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I live in a shared household. One person signed the lease with the owner and we pay him money for rent. He gave postdated checks to the owner. The lease recently was up for renewal and the owner raised the price of rent for the house. The lease holder wants to forward this expense to us so everyone's rent is going up.

I don't consider this fair. My agreement was I pay the leaser holder $x / month and any deals he made with other people has no affect on me. Where I live the law is a landlord can raise the rent once 12 months. Since I'm technically not a landlord-tenant relationship, but more of a roommate relationship this doesn't strictly apply. Nevertheless, I have lived here for well under 12 months and it wouldn't be fair if I just moved in a month ago and the next the rent is up 50%. (the increase was actually $22/month)

I am willing to negotiate in that I will accept this rent increase if the lease holder signs a new contract with me which outlines everything exhaustively. I would like this because (as seen in my other questions) I think most of the problems come from a mismatch of expectations and if I have a contract that says it's complete then any future disagreements I could point to it. I do have a short, simple agreement in writing with the lease holder, but given what's been transpiring I need something more comprehensive in writing. I have spoke to him in the past about this but he seems reluctant and just puts it off without giving a clear reason or says "why do you need this?".

So, I'm thinking of having a meeting with the leaseholder and saying "I don't believe I need to pay $20/mo more because this was not the agreement I made with you. However, I'm willing to make an exception and do this if we agree on a new ‘roommate agreement' in writing". If he does not sign a new agreement, I will not pay the increase. However, I don't know if this is the best way to approach this. I want changes to stop being made unilaterally. How can I be polite but still firm? Since the current agreement is month to month I'm afraid he would kick me out if I upset him (however, when he kicked out someone else had to pay extra rent because he wasn't able to fill the vacancy soon enough)

I know with all the other questions it seems this place is not a good fit, but please don't suggest I move out. Due to my work location and financial situation, I would really like to continue living here for at least a little bit longer.

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    Was anything discussed about rent increases like when they could happen? – bighouse Feb 28 at 12:24
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    "My agreement was I pay the leaser holder $x / month" Yes but it seems that this agreement is only valid for one month, right? (You say it's "month to month".) – user19922 Feb 28 at 12:29
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    I'd suggest a different title. Based on the title alone, I'd vote to close as tenant/landlord disputes are out of scope on this forum – baldPrussian Feb 28 at 15:27
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    I'm not sure I understand where you're coming from. If you're a month-to-month tenant, then the agreements you have with others only run for one month at a time. If the person in charge of approving your tenancy has raised the rent starting on the next month, that's not unilateral, it's a new offer, which you can accept (pay) or reject (move out). Could you expand on why you feel your month-to-month tenancy should give you the stability of a fixed-term lease? – Upper_Case-Stop Harming Monica Feb 28 at 15:30
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    @Haptometer you've included a lot of ... let's call it legal stuff ... but you haven't given us any information about what you've tried/thought of trying with regard to your behaviour in this interaction to achieve your goal and why you're afraid doing so will upset the person that signed the lease. Could you summarize your post into some arguments you'd like to use, how you thought about presenting them and why you think you'd fail at being polite but firm? – Tinkeringbell Mar 2 at 10:05
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You're stuck, and everyone involved in this situation probably knows it. You can try to persuade, but you're coming from a weak position, and failing to acknowledge that will make your efforts less effective.

A roommate agreement is a great idea! I agree with you that mismatched expectations seem to have caused a lot of issues in your current living arrangement. But I don't think it's a solution to this particular issue. It's not clear to me that a new agreement would address your needs (that depends on what the agreement actually says).

Consider:

  • The primary leaseholder had a lease which expired, and had to sign a new lease. You are not a part of this process, as you are not on that lease.
  • You have a month-to-month agreement with that primary leaseholder, which means that you are not guaranteed the same conditions for periods longer than a single month. You are not entitled to more than one month's worth of anything here, and at the start of every month you have a new agreement (even if it's usually just an implicit extension of the previous month's agreement).
  • As you are neither the landlord nor the primary leaseholder, you don't have any leverage to dictate conditions of the lease. You can state what you want, but neither the landlord nor the primary leaseholder are in any way required to provide you with a place to live.
  • If you try to live in this house without paying the amount the primary leaseholder has decided to charge, you can almost certainly be evicted (specific laws vary by jurisdiction). Even without a formal eviction, the primary leaseholder can simply decline to allow you to stay in future months.
  • Your ideas of fairness, however correct or applicable, aren't relevant from an enforcement perspective. They aren't required to offer you a "fair" deal.

All of these together paint a difficult picture. Your leverage isn't that you can refuse to pay the higher rate (you'll likely be forced out of the house if you try to do so), it's that you can leave. With that in mind, I would not recommend the approach of declaring that you will refuse to pay a higher rent. It's an empty threat, because you can ultimately be compelled to pay, or to move out.

Further, it's a weak argument to suggest that rent changes shouldn't be unilateral. The rent is whatever the property owner decides it should be, and in the case of a sublease whatever the primary leaseholder decides it should be. I have never once experienced a negotiated rent increase in over a decade of renting. Rent generally increases over time, and you pay it or find a cheaper place to live.

I know that you don't want to move out, and I'm not suggesting that you do so. I'm only saying that this is probably the only alternative to paying the higher rent.

You can try to make a case to the primary leaseholder that you shouldn't have to pay more, but everyone else is already paying more, so your not doing so would be special treatment right off the bat. Worse, the actual rent the primary leaseholder is responsible for paying isn't going to change based on what you say or do, so if you don't pay more then everyone else will be paying more (a second time!) in order to accommodate you not having to do so.

Those are the factors to keep in mind: you're asking for special treatment among roommates (whatever the specific reason you think you should get it), you're leaning on contracts that you explicitly don't have (a month-to-month tenancy doesn't provide the same things as a longer lease), in an environment where there has already been a lot of interpersonal friction.

So, don't dictate terms (unless you're willing to move out), as you can't enforce them (again, aside from moving out). Trying to humbly make your case and persuade others may motivate them to help you out, but I can't find an argument from your position other than your personal preference and convenience, so be prepared for those efforts to not work.

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TLDR: This doesn't seem a 'unilateral' change, this was more the cost of living. Prices go up, rent goes up, timing is bad.

So unfortunately, I don't think there's anything you can really do here. You've said:

Where I live the law is a landlord can raise the rent once 12 months

And then said:

The lease recently was up for renewal and the owner raised the price of rent for the house.

So. It sounds like the landlord was exercising his right to increase rent once every 12 months. Naturally, the roommate you are leasing from is passing on those increased costs to you since he should hardly be expected to pay for all of the increase himself.

From my own experience, I recently purchased a condo about 5 months ago. However, 3 months ago I was notified that the condo association fees would be increasing. I was also told by the city that my property taxes would be going up. Alas, there is nothing I can do about any of that since I now own the building.

In much the same way, you really don't have much recourse here. It is unfortunately the start of the new year, and many people are flexing the 'once-a-year' changes since this is a usual time for people to do so. I chose a rather inopportune time to move, however it sounds like you have been living here several months already.

Honestly, this is the price of adulthood. Prices will go up, and we all need to deal with the ensuing fall out. Fortunately, you now have a hard date! Rent just went up! You are now completely within your rights to refuse further rent increases for an entire year. At which point, I expect rent to increase and your own rent will increase as well. I've been paying steadily higher rent for 10 years, which is part of the reason I bought a condo and now have a fixed mortgage.

Now, for the IPS side of things. If you really believe a 'roommate agreement' is the best way to go, then you are certainly able to do so. However, from personal experience, trying to 'get this in writing' is effectively ending any personal relation you have with this individual (unsure if that matters, haven't seen your other questions). You are creating a strictly 'business' relation. Some people can compartmentalize well, but if you are trying to set up specific, legal, requirements to live with someone, you are bound to expect a change in attitude.

For instance, if you go that route, your roommate will also now hold YOU accountable to this as well. Do you have community things people buy such as toilet paper or food? Well, if its not in the agreement then he is no longer obligated to chip in and help you out there. And if you put all of that into a contract, this is going to become a very large document that will encourage them NOT to sign it for fear of not knowing whats in it.

Personally, I would just eat the rent increase if this place really is the place you want to live. However, if there have been other changes going on (I'm going to go look at your other questions, might edit after) I would just have a sit down talk with your roommate sometime soon. An agreement might be the final goal after all, but as you said:

I think most of the problems come from a mismatch of expectations

Do you and your roommate drink? Or share another social activity? I'd grab a 6 pack of something you both like, ask for an hour talk or something on a day off, and just hash out the differences! And if you share a social activity, maybe talk out some of the expectations with a plan ahead of time to go off and do something fun afterwards to reconcile any raw feelings that might crop up.

Hope this helps!

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