About Rent Stabilization

About Rent Stabilization

Rent stabilization is...

Rent stabilization is a set of laws providing rent and eviction protections to 2.5 million tenants who live in privately-owned apartment buildings in New York City and three surrounding suburban counties. It is the larger, and more recent, of the two sets of laws which regulate rents in New York City. (See our page on rent control for a description of the older law.)

The three main benefits of rent-stabilization for tenants are:

  • The right to renew your lease and be protected against arbitrary evictions (you can only be evicted on a limited number of grounds.)
  • Protection from steep and unexpected rent increases.
  • The right to good services & repairs, with recourse if they aren't provided
  • The right to pass on your apartment to certain family members who live with you for a period of time prior to you moving out or dying

Rent-stabilization protects twice as many tenants as all other affordable-housing programs in New York combined - but unlike those programs, it requires no subisidy to operate. Nearly twice as many people live in rent-stabilized apartments as live in unregulated market-rate apartments - though vacancy deregulation is causing the number of stabilized apartments to shrink by tens of thousands of units every year.

Legal Disclaimer:

The information contained on this web page does not constitute legal advice and must not be used as a substitute for the advice of a lawyer qualified to give advice on legal issues pertaining to housing. For more, visit our page on Finding a lawyer.

This information pertains only to tenants living in New York City.

Many of your rights depend on the type of housing you live in or your type of tenancy. You may be subject to different laws and have different sets of rights than even neighbors in your own building. Learn which rights and responsibilities apply to you.

 

Which apartments are covered by rent-stabilization?

There are approximately 900,000 rent stabilized apartments in New York City.

The law generally covers residential buildings that:

  • are privately-owned,
  • contain 6 or more apartments, and
  • were built and occupied before 1974

Exceptions apply when

  • a building is converted to a co-op or a condo (the tenants who moved-in after the conversion date are not covered)
  • an individual apartment in the building was deregulated due to high-rent vacancy decontrol, or high-income/high-rent decontrol.

Additionally, some buildings built after 1974 are covered by rent-stabilization because the developer or owner chose to enter those buildings into the rent-stabilization to receive a tax-abatement. 421-a tax abatements (for new construction) and a J-51 tax abatements (for upgrades to existing buildings) give rent-stabilization protections to tenants otherwise not covered, for the length of the tax abatement. Whether such benefits extend to such tenants past the length of the tax abatement depends on the lease offered to the tenant, and on the arrangements with the city for that particular building's tax abatement.

 

How can I find out if my building is covered by rent-stabilization?

You can check a list of rent-stabilized buildings in each borough of New York City, organized by zip-code, on the New York City Rent Guidelines Board's website, or on the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal's website. Note that buildings may be rent-stabilized, but individual apartments in the building may have been de-regulated.

 

What determines my apartment's 'legal rent' in a rent-stabilized building?

Your apartment's unique history determines the legal rent - not area market rents, nor your ability to pay. Tenants in identical apartments may pay very different rents, especially between newer tenants and long-term tenants.

You can obtain a printout of the registered rents for your apartment - called a 'rent history' - from the NYS Division of Housing & Community Renewal. You can have this mailed to you by calling 718-739-6400, or you can visit one of the borough offices. To obtain your rent-history in person, you must bring state-issued photo-identification and a copy of your lease. Occupants of an apartment who are not named on the lease (such as family members, roommates, guests, or subletters) may be denied a copy of the rent history. Borough rent offices are located:

Bronx Borough Rent Office: 2400 Halsey Street, 1st Floor, Bronx, New York 10461  Phone:

Brooklyn Borough Rent Office: 55 Hanson Place, Room 702, Brooklyn, New York 11217  Phone: 718-722-4778

Manhattan (Uptown): Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Office Building, 163 West 125th St, 5th Floor, New York, New York 10027, Phone: 212-961-8930

Manhattan (Downtown): 25 Beaver Street, 5th Floor, New York, New York 10004, Phone: 212-480-6238

Queens: Gertz Plaza, 92-31 Union Hall Street, Jamaica, New York 11433, Phone: 718-739-6400

 

How can my rent be raised in a rent-stabilized apartment?

Rent Guidelines Board increases

The NYC Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) meets every spring to determine the renewal increase amounts for all of New York City's rent-stabilized apartments. The RGB is a 9-member panel appointed by the mayor. They generally award landlords increases that steadily maintain or increase their profit level. The increases vary. The 2011 increases (for leases being renewed between Oct 1, 2011 and Sept 30, 2012) were for 3.75% for one-year renewals, and 7.25% for two-year renewals. In 2010 the increases were 2.25% for 1-year / 4.5% for 2-year renewals.

A new guideline is voted on every June, and the increases take effect for leases coming up for renewal on October 1st of that year through September 30 of the following year. However, your landlord must offer you a renewal lease in order to collect a rent increase. If your landlord doesn't offer you a valid lease renewal, you don't need to pay the increase until a period of time after that offer.

Major Capital Improvements (MCIs)

When landlords replace major building systems like boilers, roofs, or plumbing, costs are passed onto tenants as permanent rent increases. The cost is divided between all of the apartments in the building (calculated by room) and 1/84 of the total amount can be added to the monthly rent. Though 84 months (7 years) later, your landlords will be fully reimbursed for the expense, your rent increase is permanent.

For more about challenging MCI applications, see our page on Major Capital Improvement rent increases.

Individual Apartment Improvements (IAIs)

1/40th of the costs of improvements to individual apartments can be passed on as a permanent rent increase. These usually occurs during vacancy. Example: $40,000 of work = rent increase of $1,000 per month.

Tenants can investigate overcharges with DHCR - including if the unit was deregulated as a result – and seek rent adjustment and damages 

Tenants can be subject to Individual Apartment Improvement increases if the landlord provides a new appliance, or renovates the apartment at the request of the tenant. However, rents cannot be raised for repairs, and when appliances break, the tenant can request a used appliance in good working order, rather than a new appliance, to avoid any rent increase. (See our page on when an appliance breaks.)

 

On what grounds can I be evicted from my a rent stabilized apartment?

1) Non-payment of rent

Like any other tenant, as a rent-stabilized tenant you can be sued for eviction in Housing Court if you owe back rent. 

2) Violating a substantial obligation of your lease. Examples include:

  • subletting without permission
  • not using the apartment as your primary residence
  • operating a business out of your apartment
  • making alterations to your apartment without permission
  • using appliances such as washing machines that are prohibited in your lease

3) Being a nuisance. Examples include:

  • selling drugs
  • constant noise coming from the apartment
  • violent behavior
  • cluttering your apartment to the point that it is a hazard
  • paying your rent late on a chronic basis

4) Limited landlord actions

  • owner-use (the landlord is seeking the apartment for his/her personal use, or that of an immediate family member)
  • whole-building demolition

 

What is the history of New York's rent-stabilization program?

Established in 1969 to cover tenants in post-World War II buildings, the law was extended when the state legislature passed the Emergency Tenant Protection Act of 1974. The rent stabilization system is NYC's largest affordable housing program (the median household income of the rent stabilized household is $36,000 per year; close to 60% of Section 8 recipients live in rent stabilized apartments). The system protects tenants from the housing market forces that drive displacement and steep rent increases while it permits landlords a fair return on their investment. Because the system limits landlords' profits, it is under continuous attack from the real estate industry.

The rent laws are controlled from Albany thanks to changes made in the 1970's when Governor Rockefeller enacted vacancy decontrol in an attempt to phase out rent regulations. The rent stabilization law was saved; however, the state retained the power over the enabling of the laws and tenants must go to Albany on a regular basis to get the laws renewed, in addition to getting the NY City Council to renew the laws every three years (see Home Rule). In the 1990's and most recently, in 2003, landlords have forced weakening amendments as the price of renewal. Landlords gave millions of dollars to elected officials in Albany (especially to the committees formerly controlled by Governor Pataki and Senate leader Joe Bruno). Thanks to these changes, we have lost tens of thousands of units of regulated housing. Without a fierce fight from the tenants in NYC, we will lose so many more units that the laws will be gutted in Albany.