CONNECTICUT, USA — Rent prices across the nation and in Connecticut are rising sharply and reaching record levels.
Shana Gray and her fiancé have been on a mission to move out of their two-bedroom, 1,550 square-foot West Haven apartment, but higher prices at other properties have rendered it "mission impossible."
“Right now, I pay roughly $1,600. They're going up about $400 for our renewal and that's just too much," said Gray. "We were finding apartments that were small, like under 1,000 square feet and the prices were well over $1,900 to $2,000.”
Gray added the market madness is only adding to the hard-to-manage mix of increases everywhere.
"The cost of living has increased, trying to provide food for your family has gone up. Gas has gone up to get to work, to get those groceries, so it's like where can you turn to get some help around here to just live a basic life?" said Gray.
Data from Apartment List shows the average rent in Connecticut is up about 12% from last year. The average price for rent is just over $1,500, which is $200 more than the national average.
“In the past year alone, rent prices nationally have gone up over 17%. That's several times faster than we're used to seeing prices go up in pre-pandemic years," said Rob Warnock, Senior Research Associate at Apartment List.
Warnock said 2021 was a record-breaking year across the market.
“Really what we're seeing now is a competitive, low vacancy market and as supply and demand dictates, whenever something is scarce, the opportunity to charge more for it is going to be there," said Warnock.
Realtors Laurie Caserta and Lauren Marszalek have been working on the front lines as part of the WeHa Real Estate Group of Canopy Brokerage Co.
"Right now, it's a landlord's market. Buyers, renters don't really have any leverage," said Marszalek.
Caserta said the renters' market is overflooded due to a lot of home buyers that are being displaced into the market.
“People that were homeowners are now renters not even out of losing income, just not being able to find a house to buy and they're usually more qualified renters than the people who were renting," said Marszalek.
If you are hit with a hefty rent increase, you can ask your landlord to keep the price the same or make it a smaller increase.
“We have the displacement of people coming in from the city due to COVID so they have bought and that leaves people who would normally be able to buy at a price point not able to purchase," said Caserta.
If you can't come to an agreement, send a letter to your landlord saying you do not agree to the new amount. Then, contact your local fair rent commission.
"Basically, our task is really to investigate the rent complaints that we're receiving and to make sure that the rent increase is done in such a manner that it's unconscionable," said Wildaliz Bermudez, Executive Director of New Haven's Fair Rent Commission. "We are able to determine this based on comparable listings within a quarter-mile to half-mile radius. And also the quality of the units themselves.”
Twenty-one cities and towns in Connecticut have established fair rent commissions.
“You can continue to pay your old rent while this complaint to the fair rent commission is pending. The fair rent commission may or may not agree with you," said Attorney Kate Martin of Greater Hartford Legal Aid.
However, anyone looking for more help in the form of lower rent prices should not expect that any time soon.
“Interest rates have gone up, and we have seen a stabilization in the sale market. Prices seem like they're not going crazy, so maybe soon but I think everyone's saying maybe at least a couple of years still," said Marszalek.
State lawmakers passed a bill during this year's legislative session that requires any town or city with at least 25,000 people to establish a fair rent commission by July 2023.
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