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Dear LAist: How Much Can My Landlord Raise My Rent?

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The rent, as we know, is too damn high -- and in L.A., it's getting higher. If you're a renter or a leaser, it's hard to tell when your landlord can raise the rent legally.

Such is the case for one reader, Kathryn, who asked us: "I've heard that the percentage a landlord can raise one's rent in L.A. depends on when the apartment building was constructed. Is this true?"

It's an important question, and the topic of a lot of discussion. Rent control varies by city, and each city does it differently. But if we're talking about the city of L.A. then basically, yes -- the age of your building does affect your landlord's ability to raise the rent. Most homes in L.A. built on or before Oct. 1, 1978, are rent stabilized, which means the landlord can only raise the rent by a certain percentage. It's outlined in the city's Rent Stabilization Ordinance.

The ordinance says that there are two different ways your landlord can raise your rent without approval from the city government. For one, he or she can raise the rent once a year by up to 3 percent. Your landlord can also add 1 percent of the cost of gas and/or electricity, if those utilities are included in your rent price.

The other way they can raise rent without city approval is by tacking on a 10 percent increase for each additional person living in your apartment, like a friend who decided to live on your couch. The additional person should be approved by the landlord.

There are other ways a building owner can raise rents -- through renovations and general building maintenance, for example -- but they require City Hall to sign off on them. The L.A. Housing and Community Investment Department has a tenant booklet that outlines a lot more of these. To find out if your building is rent stabilized, call 866-557-RENT (7368) -- or you can look up your building with this tool provided by the L.A. city government.

If your house is not rent stabilized, your rent increases are less controlled by the city's laws, and depend more on the landlord's personal decisions. If you rent your house or apartment through a lease, your rent can't be increased until the lease has expired. If you rent month-to-month, your landlord can potentially increase the rent at any time.

If you want to brush up on your tenants' rights, read the city's guide. Or you can take this quiz to see how much you already know!