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What does rent stabilization mean for tenants?

The rent laws in New York City are complex. There is the Rent Stabilization Law (RSL) and Rent Stabilization Code (RSC). There are the rent-controlled buildings. There are rent-stabilized buildings. There are preferential rents and there are legal rents. Some of this is overseen by the New York Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR), a state agency. There is also the Rent Guidelines Board. And there are many confused tenants.

An important item for any tenant is their lease. If your apartment is subject to rent stabilization, the lease should include a rider that details the rights and obligations of tenants and landlords in rent stabilized apartments. It is an 11-page document, created by the DHCR, and begins with a section headlined: "VACANCY LEASE RENT CALCULATION."

This document is useful, as it points out various tenant rights under the law, although it is not all inclusive, it is nonetheless a good starting point. 

To find out if you are in a rent-stabilized apartment, you can also check various state or private websites that allow you to put in your address and find out if your apartment is subject the RSL.

If your rent is stabilized, it typically means that you live in a building that was constructed before 1974 and that rents for less than $2,700 per month. These buildings have rent increases limited to the amount sent by the Rent Guidelines Board. This board determines the rate of increase annually, and last summer, for the first time since its creation in 1969, they allowed no increase for 1-year leases.

With all of these laws and agencies, understanding your lease and your rental expenses can be difficult. As a renter, if your rent has increased sharply in spite of the stabilization laws, you may need to speak with an attorney who works with clients involved in landlord-tenant law, to determine if the increases were legal.

Source: propublicia.org, "Rent Limits Just a Fiction for Thousands of NYC Tenants, Records Disclose," March 10, 2016

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