How much can your landlord increase rent in NYC?

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August 4, 2020

You come home one day to find the dreaded rent increase in your mailbox, but don’t panic! Find out what’s allowed in NYC and what you can do to reduce your rent hikes.

Can your landlord raise your rent in NYC?
What is the most a landlord can raise your rent?
Can you refuse a rent increase?
How to tell if your rent increase is illegal
6 tips for avoiding an unexpected rent hike

Can your landlord raise your rent in NYC?

Landlords are legally allowed to raise your rent at the end of a lease period. In most cases, this happens after 12 or 24 months of residency, although it’s always good to check on the exact end date on your lease. The amount of the increase is usually a percentage of your base rent and it can vary substantially depending on the type of housing you live in. For example, if you live in a Rent Stabilized apartment, you have protection against how much a landlord can raise your rent, whereas if you live in a non-stabilized apartment you’re more subject to the whims of your landlord.

guide to rent increase for renters in nyc

What is the most a landlord can raise your rent?

Unfortunately, there is no blanket law that limits the amount a landlord may increase your rent. Non-stabilized apartments (which tend to be located in newer buildings) are not subject to any rent increase protections, however, it’s rare that a landlord will increase the rent by more than 5% except for exceptional circumstances. Many leases also include a clause on renewing your lease, so it helps to check that to see if there’s any mention of rent limits. Remember that it’s a lot of work for a landlord to fill an empty apartment, and in most cases, they’d rather charge you a reasonable increase than risk losing you as a tenant.

The good news is that about half of the apartments in NYC are rent-stabilized! Rent-stabilization limits the rent a landlord can charge on an apartment and a fixed cap on rent increases which is calculated each year by the NYC Rent Guidelines Board. For example, the maximum rent increase for rent-stabilized apartments in 2020 was 1.5% for a 1-year lease and 2.5% for a 2-year lease. This means that if you paid $2,000 in 2019, your new rent would be $,2030 for after 12 months or $2,050 after 24 months.

How to check if your unit is rent stabilized

Rent-stabilized apartments are usually located in buildings built before 1974 with 6 or more units which have not been converted to a co-op or a condo, however, there are plenty of exceptions to this rule.  Certain newer buildings also have designated rent-stabilized units thanks to recent tax credits for developers, whereas some older buildings might have a mix of stabilized and non-stabilized apartments.

The NYC Rent Guidelines Board has a comprehensive list of all the rent-stabilized units in the city, but the best way to confirm is to call the New York State Office of Rent Administration at (833) 499-0343.

Can you refuse a rent increase?

In most cases, you cannot legally refuse a rent increase. You can absolutely negotiate your rent increase, however, keep in mind that the landlord is well within their rights to refuse your counteroffer. Your tenancy legally ends at the end of your old lease, so you can’t simply refuse to meet the terms of a new lease and expect to keep living in your apartment (there are notable exceptions if you

Your best bet is to respectfully negotiate your rent increase with your landlord, citing on-time payments, minimal wear and tear, and general good tenancy. Most landlords would rather charge slightly less for a good tenant than try to squeeze out an extra few hundred dollars a year from a tenant who is bothersome and unreliable (and who may well end up costing more in the long run). The only time you can legally refuse a rent increase is if a)you live in a rent-stabilized unit and b)the increase breaks the rent-stabilization laws pertaining to rent increases.

How to tell if your rent increase is illegal

For most non-stabilized apartments, any increase is a valid increase, however, tenants should check their original leases to see if the landlord is breaking any contractual obligations regarding lease renewal. For stabilized apartments, tenants should look out for the following signs:

  • Less than 30 days notice. Landlords must give you 30 days’ notice by law in order to give you adequate time to either accept the offer or search for a new apartment. For tenants who have been in their apartment for 2 years, this goes up to 60 days.
  • Charging tenants for renovations that never happened. Landlords have to continuously upgrade their buildings. While general maintenance is included in rent, costs for large improvements – known as “capital improvements” – can be passed on to the tenant at no more than 2% of the base rent. If your building hasn’t undergone any major renovations in the past few years, this increase may be illegal.
  • The increase exceeds the set amount for a rent-stabilized unit.  As mentioned before there are very specific rules regarding rent increases for stabilized apartments.  Contact the  NYC Rent Guidelines Board if you suspect your increase exceeds the legal threshold.

If your landlord is trying to pass an illegal rent increase, there’s also a good chance you’re living in an illegal apartment. Read more about how to find out if you’re living in an illegal apartment.

6 tips for avoiding an unexpected rent hike

Even if your apartment isn’t stabilized, there are still steps you can take to minimize the chance of nasty surprises on the 11th month of your lease.

  • Pay rent on time. This may seem obvious, but staying on top of your bills will result in fewer headaches for the landlord, meaning that they’re much more likely to want you to stay in the apartment.
  • Follow building regulations. Familiarize yourself with protocol on trash, rooftop access, and pet ownership. 
  • Sign a two-year lease. You’ll be surprised at how fast a year can fly by – a two-year lease can lock you into your desired rent for a much longer period of time, giving you a better chance to build up a good reputation with your landlord
  • Be a good neighbor. We’ve all had stories about that crazy neighbor who sang opera out the window at 2 AM or left passive-aggressive notes in the mailroom – chances are, your landlord knew these stories too. Being friendly and respectful to other tenants will help solidify your reputation within the building, and who knows, you may even make a new friend.
  • Learn basic home repairs. If you can repair a wobbly handle or change a light bulb without calling the landlord, you’re much more likely to remain in their good graces. (That said, if you keep encountering serious problems you should absolutely hold them accountable – check here for tips on how to navigate repairs in your apartment.)
  • For smaller buildings, get to know your landlord. Smaller multi-family homes are more likely to be owner-occupied, meaning that you’ll actually meet your landlord every now and then. If you can foster a courteous, friendly relationship, you’re more likely to get a good deal when the lease renewal comes around.
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