CINCINNATI — It's not just home prices that are rising to wild levels this year. Rents around Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana are following them up, as well, and some renters say they may have to move.
Barbara Hill-Kelley is among the many tenants hit with rent hikes this year. She opened her door the other day at The Views of Mt. Airy to find a note posted that her rent was going up -- way up.
"They're crazy," she said. "I said, 'There's got to be a mistake.'"
But it was no mistake. According to the note from the leasing office, the complex is raising her rent to $875 a month, more than another $100 a month for her two-bedroom apartment.
"Another $117 to be exact, per month," she said.
But her apartment -- a 1970s-era complex with wood visibly peeling on its decks -- has not been updated in years.
"That's crazy; that's an additional $1,200 per year," the home health aide said.
Stories like Hill-Kelley's are taking place throughout the Cincinnati area, as the red-hot housing market spills over into the rental market.
What options tenants have
So what can you do if your landlord hits you with a 10- or 15-percent rent hike?
The good news is they can't raise your rent when you are under a lease. But when your lease is up, landlords can raise it with just 30 days' notice, according to Nick DiNardo, managing attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati.
"There is no rent control in this area," he said. "So, technically, the landlord can raise the rent as much as they want to."
DiNardo suggests tenants use sugar, not spice, to try to get the rent hike reduced. He also suggests explaining why you can't afford the hike.
"What we usually tell people is the best thing to do in this circumstance is try to negotiate something from the landlord," he said.
Many landlords would rather reduce a rent hike by a few dollars than have to take the time and expense to clean the apartment and find a new tenant, DiNardo said.
Rents hitting all-time highs in 2021
These are the biggest reasons for the increases, according to the report:
- High demand from home-buyers who can no longer find affordable homes to buy. This is especially impacting the rental home market, where rents have risen even faster than apartments.
- Rising management and maintenance costs
- Property tax hikes hitting landlords hard
Cincinnati City Councilman Greg Landsman has pushed the city to do more to stop evictions due to one's inability to pay rent.
"We have put money into an eviction prevention fund that helps with rental assistance," he said.
Now he wants to move some of the federal American Rescue Plan money awarded to Cincinnati to help struggling tenants.
"We're going to have to tackle this city-wide, with some rent support in some neighborhoods, with a big housing fund," he said, "or we will lose families to cheaper suburban areas."
As for Barbara Hill-Kelley's case, a leasing agent at The Views of Mt. Airy promised to pass WCPO's inquiry to management, but no one ever called. A second call to the leasing office several days later resulted in no callback.
WCPO also reached out to owners Elmington Property Management of Nashville, Tennessee, but have not gotten a response yet to either our call or email.
If nothing changes, Hill-Kelley and her husband may have to leave the city.
"I'm gonna have to work more, and we're gonna have to save, from now until July, to move," she said.
Caution about month-to-month leases
Many tenants like month-to-month leases, which give them flexibility.
But Legal Aid says you should realize that you have no way to prevent a sudden rent hike during these volatile times for renting.
So you may want to lock in for a year for some peace of mind, so you don't waste your money.
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