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Landlord can sharply raise rent

Q. We rent a town house from a private person. About two years ago our landlord raised the rent from $1250 to $1500. A friend of mine who is in real estate told me that our landlord can't make that much of an increase at one time. I don't really know.

Can Action Line help?

-- Name withheld by request, Weston

A. We asked Michael P. Schiff, a Coconut Grove-based consumer protection attorney, who said that a lease is a contract between the landlord and the tenant for a fixed period of time and a fixed rental amount.

"Unless there is something in the lease limiting rent increases from year to year, then the landlord can raise the rent to whatever he or she wants or what the market will bear,'' he said. "One caveat is that rent can not be raised because the landlord is retaliating against the tenant (i.e. tenant complains to the landlord or a government agency, tenant organizes a tenant's group to complain to the landlord etc.)."