Whether you are a tenant or a landlord in New York City, Brooklyn or Staten Island, the law surrounding rental agreements can be complex and will depend on whether the apartment is unregulated or rent controlled.
Rent control was put into place during the housing shortage after World War II and typically continues for privately owned buildings that were built prior to February 1947 in cities that have not ended the post war rental housing emergency.
A number of factors must be considered to determine whether or not a unit is rent controlled or if it has been removed. When the building was constructed, whether the building receives certain tax benefits, how long a tenant has lived in the unit and whether or not they have passed their apartments onto heirs are just a few elements taken into account.
With rent control in place, a landlord's ability to charge a certain rent or evict a tenant is limited. However, rents can potentially be raised every two years to reflect operating costs. Tenants can appeal an increase if the owner does not properly care for the property or they feel the increase does not reflect true maintenance costs.
Rent stabilization is similar to rent control but is for buildings of six or more units that were built between February 1, 1947 and December 31, 1973. Like rent control, tenants are protected from dramatic increases and are allowed to renew their leases. The owner, however, can claim one or more units for family use whereby the tenant would have to move out - provided the landlord delivers notice 90 to 150 days before the lease expires. The landlord must also be able to prove family use.
When an apartment is rent stabilized, it's important for the landlord to attach a rent stabilization rider to the lease which outlines the parties' obligations. This way, both are informed and fully aware of the financial arrangement.
Not all buildings are subject to rent control or stabilization. Those that are unregulated are market rate units if they were built after a certain date, were removed from the program because the final rent-controlled tenant moved out or rents rose based on costs reaching a certain value. Either way, it can be confusing for owner and tenant alike. If either party has questions about their rights and responsibilities, discussing the nuances with an attorney is beneficial.