Increase in rent?

By One Hurtin' Hokie

I’m a student at Virginia Tech, and this year I’m living in the same apartment complex as I was last year. Because of roommate changes, I will now be living with a different number of roommates, and therefore we had to sign a new lease for a new apartment. In December we signed a lease saying that we would be paying X amount of rent per month for a 2 bedroom, unrennovated apartment. In April we signed the lease again, but this time for the specific apartment unit.

Now, 16 days before the lease is scheduled to start, the landlord has called us up to tell us that they made a mistake, forgot to put us into the system, and gave our apartment away to someone else. They told us that they are willing to move us to the last 2 bedroom apartment they have available, but because the new one is a rennovated apartment, they will be an increase in rent; an extra $18 a month. This is despite the fact that the new apartment is, in our opinion, in a much worse location than the original apartment we were supposed to have.

Now, I understand that logistically, there are people in what was going to be our apartment, and the landlord really can’t do anything about it now. So my roommate and I are willing to move to the new apartment, but we don’t want to pay extra for an apartment that we feel is in a worse location than the original one. We could really care less about the rennovations. The lease they signed specifies the amount we have to pay. We talked to them about this, and they told us that while the lease doesn’t give them permission to raise the rent, it doesn’t forbid them from raising the rent either.

My question is, What can I do about this? According to Virginia housing law, “No unilateral change in the terms of a rental agreement by a landlord or tenant shall be valid unless (i) notice of the change is given in accordance with the terms of the rental agreement or as otherwise required by law and (ii) both parties consent in writing to the change.” But the housing law also says that “. If the tenant does not sign and deliver a written rental agreement signed and delivered to him by the landlord, acceptance of possession or payment of rent without reservation gives the rental agreement the same effect as if it had been signed and delivered by the tenant.”

So, as I see it, the landlord is illegally changing the lease – because we have no time to find a new place to live, our plan is to pay the rent, but try and get a lawyer involved and make the landlord company abide by the contract they signed. But by moving in to the new apartment, are we giving our legal agreement to abide by a new lease (for more rent) even if we don’t sign anything? Can we deliver our rent to the landlord along with a letter stating that despite the fact that we are paying all of what they are charging us, we still believe that they are in the wrong and we will be investigating legal action against them? Would that be enough to say that we didn’t give our legal agreement to a new, unsigned lease?

Edited on: Friday, July 25th, 2008 1:53 pm

5 Responses to “Increase in rent?”

My response: (We welcome stories, examples, explanations, answers and a touch of your personality)
 

John

July 25th, 2008 2:02 pm

I’ve looked over what you are saying, and yes your landlord is responsible to meet the terms agreed upon by both parties. (Assuming the agreement is signed by both parties, and that there isn’t an exclusion clause) However, I’m not sure what attorney’s charge where you’re from, but if I were to work on a case like this it would be $150 per hour with a retainer of $2500. So, if the damage is an additional $18 per month, that’s only $216. In my opinion I would advise mey client to not persue it, since the damages don’t really make it worth your time and effort. Yes, I know you’re a poor college student and every dime counts– that’s why I would especially droping this based on your situation. Court battles can be costly and hard to win, no matter how obvious the case looks. Try mediation first, you should be able to get the help you need through the RPA Complaint option. RPA Mediation, many times is more effective than the courts; the RPA actually attaches the complaint to your landlord’s record, so it intices them to be more than fair. I hope that helps.


Mary

July 26th, 2008 10:10 am

I’m a landlord, and I’ve made a few mistakes in the past. But to accidentally agree to rent a place to two people at the same time, that’s bad! It seems like your managers aren’t real bright. But the issue is that the landlord made the mistake, not you. Who ever made the mistake is responsible for redeeming the problem. I’m surprised they aren’t bending over backwards to make this work. You need to get a paper trail started, the best way to do that is by filing a complaint. You will want to file before you move into the new place. I feel bad for you, but this is the whole reason the RPA is around, they will help protect your renting rights.


Anonymous

July 26th, 2008 12:12 pm

Don’t know what to say… just saw you are at Virginia Tech, sorry about the shootings that happened awhile ago, that was awful. I wish you and the other students much success.


Rich

July 26th, 2008 2:18 pm

If you signed the agreement first, then you have first dibs at the rental… You should make your landlord kick out the other tenants.


Gary

July 26th, 2008 3:14 pm

I agree with the other attorney, you have been wronged, but I don’t think court is the best option. Look at other solutions first, then court if it is absolutely needed.


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