Cost is a major concern among renters in New York City, especially as it becomes a more and more expensive place to live. Many people are working hard to find ways of ensuring that their living situation is sustainable. Despite the fact that around 50% of all apartments in the city are rent stabilized, finding one of them can be difficult, as those who live in them understandably don’t want to give them up.
Here are some tips for finding rent stabilized apartments in New York City:
Understand the difference between rent control and rent stabilization
Before you begin your search, you need make sure you know this basic difference. Rent control means that the apartment has been occupied by the same tenant or tenant’s family member since before July 1, 1971. Once the apartment is no longer occupied, it can either be rented at market rate or it passes into rent stabilization. Under rent stabilization, rent will periodically go up at a marginal fixed rate (for 2015-2016 it’s 0% for one-year leases and 2% for two-year leases). Under rent control, rents are usually much lower than market rate and the landlord is mandated to provide the tenant basic services.
You can check out this page for a more comprehensive breakdown of the difference between rent stabilization and rent control.
Look for neighborhoods where rent stabilization is common
Luckily, finding rent stabilized apartments is much easier if you know where to look. In certain neighborhoods such as Inwood and Washington Heights in Manhattan, the vast majority of apartments and rent stabilized.
You can also find rent stabilized apartments in places you probably wouldn’t think to look, including the more commonly expensive neighborhoods of Chelsea and the Upper East Side.
Use some basic criteria to gauge if an apartment is rent stabilized
To be rent stabilized, the apartment building in question must have 6 or more units, needs to have been constructed before 1974, and must not have rent that exceeds $2,700 per month. If the apartment being rented falls under these criteria, then the apartment is rent stabilized even if not advertised as such by the landlord or broker.
Alternatively, an apartment building can been incorporated into one of the city’s tax-incentive programs, and many new apartment complexes have rent stabilized apartments that fall under this category.
Be aware of the downsides
Just because an apartment is rent stabilized, it doesn’t mean that it is being rented for substantially below the market rate. In many cases, landlords will either try to rent on the high side of the rent stabilization range or they will rent at a super low rate but only to applicants with high income and low credit.
Many renters have started to realize this and have adopted the strategy of living in rent stabilized apartments in cheaper neighborhoods where the market rate is low. This way, as rent goes up around you, your rent increases at a much slower rate.