We’ve all heard the stories of the New Yorker paying just a few hundred dollars a month for their apartment. Many renters think this is a pipe dream – something that is only available to the New Yorkers who were lucky enough to find a good deal in the 1970s and never leave. When they’re looking for a place, most renters are thinking about the price, the neighborhood, its accessibility to transit, if it has enough bedrooms, and the list goes on. But rarely do renters specifically try and find a rent-stabilized apartment.
But you don’t need to move to NYC in the 1970s to get your hands on a regulated apartment. New York City has an estimated 1 million rent-stabilized apartments (about 44% of all NYC units). Generally, you can expect buildings with six or more units built before 1974 to have rent-stabilized units. The new regulations have recently allowed developers to take advantage of tax abatements by issuing rent-stabilized housing. So you can find some rent-stabilized units in newer buildings as well.
Even though residents generally praised New York City for being tenant-friendly policies, many renters struggle to navigate complex rent regulations. You could live in a rent-stabilized apartment and not know.
Without knowing if you live in a rent-stabilized apartment, you can’t hold your landlords accountable and could be subject to illegal rent increases.
Since August 2020, openigloo users have been sharing anonymous reviews about their buildings and landlords. Some renters have shared their experience of learning they were occupying rent-stabilized units and paying more than the legal rent. One openigloo user shared, “Our apartment was rent-stabilized, but the landlords didn’t disclose it, overcharged us for years while submitting increases to the NYC government.”
What is a rent-stabilized apartment in NYC, and why should you care about them?
The New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) oversees rent stabilization as a form of rent regulation. Rents rose sharply in many postwar buildings in 1969, causing the rent-stabilization system to take effect. The system has been extended and amended over the years, and now about one million apartments in New York City are covered by rent stabilization. But simply put, having a rent-stabilized lease means 2 things:
- The landlord has to renew your lease
- The rent can only go up a certain amount every year
How much can your landlord raise the rent on a stabilized lease?
NYC’s Rent Guidelines Board meets every June to set allowed increases for rent-stabilized leases. For example, lease renewals that started between October 1, 2022, and through September 30, 2023, can increase by 3.25% for a 1-year lease and 5% for a 2-year lease. If you’re not sure whether you should choose a 1-year or 2-year renewal, take a look at our article on how to strategize a stabilized renewal. You can also use our Rent-Stabilized Calculator to make sure the price you receive on your renewal is correct. And remember, these increases should be based on your preferential rent, not the legal rent.
So how can you find out if you have a rent-stabilized unit if your landlord hasn’t disclosed it?
You can request your rental history from DHCR here. Only the tenant, owner, or appointed representatives can request an apartment’s rental history. A hard copy will be mailed to you. There is no way to digitally access this information. While there are other resources or databases that include building addresses that may have stabilized apartments, none of them will tell you if a specific unit is regulated.
But how can you find a rent-stabilized apartment?
You’ll have to get more crafty on locating one of these precious apartments. Check building reviews from other tenants to see if they mention rent-stabilized units.
Many openigloo users have shared this information and offered advice to future tenants. For example, one Brooklyn renter shared:
“These apartments are rent stabilized which means they can’t raise rents more than a certain amount – make sure you are getting the right lease renewal as they depend on renters not knowing their rights on this.”
You can also search for an address on the DHCR database to see if it may have stabilized units. But again, you won’t know if the specific unit you’re considering is regulated.
You can also check to see if an address has received a J-51 or 421-a abatement by checking NYC Department of Finance records. Developers are issued these tax abatements in exchange for issuing stabilized units, so confirming this status is one way to verify if the building has stabilized apartments.
Some landlords and brokers will advertise a unit as rent-stabilized, so keep an eye out for that in the listing description. Currently, there are over 600 hits for rent-stabilized apartments in NYC on Craigslist.
Making sure you get a rent-stabilized lease
If you’ve found a stabilized apartment or learned that you are already in one, make sure you get a rent-stabilized lease from your landlord. You can find an example of a standard rent-stabilized lease here. The lease should state that the apartment is rent stabilized, and landlords are legally required to include a rent stabilization rider with the lease as well. It’s important to note that rent-stabilized leases must be for one or two years; you can not have a six-month rent-stabilized lease.
So while New York is trying to make renting in this city a little easier and more affordable, it’s up to the renter to know the status of their apartment and what laws apply to them. So the next time you’re in the market for an apartment, try and get your hands on a rent-stabilized apartment.
Do you live in a rent-stabilized building you love? Share your experience on openigloo – you can help future renters find (or avoid) their next apartment.