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2020 Guide to Rent Increases for Harrisburg, PA Landlords

Increasing rent is a common and expected part of a lease renewal for both tenants and landlords. On average, most Harrisburg home leases increase by 3-5% annually. Although this is common, it can still rub tenants the wrong way. Read on for a rent increase guide for 2020 in Harrisburg, PA, and some advice on renewals/rent increases during COVID-19.

2020 rent increase guide for landlordsLandlords Guide to Rent Increases in 2020

This year has seen several different rules set due to COVID-19, which we’ll discuss later on. It’s essential to understand the laws of rent increase as well as how and when to increase the rent. One of the most important tips we can give is to have a well-written lease. The lease should state the price and whether or not you can increase the rent at any point.

Laws – 

Laws do not specify how much a landlord can increase rent by at renewal, although you want to do so carefully and tactically to maintain a high renewal rate. Laws DO specify when a landlord can increase rent. For month to month leases, monthly rent increases are acceptable, however, you must give 30-days notice to the tenant. Leases that are standard 12-month leases may only be changed at the end of each lease term unless otherwise stated in the contract. Again, a notice of increase must be given 30 days in advance and included on lease renewal paperwork to be legally binding!

A rent increase must only be done for renewal purposes and not as retaliation or discrimination. What this means is, by law, you can’t increase a tenant’s rent at any point just because they did something to upset you like joining a tenant union, leaving a bad review, or anything of that sort. If a rent increase is due to retaliation or discrimination and the tenant reports it, that landlord will be susceptible to criminal charges and fines. Reputations will suffer as well.

Finally, if the property is rent-controlled, the landlord does not have the freedom to up pricing (even with lease renewals). A rent-controlled property is for those who are on government assistance for rent (i.e., Section 8 or housing vouchers). There are pros and cons to owning a rent-controlled property. However, the major drawback is needing government approval for any increase.

Research – 

Do your research before increasing the rent. You should know both the national market value of similar properties as well as the local competition pricing. Pricing higher than the competition could lose you, tenants, however, pricing lower than them could also hurt your income in comparison to the market rents. With that, it’s essential to price your properties accordingly and get help from a Harrisburg property management company if need be. Just because the average rent increase rate is 3-5% in your area, doesn’t mean that rate is necessarily high enough or low enough for your particular property.

How to Calculate – 

The rent increase isn’t an exact science, and calculating it may not always be accurate. However, the calculation below can give you an idea of the property’s current rent range. To calculate a rent increase, follow this equation: Consumer price index times the Current rental rate. You should also check various rental listing sites to ensure you’re competing for your area. A steep increase in rent may encourage tenants to look elsewhere for housing needs.

Pros & Cons of Rent Increases 

Just like everything in the property management world, there are both pros and cons to increasing tenants’ rent. It is imperative to weigh both the pros and cons in addition to doing research and calculations before increasing rent.

Pros:

  • Increased Income: This is the most apparent benefit. Raising the rent equals means more money for you to invest in the property, make improvements, and save.
  • Increased ROI: Rent increase is necessary to keep up with the cost of living. As expenses in the area rise, so do taxes and upkeep. A rent increase will offset the additional costs to increase ROI.

Cons:

  • Unhappy Tenants: A rent increase (especially an extreme one) may rub a tenant the wrong way. Unhappy tenants can lead to bad reviews, leaving room for the competition to capitalize and increase market share.
  • Vacancy: A direct result of unhappy tenants is vacancy! Increasing rent encourages tenants to look for other options, which could lead to turnover and vacancy costs.

Additional Rent Increase Tips 

Consider the following tips if you plan to increase rent at renewal:

  1. Notice – The law requires 30 days of notification, but given most leases require the tenant to provide 60 days of notice for non-renewal, it would be the right thing to do to give 90 days’ notice to your tenant. This is a polite way to give an increase and is likely to go over better with the tenant, so they have plenty of time to make a decision and plan accordingly.
  2. Be Flexible – When possible, be flexible and up for negotiating. This may mean planning for an eventual negotiation when giving the increased number and know you have the ability to lower it.
  3. Provide Reasons for Increase – give a reason for rental increases to put them in perspective. For example, you upgraded the unit (or plan to), or property taxes have increased. Backing your decision up with a reason will soften the blow.
  4. Renewal Incentives – Consider adding incentives for renewals such as a free month, gift cards, appliance upgrades, spring cleaning, or fresh paint. Adding incentives improves the likelihood of renewal and ads value to go along with the increase.

Rent Increase During COVID-19 

As previously mentioned, standard policies and procedures both legally and in terms of what is the “norm” for increases are not the same right now. COVID-19 has placed a ban on evictions, and in some jurisdictions, a freeze on rent increases. Consider the circumstances of your tenant as well as the economy and unemployment rates in your area. Can your tenants pay rent amid COVID-19? An increase may cause a financial strain on your tenants and result in unpaid rent.

Aside from the COVID-19 rental laws, it’s generally a wrong time for a rental increase. Most properties nationally have stated they will not be increasing rents. Doing so is a sure way to lose a tenant and have them slander you and your property online and to friends/family. Therefore, even if you can increase right now, we suggest against it.

It’s also wise to pass on resources to tenants to help unemployed tenants still make rent. The CARES Act is in place for this reason and is providing extra assistance on top of regular unemployment benefits. It also expands eligibility to those who wouldn’t typically qualify for unemployment assistance (i.e., contract workers, self-employed workers, etc.). Sharing this information with tenants can help them and you.

Hire a Property Management Company 

Navigating lease renewals and rent increases can be a tricky situation. An experienced property management company in Harrisburg can guide you through the process of lease renewals and rent increases. Bay Property Management Group Harrisburg offers a comprehensive approach to lease renewals and rent increases by conducting thorough market research as well as tenant reviews to ensure you get the best possible rental rate and maximum ROI.