Recently, Miami-based real estate investor and landlord Raul Bolufe (@therealraulbolufe) stirred up quite a bit of controversy on TikTok when he posted a series of videos of conversations with a tenant whose rent he was preparing to raise.
The tenant is, of course, not happy about any of this, and she says, "Are you kidding me? That has to be a joke. I can't afford that. I have kids, and I'm already working two jobs as it is. Where do you want me to go?"
The dispute grows more heated as the videos continue. At one point, the tenant talks about burning the house down, while Bolufe repeats that if she can't pay the higher amount, she will have to give her 30-day notice or face an eviction.
By the end of the series, the two seem to have reached a shaky agreement on setting the new rent at $1,900 per month. The last video closes with the tenant saying, "I still think you're a criminal for even trying to do this. I'll get back to you." All together, the videos in this series have been viewed nearly 13 million times.
In the comments, a lot of people are taking the tenant's side in the situation and calling Bolufe's actions greedy and heartless.
But some people think that after 10 years, a rent increase is only fair.
Bolufe told BuzzFeed that he posted the videos to show people the hard parts of being a landlord. "Being a landlord is not all fun, games, and profit. There are uncomfortable conversations that need to be had, and I wanted to share the real behind the scenes of it."
He also expressed some frustration at the overwhelmingly negative reaction to this series on TikTok. "I think people have to understand there’s two sides to every story. There’s a bigger story behind this, and I think people only saw the surface level."
And he says that rent has to go up during economic times like these. "Due to inflation and economic forces that are not in our control, this causes the cost of owning a rental property to go up, which in turn goes to the tenant. We don’t get to decide how much increase we want to pay on our gas or our poultry. When we go shopping at Publix, we just have to pay due to the increases in the economy."
"At the end of the day, we are both people, and the landlord has a side, and the tenants have a side. I firmly believe landlords are good for the country. If you don't like them, then become one."
I asked if his tenant was aware of the viral videos or if he could put me in touch with them, and he replied, "To respect to them, I don’t wanna give out their information. They are really going through a hard time as it is." I asked again and offered to protect their anonymity, but he didn't respond.
I also noticed a lot of people in the comments saying that this kind of rent increase seems illegal — and whether you're a tenant or a landlord, it's always a good idea to look up your local landlord tenant laws and know your rights.
To learn more about tenant laws in the Miami area, I emailed with Sabrina Velarde at the Miami-Dade County Office of Housing Advocacy. When it comes to rent increases, Velarde says, "Miami-Dade County requires any landlord intending to increase a tenant’s rent by more than 5% to provide a written notice of the rent increase 60 days prior to that increase becoming effective. However, there is nothing in the Florida statutes or Miami-Dade County Code of Ordinances limiting the amount or percentage by which a landlord may increase a tenant’s rent."
She also clarified that in most cases, when a rental property is sold in Miami, the lease contract transfers to the new owner along with the security deposit.
This means that in a situation like Bolufe's, it is legal for a landlord to double a tenant's rent, if they give 60 days prior notice in writing. Calling a tenant up on the phone and encouraging them to give 30 days notice if they can't pay up doesn't appear to be strictly legal, but perhaps as Bolufe says, there's more to the story.
Velarde also shared with me that her office works with tenants and helps them stay in their homes, saying, "Miami-Dade County also enacted the Tenant’s Bill of rights in May 2022 to increase tenants’ awareness of their rights and to provide guidance to tenants regarding available community resources. This ordinance incorporated existing landlord/tenant regulations, created additional tenant rights, and provided tenants with the option to pursue a civil action in court within two years of alleged violations of the ordinance."
"Since the office launched in May, we’ve received thousands of calls from residents throughout Miami-Dade seeking to understand landlord/tenant regulations, needing information about resources, and searching for affordable housing. The majority of the calls we receive are from tenants looking for resources to assist with rent increase or relocation expenses. For many, a notice to vacate or a termination of their tenancy often turns into an eviction. Residents are experiencing significant rent increases and are finding it very difficult to find housing options they can afford. There are many landlords who are willing to cooperate and help their tenants to remain in their homes."
If you're a tenant in Miami, you can reach the Office of Housing Advocacy via their website or by calling (786) 469-4545.
For renters in other parts of the US, you can find tenant rights in your state here on the US Department of Housing and Urban Development website. Click on your state, and you'll find information about your rights, legal assistance, how to file a complaint against a bad landlord, and more.
And if affordable housing is an issue that matters to you, I encourage you to keep up with your local elections and look for housing advocacy groups near you to learn more about what you can do.