What is a rent-stabilized apartment?
Rent stabilization is a program that regulates the rents of certain privately-owned apartments in New York, and gives tenants other rights. If you are rent-stabilized, there are limits to how much your rent can be increased, and there are only certain reasons why your landlord can try to ask you to leave or try to evict you. Rent-stabilization is not a subsidy and the rent may not be affordable to you, but the program does give you protections that tenants in unregulated apartments don’t have.
Rent-stabilization applies to most residential buildings that contain at least six apartments and were built before 1974 – but there are some exceptions. It also applies to some new construction. Buildings with fewer than six apartments are not rent-stabilized.
How do I know I’m rent stabilized?
While it’s not a guarantee, a good signal that you are rent-stabilized is:
- Your building is privately-owned (not public housing or a non-profit organization)
- Your building has at least six apartments, and was built before 1974.
- Your rent is an unusual number – for example: $1187.59, rather than a round number like $1,200. Rent-stabilized apartments can only go up a certain percentage every year, causing the maximum legal rent to quickly become unusual.
- You sign a one-year or two-year lease renewal, and your rent goes up by a certain percentage. This year’s increases were 1.5 or 2.5%. Last year were the same.
- People in your building pay different amounts of rent for apartments that are similar in size.
It seems like my apartment should be rent stabilized, but my lease says that it is not. What’s the deal?
It’s possible that your landlord is claiming that your apartment is not rent-stabilized, even though it should be. The first thing to find out is whether your landlord has been registering your apartment as rent-stabilized with the New York State Homes & Community Renewal (HCR) – see below for information about getting your rent history.)
What is a rent overcharge?
There is a maximum legal rent for each apartment, based on the unique history of that apartment. It’s not based on the apartment’s size, nor the going rent of apartments in that area, nor the income of the tenant. Rents can be increased by small amounts every time the lease is renewed, and by larger amounts every time there is a new tenant or the apartment is renovated.
To find out the legal rent for your apartment, start by asking the New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR). That is the state agency in charge of overseeing rent-regulated apartments. The agency does not check to find out if the landlord is charging the legal rent. It’s up to you as the tenant to find out.
How can I find out what the legal rent of my apartment should be?
Landlords of rent-stabilized buildings are required to register the rents they charge with the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR). They may or may not be registering the correct amount, but the first thing you need to do is find out what they have registered.
1) Get a copy of your apartment’s rent history from the DHCR. You can get this in one of two ways:
1) BY PHONE: Call DHCR and ask them to mail your rent history to you: NYS HCR- 718-739-6400, Text “RENT HISTORY” to (646) 783-0627
2) IN PERSON: Visit a rent office. DHCR has offices in the Bronx, uptown and downtown Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, and you can get your rent history from any office. You must have valid government-issued photo ID (drivers license, etc) and a copy of your lease.
- 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
2) Look at your rent history. It will show the registered rents for your apartment going back to 1984. (The registration may be missing for certain years.)
If you moved into your apartment six or less years ago, you may be able to challenge the legal rent for your apartment. If the previous tenant was paying much less than you are, it may be worth a closer look – for example, if the last tenant was paying $600, and your first rent was $1,100.
Prior to June of 2019, landlords automatically get to raise rents 20% when a new tenant moves in. So if the tenant before you paid $750 per month, the landlord is automatically allowed charge you $900. Landlords also get to raise rents a certain percentage if they make renovations to the apartment.
Prior to June of 2019, if they make $10,000 of repairs, they may be able to raise the rent by $250 per month. Sometimes landlords claim that they did renovations when they actually did not. A sudden jump in the rent could be an indication of an illegal rent increase – you’ll have to do further research in order to find out.
After June 2019, rent increase between tenants should be the Rent Guidelines Board Increase and individual Apartment Increases, which can be a maximum of $89 ever 15 years.
What can I do if I think I am being overcharged?
You may want to talk to a lawyer about your options. Getting free legal representation can be difficult. You may want to get the help of an advocate who works for one of your local elected officials, like your City Councilmember, State Assemblymember, or State Senator. Find out who your elected officials are by calling 311.
If you’re going to be in court before you have a chance to talk with a lawyer or advocate, you may want to ask for an adjournment – which means that you’re asking to re-schedule your court date – in order to get more time to look into the matter.
Two options – choose carefully:
There are two ways to challenge your rent, and the better option is not always the same for each tenant. You may want to consult a lawyer about which option is better for you.
- You may be able to raise the issue of an overcharge as a defense in your housing court eviction case.
- You can also challenge your legal rent through DHCR by filing form RA-89 “Tenant’s Complaint of Rent and/or Other Specific Overcharges in Rent Stabilized Apartments”. The DHCR form is available at DHCR offices, on DHCR’s website at nysdhcr.gov/rent – or you can have it mailed to you by calling 718-639-7400.
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.