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Renter's Rights In New York

By Elizabeth R. Elstien

New York City is known for its tiny apartments. With its ridiculously high rental rates, New Yorkers need help keeping their monthly rent payments in check. To combat the city's shortage of affordable-living accommodations, the first 55 approximately 310 square foot micro apartments, averaging over $2,000 in rent, will be completed by 2015. These will be the first tiny living spaces built in the Big Apple since apartments less than 400 feet were banned in 1955.

But what's a renter to do in the meantime? Learn and use important tenant rights provisions in and outside New York City to keep your rent prices reasonable.

Rent Control

Rent control is based on upon the World War II housing crisis and affects any owner of a residential building built before February 1947. Owner is limited from charging too much rent and from evicting a tenant except when allowed by law. Rent control is still present in New York City and several New York counties. But for an apartment to be under rent control, the tenant must have been living in the apartment continuously since before July 1, 1971. In The Big Apple, there is a maximum base rent for each apartment adjusted every two years due to operating costs. If owner increases rent above the legal amount, tenant many challenge the amount. Once an apartment is vacated, it is no longer under rent control regulations.

Rent Stabilization

Overall, apartments in buildings of six or more units in New York City are under rent stabilization if they were built between February 1, 1947 and December 31, 1973. Tenants are also covered if the apartment is in a building build before February 1, 1947 and they moved in after June 30, 1971. Buildings with three or more apartments constructed or extensively remodeled on or after January 1, 1974 are also covered under rent stabilization. Counties outside New York City include buildings with six or more apartments built before January 1, 1974. These apartments have rent that is stabilized, depending on the county, so it does not increase too much per year. These tenants are entitled to have their leases renewed and may not be evicted except on grounds allowed by law. When an apartment rent reaches $2,500 and is vacated, the apartment is no longer under rent stabilization. When an apartment rent reaches $2,500 and the combined occupants income totals at least $200,000 for the two previous years, the apartment is also no longer rent stabilized and the tenant may be offered rent at the current market rate for the area.

Lease Succession

Lease succession gives the family of the deceased in a rent-controlled or stabilized-housing situation the ability to stay in the apartment under the current rent regulations. The family member(s) must have lived in the unit for at least two years (one year for seniors or disabled) or from the start of the relationship with the deceased (e.g., if deceased was recently married).


Subletting is legal in New York City and allows a tenant to temporarily assign the apartment to another tenant. The owner must agree to the sublet. Subletting allows the original tenant to keep their rent-controlled apartment even if leaving the area for work or other reasons. New York City Rent Guidelines Board spells out the specific steps to take to sublet an apartment.

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