How to Rent in a Landlord's World: Tips for Today's Market

renter rights
renter rights

If your rent went up this spring, you are not alone. The rental market is playing out a classic supply-and-demand scenario: Demand is increasing and supply has remained neutral as existing renters have stayed put. Add to that rising costs for oil, and gas, and the result is a bigger monthly tab for renters.

In the first quarter of 2011, rents rose 2 percent nationally and are expected to increase by 3 to 4 percent over the remainder of the year, according to Christina Argon at Rent.com. Vacancy rates have been dropping as well. Nationwide, they were 8 percent in the first quarter of 2010. This year, in the same period, that number was down to 6.2 percent.

According to a new survey of 1,252 property managers by the credit research company TransUnion, 64 percent of large property owners raised rents last year. TransUnion also reported that half of all property managers saw an increase in applicants moving into rentals from foreclosed properties. Demand is also stemming from young professionals ready to move out of roommate situations into one-bedroom apartments, says Aragon.

The tightening rental market may be a good sign for home sellers (some economists say it's an early indicator for a housing market rebound) but not so great for renters, who face rising costs, fewer concessions, and more competition for good apartments. If you're in the rental market -- and more than a third of Americans are -- what can you do?