What Kind of Rent Increase Is “Normal” Right Now? Here’s What Experts Say

published Jun 14, 2022
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When your landlord surprises you with a big rent increase, you have a few options: Stay and pay the new price, move out and find a new place to live, or try to negotiate.

But to make that decision, you need to be able to answer a few big questions: What kind of rent increase is “normal” right now? How much is too much? And how can you tell if you’re getting ripped off while everyone else is paying less for the same amount of space or amenities?

If, on principle, you decide to move out of your apartment because you simply refuse to pay the exorbitant new rent amount, you may be totally out of luck when it comes to finding a cheaper spot — or any place, for that matter.

“It is critical for renters to research the market they live in to see if their proposed rent increase is in line with other comparable properties in the immediate area,” says Kent Rodahaver, a real estate agent in Tampa and St. Petersburg, Florida. “Those that do not, and vacate out of anger or frustration, find themselves in a very difficult situation. Many have to settle for a smaller home, a less desirable location, or in some extreme cases, are unable to find anything whatsoever.”

There are a few different ways to gauge whether your landlord’s rent increase is on par with everyone else’s. For starters, it’s helpful to look at broad, national numbers. In May, asking rents — or the rental price listed by the landlord — were up 15 percent year over year, according to an analysis by real estate company Redfin. The rental marketplace Zumper reported roughly similar increases in May: Median one-bedroom rents were up 12.8 percent and two-bedrooms were up 13.9 percent year over year.

Of course, the rental picture can look very different depending on where you live. Redfin saw even larger year-over-year rent increases in Austin (48 percent), Nashville (32 percent), Seattle (32 percent) and Cincinnati (32 percent), just to name a few. Zumper also tracked varying increases, depending on the city and the type of unit: two-bedroom rentals were up 38 percent in New York, while one-bedrooms were up 27 percent in Denver, for instance. 

“Landlords are looking at the local market and what similar apartments are going for in the area and making adjustments to rent based on that,” says Rent.com’s Jon Leckie. “In general, we’re back to seeing what we’re used to seeing: bigger increases in major metros and around emerging or established tech hubs, decreasing rents in the Rust Belt and Midwest.”

To drill down on your local area, Rodahaver recommends typing your zip code into the site RentData.org, which uses the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) fair market rent statistics (you can also do this on HUD’s site directly). These numbers are primarily used for federal housing vouchers, but they can serve as yet another data point for you to consider. The Washington Post built a similar rent increase search tool on its website using data from real estate research firm CoStar Group.

Studying this city- and county-level data can help you build a more complete picture of what’s “normal” in your area. But even armed with all this external information, you still need to look internally to make a final decision.

“A renter needs to ask themselves: ‘Do I want this apartment and how much am I willing to pay?’” says Bill Kowalczuk, a real estate broker in New York. 

In addition to looking hard at your own budget and preferences, consider whether the existing rent was actually below market rate, either because of a COVID-19 discount or from the landlord just not hiking it over the last few years, says Parisa Afkhami, a real estate broker in New York. Also factor in the condition of the unit and the costs associated with moving somewhere new, she recommends. 

“People are taking a moment and figuring out what their next step is going to be,” she says. “There is a huge influx of new renters due to various factors such as declining financial markets, world insecurity, low inventory in sales markets, and a lot of movement into and out of urban centers. I don’t think there really is any ‘normal’ anymore in terms of increases.”