Q: I haven’t increased my tenant’s rent in over five years. Her tenancy is a month-to-month agreement and I would like to increase her rent to match the current fair market rental value of the neighborhood. What is the proper way to give my tenant notice of this rent increase?

In California, the number of days’ notice given to the tenant depends on how much you wish to increase their monthly rent. If you want to increase your tenant’s monthly rent by more than 10% of what the rent has been for the past 12 months, you will need to give your tenant at least 60 days’ notice.  

However, if the new rental rate will be equal to or less than 10% of what the rent has been for the past 12 months, you are required to give a minimum of 30 days’ notice. For example, suppose your tenant’s rent has been $1,000 for the past five years and you decide that you would like to increase it by $300 per month. This $300 would be a 30% increase, therefore you would need to give your tenant a 60 day notice. On the other hand, if you decide to increase the rent by $100 or less, you would only need to give your tenant a 30 day notice because this increase is equal to a 10% increase. Rent can be increased at any time during a month-to-month tenancy, even if your tenant moved in less than a year ago. Keep in mind, if you are in a rent controlled area, have government-financed housing, or if the tenant has a lease agreement then other requirements may apply and you may not be able to increase the rent.  

Q:  I plan on increasing my tenant’s rent by less than 10% with a 30 day notice. Am I required to serve this notice personally or can I just serve him by standard U.S. mail?

A notice to increase rent can be served personally or by first class mail. If you decide to serve your tenant personally, it must be done 30 days before the increase becomes effective. The other option is to mail the notice to your tenant, however, an additional 5 days must be added. For instance, if you choose to mail the notice to your tenant, you must put it in the mail at least 35 days prior to the rent increase. Remember that if the increase is greater than 10% then you are required to mail the notice 65 days prior to the effective date.  

Q:  I spoke with my tenant last week and told her that the rent will be increased by $50 beginning on the first of the month. Is an oral notice of rent increase sufficient?

No.  A rent increase notice must be in writing.    

Q:  I have increased my tenant’s monthly rent twice since she moved in last year. Am I allowed to do that?

Assuming that the property is not located in an area where rent is controlled or government financed, you may increase the rent at any time. However, regardless of how often you choose to increase the rent, you are still required to give proper notice. Further, you may not increase the rent in order to retaliate against your tenant. Remember, if the cumulative rent increase for the past 12 months is greater than 10%, then a 60 day notice is required.  

Q:  If my tenant’s rent is due on the first, can the effective date of the rent increase start in the middle of the month or does it have to start on the first as well?

As long as you give your tenant proper notice, the increase may go into effect on any day you choose. However, it is important to remember to prorate the monthly rent based on when the rent increase would take effect. If the effective date is the 15th of the month, then that tenant’s total monthly rent should be calculated to reflect 14 days at the old rental rate and the remaining portion of the month at the new rate. Furthermore, read your rental agreement thoroughly to be certain that the agreement does not hinder your ability to increase the rent or impose other restrictions. 

Attorney Franco Simone, of the Landlords Legal Center and has been doing evictions for 20 years.  He is also an adjunct law professor at the University of San Diego.  Mr. Simone’s office is open Monday- Friday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM .-  Tel: 619-235-6180, website: www.landlordslegalcenter.com or email info@landlordslegalcenter.com