This article is adapted from our Rent Update newsletter. You can sign up here to get it or fill out the form at the bottom of this post.
If you live in one of New York City’s nearly one million rent-stabilized apartments, we want to make sure you know your rights when renewing your lease this year, because the rules for raising the rent are a little complicated.
The city Rent Guidelines Board, which decides how much leases can increase each year in stabilized apartments, decided to freeze the rent for the first six months — and then allow limited increases in the second six months for one-year leases.
You’ll need to make sure that your new lease shows the changes correctly so that you’re not charged too much.
Here’s everything you need to know to make sure you’re signing the correct lease and paying the right rent.
First, is your apartment rent-stabilized?
If you’re not sure whether your apartment is rent-stabilized, this site can walk you through the process of figuring it out. To know for sure, though, you’ll have to request your rent history from the state.
How does lease renewal work for rent-stabilized apartments?
Rents for rent-stabilized apartments can potentially go up by a certain percentage each year. A group called the city Rent Guidelines Board decides what that percentage is and how much rents can increase.
Your landlord needs to give you a written notice about your opportunity to renew your lease at least 90 days, or about three months, before your renewal date. So, if you have an October lease, your landlord should have notified you about your lease renewal by July 1. If you have a November lease, you should get a lease renewal form by Aug. 1.
As a rent-stabilized tenant, you have a right to a lease renewal. You can choose to renew your lease for one or two years, and you need to let your landlord know your choice within 60 days of receiving the renewal form.
How much did rent increase for next year?
That’s where it gets a little tricky. The board in June raised the rent, but only for the second half of the year.
For this coming year, if you renew a one-year lease starting on or after Oct. 1, the rent will stay frozen for the first six months. Then, it can increase by up to 1.5% for the second six months.
You heard that right: It’s frozen for the first half of the year, then it could go up for the second half of the year. That is what’s confusing both tenants and landlords.
For two year renewals, the rent can increase by up to 2.5%.
So do I know if my landlord gave me the right kind of lease?
Your lease now needs to reflect that rent will stay the same for the first six months before going up. You can see what the lease renewal form should look like here.
Andrea Shapiro, a program manager at the Met Council on Housing, suggested tenants check their landlord’s math themselves. She said figure out how much 1.5% of your rent is, and make sure it’s only added for the last six months, not the whole year.
Here’s an example: If your rent is $1,000 a month, it should stay $1,000 for the first six months of your new lease. Then, it can increase up to 1.5% of $1,000, which is $15 more a month. So for the last six months of your lease, the rent would be $1,015. Your lease should spell that out clearly.
What should you do if your landlord sent you an incorrect lease renewal form?
Depending on your relationship with your landlord, you can just ask them to make sure they’re offering you the correct rent. If they messed up, you can ask them to change the lease before you sign. You can also send them this correct, up-to-date lease renewal form to use.
Michael Johnson, a spokesperson for Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP), a group that supports landlords who own buildings with rent-stabilized apartments, said that some owners are confused about the changes and may have sent tenants incorrect or old forms by mistake.
Shapiro from the Met Council said she believes it may become pretty common for landlords to issue lease renewals charging incorrect rents under these new rules, at least for the first few months.
What should you do if the rent is wrong and your landlord won’t change it?
If you know the rent is incorrect on your lease renewal but your landlord won’t change it, you can fill out this form and send it to the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal — or contact the Tenant Protection Unit at HCR directly by calling 718-739-6400 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are there ways to avoid the rent increase?
Yes. If you qualify and are approved for the state’s emergency rent relief program, your rent freezes for a full year.
What if my landlord doesn’t give me a lease renewal?
A rent-stabilized tenant doesn’t need a new lease. You still will have all your same rights. It just means that you shouldn’t get a rent increase, said Shapiro from Met Council.
What else we’re reading
- THE CITY reported on an expansion of housing vouchers to include homeless youth.
- City Limits reported on a deal the city made to buy shelters in The Bronx to turn into permanent housing, and about how bad landlords are profiting off the deal.
- The Associated Press revealed complications with the emergency rent relief program rollout, and City Limits detailed additional shortcomings.
- CNN reported that a full-time minimum wage worker can’t afford two-bedroom rent anywhere in the country.