Question: I recently received a large rent increase notice in the mail. The notice is labeled as a "Thirty-Day Notice." My rent is due the first day of every month. What amount am I required to pay Dec. 1?
Answer: If you have a fixed-term lease, your landlord has no right to increase your rent until the term of the lease expires, which means the notice is invalid. The only exception would be if the lease has an escape clause allowing the rent to be increased before the termination date. Because one primary consideration for signing a lease is to guarantee that rent won't be increased, a lease with that type of clause would provide very little value for a tenant.
Assuming you have a month-to-month rental agreement, you should check whether the amount of the increase exceeds 10% of your current monthly rent. If so, the notice is invalid because California Civil Code Section 827 requires a 60-day notice for increases that exceed 10% either in one increase or in the total of all increases over a 12-month period.
Regardless of whether the 30- or 60-day notice is required, if it was served on you by mail, it does not become effective for an additional five days.
As for the effective date, a valid notice served by mail takes effect 35 or 65 days after service, even if that date occurs in the middle of the month. You should pay the prior rental rate when paying your rent the first day of the month. But the day that the increase takes effect, you will be responsible for an additional payment to the landlord for the amount of the increase.
Martin Eichner is director of Housing Counseling Programs for Project Sentinel, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based mediation service. To submit a question, go to http://www.housing.org.