It seems I could insist that my rent for December and January remain the original rate as I was not given 60 days notice of an increase, but they will then charge me the $100 monthly fee which is more than the 4% increase to begin with. So it’s probably in my best interest to just suck it up and sign the new lease with the increased rate by November 22, right?

Is this correct - I have no recourse? Is there a specific response I can use to contest the rent increase while also securing a new lease for December 1?

Section 34 of my lease states: RENEWALS
Unless either party shall give notice to the other party at least 60 days prior to the expiration of the lease term that they are terminating this lease on the scheduled lease termination date, or signing of a new lease prior to such date, this lease shall automatically be renewed for successive terms of one month each, on the same terms and conditions contained in the lease. Monthly rental shall be adjusted to reflect the monthly rental rate then in effect. In the event an annual lease has not yet been signed so that this lease is extended to a month to month lease by hold-over of the Lessee, either party may terminate such a tenancy upon 30 days prior written notice. Any lease that becomes a “Tenant at Will” or “Month to Month” agreement is subject to an additional fee of $100.00 per month. This amount is in addition to any rent increases that were to become effective at lease renewal.

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Submitted Mon, 11/21/2016 - 09:40

Thank you for your question. This lease is certainly unusual, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is illegal, although it may be. Under Massachusetts law, a landlord can raise the rent to whatever they want, however they must give appropriate notice. When you are offering a new lease with an increased rent, you are terminating the original lease, which means that the landlord can make the rent whatever they want. 4% is actually a pretty modest increase, and even if the number were 50% the landlord can legally raise the rent. The terms of your lease specifically state that the landlord must give 60 days notice in order to terminate the lease. What this means is that technically the landlord had to give 60 days notice to offer a new lease with increased rent, otherwise the month-to-month provision kicks in.

This lease makes clear that after the end of the term the lease converts to a month-to-month tenancy. In order to increase rent on a month-to-month tenancy, the landlord must give at least 30 days and no less than one full month notice. So normally, with a month-to-month, any rent increase proposed during November could only be effective at the earliest January 1 (at least 30 days and the WHOLE rental period of December).

Your lease is odd, in that it is legal for a lease to state that it converts to a month-to-month, but at a higher rental rate, but it is not legal for a landlord to charge any kind of fee to a tenant other than for a new lock and key. This means that your lease could be interpreted either way by a judge, either the legal automatic start of a month-to-month at a higher rent with the fee considered extra rent, or the illegal month-to-month with a disallowed fee. The fact that it is at the rate “then in effect” is probably an illegal clause, as it wasn’t specified at the time the lease was signed and it wasn’t for a certain sum. I would guess that this would likely be interpreted as converting automatically to a month-to-month tenancy, with an increased rent of $100 per month, for as long as you stay month-to-month.

Even though the lease requires 60 days notice, when both parties agree, they can modify or waive the notice period. Because the landlord is allowed to raise their rent to whatever they want, if you want to stay in the apartment, it’s probably worth just signing the new lease now if the increased rent is less than $100 a month. You cannot “contest” the rent increase either way; it’s only a matter of when it becomes effective. In the best case scenario, the landlord would charge you your current rent for December, with a 4% increase starting in December, but no lease. Which means they could raise it again in January, February, etc. The only way to lock in ONLY a 4% increase is to sign the new one year lease.

Atty. David Owens
Grolman LLP

Thank you so much, David, this was very helpful. I do agree it is in my best long-term interest to sign the new lease without complaint.

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