New York Rent Control Laws in 2024

Introduction to New York’s Rent Control Laws

Rent Control vs. Rent Stabilization

Rent control and rent stabilization are two important forms of rent regulation that provide protections for tenants in New York City. While they share some similarities, there are key differences between the two systems:

Rent Control

  • Covers residential apartments in buildings constructed before February 1947.
  • Tenants must have been living continuously in the apartment since before July 1971 to be protected under rent control laws.  
  • Limits how much a landlord can raise rent each year. Rent increases are set by the Rent Guidelines Board.
  • Provides strong eviction protections for tenants.
  • Apartment must be the tenant's primary residence.
  • Rent control is a more restrictive form of regulation compared to rent stabilization.

Rent Stabilization

  • Covers residential buildings with 6 or more units constructed between February 1947 and January 1974.  
  • No requirement for how long a tenant must live in the unit to be protected. 
  • Also limits the amount a landlord can increase the rent each year.
  • Landlords can deregulate apartments when rent reaches a statutory threshold.
  • More than 1 million apartments fall under rent stabilization in NYC.

The key differences are that rent control covers older buildings from before 1947 and requires tenants to have lived in the unit since 1971, while rent stabilization covers buildings constructed between 1947-1974 with no occupancy tenure requirements. Rent control provides greater protections against rent hikes and deregulation.

Rent Increases in Rent Controlled Units

Rent increases in rent controlled units are determined annually by New York City's Rent Guidelines Board (RGB). The RGB consists of nine members appointed by the mayor who represent tenant, landlord, and public interests. 

Each year, the RGB sets maximum percentage increases that landlords can charge tenants for 1-year and 2-year lease renewals. For example, in 2022 the RGB set a maximum increase of 3.25% for 1-year leases and 5% for 2-year leases in rent controlled units.

These percentage increases set a cap that landlords cannot exceed without applying for special approvals. Landlords can apply to the RGB for rent increases above the capped amount in certain situations, such as:

  • Major capital improvement rent increases - Covers costs of building-wide improvements like replacing a boiler or renovating a lobby. 
  •  Individual apartment improvement rent increases - Covers in-unit improvements like redoing the kitchen or bathroom.
  • Hardship rent increases - If a landlord cannot earn an adequate return on the property under the capped increases.

The RGB reviews each application and determines whether a rent increase above the cap is warranted. Tenants are able to challenge any proposed increases above the cap if they believe the landlord does not qualify.

Current Status of Rent Control in New York

Rent control is a dwindling system in New York City, covering around 22,000 units as of 2018. This is down significantly from over 2 million units in the 1950s. While the number of rent controlled apartments declines every year, the laws protect the tenants still living in these units.

Rent control provides tenants with strong protections against eviction and rent hikes. Landlords cannot evict tenants without just cause, such as nonpayment of rent or illegal activity. Rent increases are also strictly limited. When a long-term tenant dies or moves out, the unit transitions to rent stabilization rather than full market rate. 

The tight regulations on rent controlled apartments encourage tenants to remain for decades. They enjoy unparalleled affordability in a city with rapidly rising housing costs. While market rate rents have soared, many rent controlled tenants pay just a few hundred dollars per month. The trade-off is that landlords earn well below market rate rents on these units.

Inheriting a Rent Controlled Apartment

Family members can inherit the rights to a rent controlled apartment if they meet certain criteria. This is known as succession rights.

To qualify for succession rights in a rent controlled unit, the family member must have lived with the departing tenant for a minimum of 2 years (1 year if the tenant is disabled or a senior citizen). The following relations typically qualify for succession:

  • Spouse
  • Parent
  • Child 
  • Sibling
  • Grandparent

If the qualifying family member has lived with the original tenant for the minimum time, they can legally take over the rent controlled lease when the tenant permanently vacates the apartment. This allows them to maintain the rent controlled status rather than having the unit become rent stabilized.

The succession rights apply to family members only. Roommates or other unrelated people living with the tenant do not qualify. Landlords may request proof of the relationship for succession claims.

Tenants in rent controlled units should understand these succession rules in order to properly transfer their lease to a family member if needed. This allows the rent protections to continue rather than being lost when the original tenant leaves.

Rent Hikes After a Tenant Leaves

When a rent controlled apartment is vacated by the tenant, either through moving out or death, the unit exits the rent control system and becomes rent stabilized. This allows the landlord to raise the rent significantly for the next tenant. 

The process works as follows:

  • The apartment is first offered to the departing tenant's qualified family members, who have succession rights to take over the rent controlled lease. 
  • If no family members claim succession rights, the unit becomes rent stabilized. At this point, the landlord can charge a "vacancy bonus" - an extra increase allowed when a stabilized unit turns over. 
  • The landlord can raise the rent by 20% of the previous tenant's rent, plus the annual increases set by the Rent Guidelines Board. For example, if the previous rent was $1000, the landlord could raise it to $1200 (20% of $1000), plus the RGB increases.
  • Going forward, the unit remains rent stabilized, but there is no limit on further vacancy bonuses when new tenants move in. The landlord can keep increasing the base rent.
  • However, rent increases are still limited by the RGB while the same tenant remains in occupancy.

So while rent control offers maximum protections for long-term tenants, the rules do allow landlords to raise rents significantly once the unit becomes vacant. This provides an incentive for landlords to push out rent controlled tenants. Tenant advocacy groups argue this "vacancy decontrol" provision should be reformed.

Overview of Rent Stabilization System

Rent stabilization covers around 1 million apartments in New York City. It applies to tenants living in buildings with 6 or more units that were built between 1947 and 1974. The goal of rent stabilization is to protect tenants from sharp rent increases, while also guaranteeing building owners reasonable rent increases to maintain their properties.  

Rent stabilization provides tenants with protections from unlawful rent hikes and unwarranted eviction. Landlords cannot raise the rent by more than the percentage set each year by the Rent Guidelines Board, which is typically between 1-5%. Tenants also have the right to renew their lease and cannot be evicted except on grounds of nonpayment, illegal activity, nuisance behavior, or if the owner wants the apartment for personal use.  

For landlords, rent stabilization provides the ability to increase rents by a set amount each year according to the Rent Guidelines Board. It also allows landlords to deregulate units if the rent surpasses the luxury deregulation threshold, which removes apartments from rent stabilization. Additionally, landlords can apply for larger rent increases if they make major capital improvements or have unusually high operating costs.

Allowable Rent Increases Under Rent Stabilization

Rent increases for rent stabilized apartments are determined annually by the New York City Rent Guidelines Board (RGB). The RGB consists of nine members appointed by the mayor who represent tenant, landlord, and public interests. 

Each year, the RGB holds hearings and deliberates over rent increase levels for rent stabilized units based on economic conditions, cost increases, and the overall housing supply. They then set maximum percentages that landlords can raise rents on 1-year and 2-year lease renewals. 

Typically, the RGB approved increases range from 1% to 5% annually. However, they have at times approved a rent freeze. For example, in 2015 and 2016, the RGB approved a 0% increase for 1-year lease renewals due to a rent affordability crisis in New York City.

Under the rent stabilization system, landlords can only raise rents by the maximum percentage set by the RGB each year. They cannot exceed the RGB determined caps.

History of Rent Regulation in New York 

Rent regulation in New York City has a long history, first enacted in response to a housing shortage in the 1920s. The City of New York passed the first laws restricting rent increases and evictions. However, these early rent control laws were limited in scope. 

More extensive rent stabilization laws were enacted in New York City and New York State in the 1950s and 1960s. These laws came in response to rapid rent increases and a dwindling supply of affordable housing units. The state legislature passed the Emergency Housing Rent Control Law in 1951, imposing stricter regulations on rent increases. Additional tenant protections were added in subsequent years.

The rent stabilization system as it exists today was created in 1969 and implemented in 1970. The New York City Rent Stabilization Law aimed to regulate rents on a broader scale. The law applied to apartment buildings with six or more units built between February 1947 and March 1974. 

In 1974, the Emergency Tenant Protection Act established rent stabilization statewide. The act strengthened protections, governed allowable rent increases, and provided for the gradual transition to a free market system. The law has been amended frequently in subsequent years to adjust various aspects of rent stabilization.

Impacts of Rent Regulation

Rent regulation in New York City has had several major impacts on the city's housing market:

Low Vacancy Rates

Rent regulation contributes to New York's extremely low vacancy rates compared to other major US cities. Landlords have little incentive to improve vacant units since they cannot charge market-rate rents for them once occupied. The low turnover caused by long-term rent regulation tenants also limits availability.  

Reduced Building Upgrades

Landlords often cannot recoup the cost of major building-wide improvements under rent stabilization limits. This discourages investment in upgrades like new boilers, roofs, windows etc. Critics argue this leads to deterioration of the housing stock over time.

Affordable Housing for over 2 Million

Rent regulation keeps units affordable for lower and middle income tenants. Over 2 million New Yorkers live in rent regulated apartments. For many, this provides housing stability and the ability to remain in their neighborhoods long-term. Supporters see it as an important source of affordable housing.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does New York have rent control laws?

Yes, New York City has had some form of rent regulation since the 1920s. The first rent control laws were introduced in response to a housing shortage after World War I. Stricter rent regulations were later enacted in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. The current rent stabilization system was established in 1974.

Is there a limit to how much a landlord can raise your rent in New York?

In New York City, there are limits on how much your landlord can raise your rent each year if you live in a rent stabilized apartment. The Rent Guidelines Board sets the maximum percent increase each year, which is typically between 1-5%. 

Who qualifies for rent stabilization in New York City?

To qualify for rent stabilization, you must live in a building with six or more units that was built between 1947-1974. Rent stabilization covers around one million apartments in New York City.

What is the rent policy in New York? 

New York has a comprehensive set of rent regulation policies including rent control, rent stabilization, and other tenant protections. Rent regulation is intended to provide affordable housing options and limit rent increases.

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