Finding a Rent Stabilized Apartment in NYC

If you are planning to move to a new apartment in NYC, chances are you’re looking for a rent-stabilized apartment. While these can be hard to find, there are around 1 million rent-stabilized apartments in NYC. That might sound like a lot, but when you consider how many millions of people who live in Manhattan alone and the fact that most rent-stabilized apartments are already inhabited, finding a stabilized apartment in NYC can be like finding a needle in a haystack.

With that said, it’s not impossible. It might require more time and research, but you should be able to find a place so long as you’re patient. So how can you find a rent-stabilized apartment in NYC?

Understand What Rent Stabilization Is

So what exactly does it mean when an apartment is rent-stabilized? Essentially, it is a form of rent regulation that is overseen by the New York state Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR). Rent stabilization is different from a rent controlled apartment as the only way you can get one of those is to inherit it from a family member or spouse who has been living in the apartment continuously since 1971. There are no new rent-controlled apartments created so it’s pretty much impossible to find one.

Rent-stabilized apartments, on the other hand, generally apply to buildings that were built before 1974 and have at least six units. However, thanks to certain tax abatements, there might be newer buildings that are also rent-stabilized. In the past, it was easy for landlords to deregulate apartments as it would automatically happen once rents exceeded $2,700. Many landlords would push the rents above this amount once an old tenant moved. However, reforms in 2019 repealed this practice and has removed a landlord’s ability to raise a stabilized apartment’s rent by 20 percent in between tenants.

If you are lucky enough to find a rent-stabilized apartment, you can expect relatively small annual increases to your rent. In 2021, rents could only be increased by 1.5% for a one year lease and 2.5% for a two year lease. A lot of people who moved during COVID-19 unfortunately ended up in non rent-stabilized apartments so when they were up for renewal, the rents jumped dramatically. In some cases rents increased between 20-40%!

Find Rent Stabilized Apartments

If you need to find a new place fast, finding a rent-stabilized option could prove difficult. You’ll want to have at least a few months to go through the proper channels and confirmation. There are a few steps you need to take:

  • Look through the official database – the DHCR keeps a list of registered rent-stabilized buildings. When looking up apartments, search for the address in the document to see if the building is stabilized or not. As a note, the document doesn’t say which units in the building are still stabilized.
  • Search for apartments where there’s a high concentration of stabilized units. This includes Harlem, the South Bronx, and central Brooklyn. You’ll have best results here, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t stabilized units outside of these areas.
  • Narrow your search to units in buildings built before 1974. Search for keywords like pre-war.
  • Use rent-stabilized or stabilized as a keyword on apartment sites such as Streeteasy or Zillow. Be forewarned that often brokers might use these keywords but not actually have a stabilized apartment!

Sign a Rent-Stabilized Lease

Somehow you have managed to find a rent-stabilized apartment and you’re ready to sign the lease. Before you put ink to paper, make sure to look over the lease very carefully. Some less than savory landlords/building managers might say the apartment is rent-stabilized but it isn’t mentioned anywhere in the lease. Never take someone’s word in place of a legally binding document. There’s a standard rent-stabilized lease that will state the apartment is rent stabilized. Landlords are also required to include a rent stabilization rider with the lease and must be for one or two years.

If you’re already living in the apartment, you can check to see if your apartment is supposed to be rent-stabilized by requesting a rent history from DHCR. This can show the general rent hikes previously and so on. You’ll need to be prepared for a legal battle with your landlord, but it can be worth it if you manage to get your rent lowered.

Benefits of Living in a Rent-Stabilized Apartment in NYC

Besides locking in the affordability of your apartment, there are other benefits of living in a rent stabilized apartment including:

  • Updates and improvements – say goodbye to slumlords. As a tenant you have the right to occupy a working, updated apartment. If your landlord does provide proper updates you can file a complaint and get a reduction in rent until these changes are made. In the past, landlords could increase rents by tacking on 1/60 of the total renovation cost. Now they can only increase your rents about 2 percent each year to cover Major Capital Improvements.
  • Subletting – so long as your apartment remains your primary residence, you can easily sublet your apartment. With that said you cannot use your apartment as an AirBnB
  • Lease renewal – landlords cannot kick you out of rent-stabilized apartments. They must offer you a renewal once your lease is up. Plus, you have a 2-year renewal option versus the standard 1-year for most market-rate apartments
  • Protection against bankruptcy – even if the landlord or building management company goes bankrupt, you have a right to remain in your unit
  • Not income-based – unlike affordable housing units, anyone can live in a rent-stabilized apartment. With that said, landlords will want to verify your income to make sure you can afford the price

Move Into Your NYC Rent-Stabilized Apartment

Once you’ve found the perfect apartment, you’ll want to make sure you can move in once your lease starts. To make your move easy, call trusted NYC movers like us! We’ll get the job done quickly and affordably.

FAQ

Can I have a family member takeover my rent-stabilized apartment?

It depends on what you want to do. The only person you can add to an existing rent-stabilized lease is a spouse (so long as they live with you). However, if you leave the apartment you can hand it over to a family member who has been living with you as their primary residence for at least two years (or one if the family member is over 62 or disabled).

What happens if my building is being demolished?

First things first, you would need to leave. However, many stabilized tenants can negotiate a lucrative buyout.

In what instances can I be evicted?

It’s difficult in general to evict tenants, especially in rent-stabilized apartments. The most common reason for evictions is breaking the terms of your lease which means not using the apartment as your primary residence, having a pet when it’s not allowed, etc.