Pandemic Pricing Is Over for Rentals. What to Do if Your Rent Is Soaring

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Rents are going up. Here's how to cope.

Key points

  • Many landlords offered discounts on rent during the pandemic.
  • Now, landlords are raising rents, leaving some tenants struggling to keep up.

During the pandemic, many tenants fell behind on rent and would've lost their homes had it not been for the federal eviction ban that was put into place. Furthermore, many landlords struggled to get leases signed last year, as economic uncertainty kept many people's living situations in flux. To avoid vacancies, they offered steep discounts on rent in the hopes of attracting tenants.

But in recent months, the demand for rentals has been picking up. With a stronger economy and less unemployment, more people are in a position to sign a lease.

Landlords, meanwhile, are taking advantage of that boom by raising rent prices. And it's causing a lot of people financial stress.

Since March of 2020, the median cost of a one-bedroom rental has risen 11.8%, reports Zumper, while the median price for a two-bedroom rental is up 14.3%. In some markets, though, rental price hikes are even more extreme.

CNBC reports that some rentals have increased more than 40% since the end of pandemic pricing. While rent control laws can, in some cases, prevent drastic rent hikes, in places where they don't apply, landlords have more leeway in what they can charge.

If your rent has gone up recently, or you're expecting a giant hike once your lease comes up for renewal, you may be extremely worried, and understandably so. Here are some steps to take if you're facing a massive increase in rent.

1. Try to negotiate your rent

A big reason some landlords are raising rents a lot is that they suffered their own losses during the pandemic when tenants didn't pay and are now trying to recover. But a landlord in that situation may be more sympathetic to your own financial struggle, so if you're looking at an increase you can't afford, speak up and try to negotiate.

If your rent is going up by $100 a month and you really can't swing more than a $40 increase, ask your landlord if they'll accept that. If you're a tenant who always pays on time and you've lived in your home for several years, your landlord may agree to come down on price.

2. Rework your budget

Right now, just about everything is costing more money, from food to apparel to gas. As such, you may not have much wiggle room in your budget to carve out space for higher rent payments.

Still, it pays to take a look at your budget and see what flexibility you have for paying more rent before making plans to pick up and move. If your monthly rent is increasing by $80, you may be able to compensate by scaling back your cable plan and canceling the music streaming service you can enjoy but can technically do without.

3. Get a side hustle

A second job could do more than just make it easier to cover higher rent costs. It could also help you better manage the general rise in everyday expenses.

You may not want to work a side hustle on a long-term basis, but if you're willing to take one on temporarily, now's a great time to do so. Many businesses need more assistance during the holiday shopping season, so you may find different openings locally. If you'd rather stick to a more flexible schedule, you could always sign up to do data entry work from home or drive for a ride-hailing company.

Many landlords lowered rents during the pandemic out of desperation. Now, they're trying to compensate for lost revenue by jacking up rents while the demand is there. Don't panic right away if your rent is going up. Instead, try to see if negotiating with your landlord, cutting back on other expenses, and getting a side job do the trick of allowing you to stay in your home without having to deplete your savings account or rack up debt just to keep up with your housing costs.

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