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NYC Rent Increase Laws: How Much Can Landlords Raise Rent?

If you ask any renter in New York City, the rent is too darn high! We’ve all heard about steep rent increases in the city, but only some of these are legal. Read on to learn more about how much landlords can raise rent in NYC. 

Does New York City Have Rent Increase Laws?

New York doesn’t have a law that caps rent increases on all apartments, but rent increase laws protect some residents, notably those living in rent-stabilized apartments. If you live in a rent-stabilized apartment, your landlord can only raise the rent by 1% to 5% most years, depending on the rent board’s decision. However, if you live in a free market apartment, landlords can raise the rent by as much as possible, even 10%, 20%, or more. 

Do NYC Landlords Have to Provide a Rent Increase Notice?

Although landlords can charge whatever they want for the space they are offering, they do have to give the tenant advance notice before raising the rent by more than 5 percent per month. With that said, some laws apply strictly to rent-stabilized apartments that offer a rent cap.

It’s important to note that landlords generally must choose to raise the rent at the end of a lease. In most cases, landlords are prohibited from raising the rent in the middle of a lease unless you are on a month-to-month term.  

Do Most “Free Market” Landlords Dramatically Increase Rent?

Landlords may have a lot of reasons to increase rent, but the truth is that they usually won’t raise it much higher than what you are renting unless there’s a compelling reason to do so. While landlords want profits to be high, the truth is that it doesn’t make much sense to make rent unaffordable for the people currently living there. If they arbitrarily raise the rent, it will take them a lot of time to find a new tenant, and they will lose money while the apartment is vacant. 

How Much Is A Typical Rent Increase In NYC?

Rent increases in NYC depend on how the real estate market is doing and can range from 1% to 10% or more. They won’t be dramatic if there’s little demand, but if there’s a lot of demand, they can be much higher. Even when the market is strong, many landlords won’t dramatically increase your rent yearly if you’ve been a good tenant. However, you can expect a 5 to 10 percent raise in most free-market apartments. If you are unsure how much your rent will increase, you can ask your landlord what kind of increase you should expect. 

PRO TIP: Some landlords are known for having drastic rent increases that go above the norm. If you have friends who rent in the city, ask them which apartment owners to avoid. 

How Does Rent Increase Work In A Rent-Stabilized Apartment?

Over 50 percent of all NYC apartments are in rent-stabilized buildings, so there’s a good chance of you having a rent-stable apartment. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Rent can only increase per the Rent Guidelines Board. Right now, the board approved an annual increase of 3.25 percent for 12-month leases and a 5 percent increase for two-year leases. This current bar is set for October 2022 into 2023. 
  2. The only times rent can increase outside the guidelines are through Major Capital Improvement and Individual Apartment Improvement. In other words, if the building gets a major overhaul (or a unit gets an overhaul), rent will match the new overhaul’s value. The same can be said if an individual unit just got a major boost in aesthetics or amenities. 
  3. You have to be notified of rent increases ahead of time. This usually happens with a 60-day notice or a notice of renewal.
  4. Major rent increases without apartment upgrades can only happen when the prior tenant permanently vacates the home. This is often why an apartment that was rented for $1500 suddenly rents for $2000 despite the rent stabilization.

How Can You Find Out If Your Apartment Is Rent-Stabilized?

In most cases, you will find out because your landlord will mention it when you rent it. You may also get information about stabilization as a part of your paperwork when you sign up for a new lease. 

If you did not get the paperwork, you still might be in a rent-stabilized apartment. The Rent Guidelines Board of the City of New York has a list of apartments and apartment buildings that are regulated as rent-controlled. To access it, check out the Homes And Communities Renewal site.

Do You Need To Be On Welfare To Get A Rent-Controlled Apartment?

Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to be on welfare to get a rent-controlled apartment. Rent-controlled apartments are open to people of all income levels, though many prefer to have specific income maximums for families who want to qualify for apartments. 

Most rent-controlled apartments belong to families and individual renters who make the median income of a typical New York family. While the city has tons of resources for people who are on welfare, the truth is that you don’t have to be low-income to get a little stabilization with housing.

How To React To A Rent Increase Notice

The best way to react to the rent increase notice is to prepare ahead of time for yearly increases. When the notice comes, sign off on it—if you can afford it. If you cannot afford the increase and do not want to attempt to make more money to make ends meet, here’s what to do:

  1. Check to see if your apartment is rent-stabilized. If it is, there are guidelines on how much rent can be here.
  2. If you have any reason to believe a law was broken, contact a lawyer. You also may be able to file a report with New York City’s HUDs. At the very least, you should read about tenant protection laws for your own sake.
  3. Discuss the matter with your landlord, and be prepared to have a move-out date issued to you. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do to improve your situation if the situation boils down to “agree or move out” in the court of law.

What Should You Do If You Believe Your Rent Increase Was Illegally Done?

If you have any reason to believe that your rent was raised illegally, the best thing you can do is call the New York City Housing Association to report a potential violation. If your apartment isn’t rent-controlled, your best bet is to contact a real estate attorney to find out whether your rights were infringed. 

Does Rent Stabilization Ever Expire?

In the past, New York’s rent stabilization laws and codes were made with a built-in expiration (or “sunset”) date. However, in 2019, a set of laws were put on the books that had no expiration date. To find out which laws apply to your apartment, contact NYCHA or the local HUD in your area. 

NYC Rent Increases Bottom Line

One of the best things to note about New York City is that the rents may be high, but the quality of living is high too. So while renting that first apartment can come with major lifestyle changes, once you get used to things, it’s a cinch. 

If you are living in a free market apartment and got a notice of a rent increase, remember there is no law against asking your landlord about lowering the increase rate. Rent increases are negotiable if your landlord is willing to negotiate. You may be surprised at how reasonable some landlords can be.