We built Caretaker to make renting easier. To that end, we created a comprehensive guide to U.S. rental law to educate tenants and landlords about their rights and responsibilities. Now, we’re introducing Ask Caretaker: an ongoing series where we answer reader questions.

Good morning, I want to know if my landlord can raise my rent in this pandemic situation. My lease is up on May 31st, 2020. We have only one income at this time, and they are aware of this. What is the percentage it can go up?

- Kissimmee, Florida

Good morning! Sorry to spoil it with bad news. Unfortunately, your landlord can increase the rent by as much as they want, regardless of the effects of COVID-19. This is because there are no rent control laws in Florida​. They do have to give you 15 days’ notice, but that’s it.

Keep in mind, however, that it may be harder for your landlord to find a new tenant during the pandemic than it would be otherwise. If they try to raise the rent to a level you can’t afford, consider negotiating for a rent reduction. If you’re respectful and honest about your financial situation, they may be willing to work with you—rather than risk their rental being empty for months while they search for a new renter.

I applied for an apartment and they said I passed the criminal and credit check, but they have not sent the application to corporate for approval until I give a $400 security deposit. Can they do that? They claim it is to both hold the apartment and partially pay for security deposit. If approved, they are charging me an additional $300 for security deposit when I sign the lease.

- Salt Lake City, Utah

What they're doing is legal (and pretty typical), but they're using the wrong terminology. What they're asking you for is something called a "holding deposit," not a security deposit. Here’s the breakdown:

If you're interested in renting a particular apartment, the landlord or broker may ask you to put down an application deposit of several hundred dollars. This reserves the unit for you until you're ready to pay the security deposit and sign the lease. Once you do sign the lease, this money should go towards paying your security deposit or first month's rent. If you decide to back out, the landlord is allowed to keep some or all of your application deposit to reimburse them for any financial losses. However, if the landlord decides not to rent to you for any reason—for instance, a low credit score—they must refund the entire holding deposit.

Before you put down the holding deposit, however, I'd recommend you get the terms of the payment in writing from whoever you're dealing with—make sure they specify that the deposit is fully refundable (in case you aren't approved for the apartment in the end). Better safe than sorry!

Can you help me understand my long-term guest policy? I’m in a long-term relationship with my boyfriend and would like to know what this limits our days and overnights to:

“Guests may stay a maximum of 21 days or nights in a six-month period or 7 nights consecutively on the property. Any guest residing at the property for more than 21 days or nights in a six-month period or spending more than 7 nights consecutively will be considered a tenant. This person must be added to the lease agreement, and are bound by the terms and conditions of the lease, including rent and renter's insurance. Landlord may increase the rent any time a new tenant is added to the lease.”

I feel like my math is off. I divided the 21 days by the six-month period to get 3.5 days/month. Being in a long-term, long-distance relationship, I’m curious if that means my boyfriend can only stay for 3.5 days a month?

- Rochester, New York

If you're the only one on the lease, then New York's "Roommate Law" applies to you. You have the right to share your apartment with one other unrelated adult that's not on the lease, and you don't need your landlord's permission to do so. Obviously, in this case, your boyfriend isn't officially moving in with you—but if your landlord ever made a big deal about him sleeping over more than the allotted number of nights, you could cite this law and claim him as your roommate. New York landlords can't require you to add this roommate to the lease, and they also can't charge you fees or raise your rent because the roommate moved in.

If I'm late on rent, can I verbally demand my landlord fix the shore power cord to the fifth wheel trailer I'm renting from him? I left the connection exposed to elements during winter, and electricity doesn't work now. He's started eviction proceedings, but Governor Inslee stopped it due to COVID-19.

- Chewelah, Washington

You can always ask him to fix it, but you won't have any legal backing. In Washington, you have to be paid up on rent and utilities in order to use any of the legal tactics intended to force a landlord to make a necessary repair (such as repair and deduct).

Plus, landlords aren't legally responsible for fixing problems caused by the renter themselves. I'm not sure whether it's typical to leave a shore power cord connection out during the winter, but if it's not—and you didn’t bring it inside when you should have—that's another strike against you.

I rented my room to a guy on March 1st, 2020. He drinks a lot and uses marijuana and other drugs daily. I have a daughter and want to give him a 30-day notice this May 1st, 2020. Due to COVID, can I give him a 30-day notice? He is drugged all day, every day. I am afraid for the safety of my daughter and myself.

- Corona, California

The answer to your question depends on what kind of lease this man has. Did he sign a fixed-term lease with a set end date? Did he sign a month-to-month lease? Or does he just have a verbal lease?

If he has a month-to-month lease or a verbal lease, then you don't have to evict him. You can simply give him a 30-day written notice terminating his tenancy and he has to be out in 30 days. This process hasn't been affected by the pandemic. If he has a year-long lease, then you'll have to evict him to get him out. We’ve written about how COVID-19 has affected evictions—California is one of the states with an eviction moratorium through May 31st. That means you’ll have to delay your plans. If you're genuinely worried about your safety, you could also contact the police for help.

If you are already a renter and get a new job, do you have to update the apartment with your new job information?

- Dallas, Texas

Nope! There are no laws that require that. Landlords really only care about the details of your job during the rental application process because they want to be sure you can afford the rent. If they've already approved you and you've moved in, then they've decided you can—and you don't need to keep updating them on your employment situation.

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.


Abigail Cain

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