Have you ever asked your boss for a raise?
Have you brokered a deal with a big client?
If you have, then you may already know that it’s no easy task. Raising the rent on your tenants can seem just as difficult.
Increasing the monthly rent on your Seattle rental property is something that you will inevitably experience. For the process to be successful, planning is key. It isn’t uncommon for complaints to arise after you have raised your property’s rent. No one likes to be charged more for the “same” thing.
There are many reasons that might prompt you to raise the rent. In Seattle, common reasons include:
- Expenses on your property have increased
If your regular monthly expenses have increased, you definitely need to increase your rental fee. Such expenses include mortgage payment, property management fees, Homeowner Association (HOA) dues, insurance, and property taxes.
- You have upgraded your property
Did you spend money-adding backsplashes, installing wood flooring, replacing doors, adding a fresh coat of paint, or replacing cabinet doors? Or, are you planning to make some major upgrades? If so, it is a justification to raise the rent.
- Comparable rents have gone up
Are rental fees rising all around you? If so, then you should too.
- The current lease term has ended
Even if you don’t have any justification to raise the rent, you should always remember to raise the rent at the end of the current lease term. Most tenants expect the rent to increase slightly at every lease renewal time of say $20 to $50 or so. However, if you raise it to say $250 after not having raised it for 5 years, it’s likely that you will get complaints. Generally, you should increase the rent by about 3% to 5% each year.
Understanding When to Raise Rent
As already mentioned, always raise the rent at the end of every lease term, whether it is tied to a lease renewal or to a renter moving out. Conduct a comparative market analysis to understand what similar properties are charging.
Then, factor in other distinguishing factors that your property may have. This will ensure that you get the right Return of Investment (ROI) on your asset.
However, leave room for negotiation with your current tenant, especially if they are good. As a Seattle landlord, you certainly know that finding good tenants isn’t an easy walk in the park.
If the tenant is good, also consider the following two things:
- Check if the rental fees for similar properties in your neighborhood have increased, but only minimally. If so, you have the option to price your competition out of the market by simply not raising the rent.
- Whether other properties are providing promotions and incentives to prospective tenants. If they are significant, the competition could be really tough.
On the other hand, if rental fees have significantly gone up, your renters will likely expect – and accept – a reasonable rent raise. If you do lose them, it may be possible to get new ones at a nice rent increase.
Calculating the Rent Increase
When you have considered raising the rental fee, the next question is, how much should you raise the rent?
The answer is – it depends.
According to a market report, rents increased by 12.5% from 2011 to 2016. But, markets vary dramatically, even within the same metropolis. That is why it pays to analyze the market prior to raising the rent.
You could hire a local real estate agent to help you in this regard. Or, you could choose to perform a comparative market analysis yourself.
Charging the right rent will attract the best, most qualified number of prospective tenants. That means stable income and low turnover costs. On the other hand, charging a lower rent can mean leaving money on the table, and charging a higher rent can mean a longer vacancy period.
Your goal should be to remain as competitive as possible. Generally speaking, you should raise the rent by around 3% to 5% every year. Of course, you should also factor in market forces.
When calculating the amount to increase the rent by, consider the following things:
- Your cash flow.
Cash flow matters. In fact, it’s likely the reason you became a landlord. When you are making money from your Seattle rental property, it means that your cash flow is positive. This essentially means that your investment is profitable.
- Similar properties in your area.
Have rentals similar to yours charging more? If they are, increase your cost as well.
- Seattle local housing laws.
Generally, landlords must give their tenants a 30-day notice prior to raising their rental fee. In Seattle, however, the notice period depends on the rent increase amount.
If the rent increase is less than 10%, then you need to give your tenant the normal 30-day notice. However, for a rent increase exceeding 10%, then you need to give your tenant a 60-day notice.
Compliance with Seattle Fair Housing Rules
As with all aspects of being a landlord, ensure you are compliant with Seattle discrimination laws.
In Seattle, protected classes include:
- Military status
- Use of a service animal
- Sexual orientation
- Political ideology
- Parental status
- National Origin
- Marital Status
- Gender Identity
- Breastfeeding in a public place
Essentially, you should not increase rental fees based on a tenant characteristic. For example, it is discriminative to raise the rent on tenants of a certain familial status or race. Likewise, you cannot increase the rent to punish a tenant that complained to the city about your inability to make needed repairs.
In Seattle, you are restricted from raising rent for a set period if your tenant has:
- Been involved in a tenant’s organization
- Filed an official complaint to a government authority
- Or, has exercised a legal right
If you raise the rent after the tenant has done any of the above, a court may assume it’s a retaliatory act.
Informing Your Tenant of the Rent Raise
Make the communication as clear and professional as possible. Also, don’t leave any room for confusion, argument, or negotiation. The best way to inform your tenant is through a written notice.
No tenant will appreciate a rent increase. But, if you make the process structured, you will likely get through it will less backlash. With a little bit of luck, this article will help you achieve just that.