When we talk about rising rents, we frequently leer at newer, wealthier residents in a neighborhood while lamenting the price of a cup of coffee and wagging the gentrification finger. But some landlords and management companies bear just as much responsibility for housing costs as newcomers with expensive tastes in caffeine–especially when those property owners are dodging rent-stabilization laws designed to protect renters and preserve affordable housing stock in the city.
Rent-regulation guidelines, however byzantine, protect tenants and preserve neighborhoods, but they’re all too often misunderstood, flouted or ignored. It’s worth brushing up on at least the most basic rent-stabilization concepts before signing a lease and putting down that security deposit–or in order to check whether or not you’ve been paying too much on your current lease.
About one million rental units in New York City are rent stabilized–yes, one million. A state and city program established in 1969—when rents were rising dramatically in pre-war buildings—rent stabilization is designed to keep tenants in their apartments by giving them lease-renewal options and protecting them from sharp rent increases. Owners of rent-stabilized units cannot raise the rent by more than a small percentage at the end of a lease (currently, the increases determined by the Rent Guidelines Board are 4 percent for a one-year lease and 7.75 percent for a two-year lease). Rent regulation laws also protect tenants from eviction, though landlords can take over an apartment for their own use or for their family, but they’re required to give current tenants at least three months’ notice. And, it’s important to note, owners are under no obligation to raise the rent when drawing up a new lease–the increases are the maximum allowed by law, not a requirement.
Right now, certain Brooklyn neighborhoods are feeling the rent-stabilization squeeze more than others.
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