How does rent stabilization work?

TLDR:  

In certain urban areas like New York City, rent stabilization protects tenants from large rent increases and prevents landlords from kicking you out unless you substantially violate your lease.

Full Question and Answer

Renter's Question

I just moved to New York City and I’m staying at a friend’s place until I find my own spot, so I’ve been putting a lot of time into looking. I’ve seen a lot about rent stabilization, but we didn’t have that back home and I don’t entirely understand it. I’ve heard people say it means your landlord has to renew your lease every year and can’t raise your rent, but that sounds too good to be true. What’s the deal?


RadPad's Answer

New York City has two programs: one called rent control and the other called rent stabilization. Rent control only covers people who’ve been living in the same place since 1971, so obviously that doesn’t and wouldn’t ever affect you. Too bad, cause it’s a pretty sweet deal.

Rent stabilization, on the other hand, covers buildings with six or more units that were built between February 1, 1947 and December 1, 1973. In some situations, apartments become destabilized once the tenant moves out. If any apartment rents for $2,500 a month or more, it can be deregulated once it becomes vacant. These apartments can become destabilized even with the tenants still there if all the people paying rent in the apartment make more than $200,000 a year.

Rent-stabilized apartments typically rent for hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars less than apartments rented at market rate, because landlords can’t increase rent by more than about 4 percent at the end of each lease. The city determines that percentage each year, although individual landlords can get permission for a slightly higher increase in specific circumstances. If you’ve been in the city even a week, you’ve been there long enough to know that—especially among recent college grads—rent stabilized apartments are where it’s at.

Don’t be surprised that a lot of landlords just won’t bother to tell you an apartment falls under rent stabilization. If you want to know for sure, ask the landlord before you move in, and get a copy of the building’s rental history from the state housing authority board. If there are any huge jumps in the price of rent in a unit, that’s a possible sign the unit was illegally destabilized by the landlord.

If you’re lucky enough to find a rent-stabilized apartment, you get quite a few other benefits as well. You get to pick whether to sign a one-year or two-year lease. Your rent can’t be increased during the term of the lease, and when the lease expires, the landlord can only increase it by the percentage mandated by the board. But here’s the golden egg: you have the right to renew that lease. If you live in a rent-stabilized apartment, the landlord can basically only kick you out if you violate the lease in a pretty substantial way, like not paying rent or running a crack house in your apartment. You’re also entitled to basic services like heat and electricity as long as you live there.

So it’s no wonder people are talking about rent stabilization. The program enables you to find a relatively cheap apartment and stay there as long as you want, provided you pay your rent on time and keep your nose clean.

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Sources

http://www.nycrgb.org/html/resources/attygenguide.html

http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20140227/lower-east-side/how-find-out-if-your-market-rate-apartment-should-be-rent-stabilized

 

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