How to find a rent-stabilized apartment in New York City

The Stuyvesant Town complex still has thousands of rent-stabilized apartments.

Find a rent-stabilized apartment in these four easy steps

There are two types of New York
renters
: Those who live in rent-regulated apartments, and those
that don’t. More often than not, the latter group desperately wants
to be part of the first (market-rate rents are
kind of high
), but rent-stabilized apartments can be difficult
to find—or are they?

According to the New York City Rent Guidelines Board, that there
are about
1 million rent-stabilized apartments
in NYC. What makes them
elusive is the fact that once someone nabs a rent-stabilized
apartment, they’re
unlikely to leave
. Plus, the city has lost
thousands of rent-regulated apartments
due to laws that make it
easier for landlords to take them out of regulation.

That may change thanks to
major reforms to New York’s rent-stabilization laws
, which

passed in the state legislature
earlier this year. Those
landmark tenant protections will codify the state’s rent
regulations rules permanently, rather than have them sunset every
few years.

So how do you join the rent-stabilized ranks? Follow these four
easy steps.

Step 1: Know what rent stabilization is.

Rent
stabilization
is a form of rent regulation in New York that’s
overseen by the New York state
Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR)
. It is
different, but related to, rent control. For an apartment to be
rent-controlled, the same tenant, or a “lawful successor” of that
tenant (i.e. a family member or spouse), needs to have been living
in the apartment continuously since 1971. No new rent-controlled
apartments are created, and needless to say, they are extremely
hard—basically impossible—to come by, which is why this isn’t
“The Guide to Finding a Rent-Controlled Apartment in NYC.”

Rent
stabilization
generally applies to buildings with six or more
units that were built before 1974, but thanks to certain
tax abatements
used by developers, some new buildings are also
rent-stabilized. Until very recently, stabilized apartments could
become deregulated if the rent exceeds $2,700 and the tenant
leaves. Thanks to rent reforms enacted by the state legislature
this year, that practice—known as vacancy decontrol—has been
repealed, as has a landlord’s ability to raise a stabilized
apartment’s rent by 20 percent in between tenants.

Every June, the Rent Guidelines Board
convenes
to vote on how much stabilized and controlled rents
should be raised for the following year. The
most recent vote
set increases of 1.5 percent for one-year
leases, and 2.5 percent for two-year leases, which will go into
effect on October 1.

TL;DR: Rent-stabilized apartments have rents
regulated by the government, which means that landlords can only
raise rents by a set amount each year.

Step 2: Figure out which buildings are rent stabilized.

This step actually has a few different steps, and they all take
some time and diligence. Let’s break it down:

Search official databases: The Rent Guidelines
Board
maintains a list of all buildings
registered with the DHCR.
It’s a fantastic resource, but the PDF files are unruly.
They’re broken out into borough, then sorted by zip code, but
they are still huge. (The document for Brooklyn is
339 pages
.) However, the document does note if a building is
stabilized because of a tax abatement, which is useful.
Alternatively, you can search by address on DHCR’s website, so if
you spot a listing that you think might be rent-stabilized, you can
look it up. One important thing to note: Neither of these resources
says which units in these buildings remain stabilized.

Go where the stabilized units are: The data
wizards at NYU’s Furman Center For Real Estate and Urban Policy
released
a report in January 2015
charting where New York’s subsidized
housing is located. It shows the highest concentrations to be in
Upper Manhattan (Harlem), the South Bronx, and central Brooklyn
(Crown Heights and Prospect-Lefferts Gardens), so these areas are a
good place to start your search. Use the tips suggested above to
narrow the results in these specific areas.

Narrow your search criteria: Since most
buildings constructed between February 1, 1947 and January 1, 1974
contains rent-stabilized apartments, hone in on older buildings.
Zillow lets you search by the date the building was constructed,
and a recent search shows more than 1,000 listings. But not all of
these will be stabilized, so your best bet is to cross-check with
the databases referenced above.

Literally search for rent-stabilized
apartments:
On StreetEasy, searching for rentals with the
keyword “stabilized” brings up close to
200 options
.
Ditto Craigslist
, although the usual caveats when searching for
apartments on that platform apply. Point being, you can use the
keyword “rent stabilized” or some combination thereof to narrow
your options when searching.

TL;DR: You don’t really care about finding a
rent-stabilized apartment, do you? There is no shortcut here.

Step 3: Make sure you actually sign a rent-stabilized lease.

If you’ve found a rent-stabilized apartment and are ready to
sign the lease, congratulations! You’re almost there, but first you
have to make sure your lease is actually a proper rent-stabilized
lease. (Here’s an example of a
standard rent-stabilized lease.) The lease should state that the
apartment is rent stabilized, and landlords are legally required to
include a rent
stabilization rider
with the lease. Rent-stabilized leases also
must be for one or two years; there is no such thing as a six-month
rent-stabilized lease.

If a landlord is trying to skirt the rules, he or she likely
won’t include any mention of rent regulation or stabilization in
the lease documents, let alone mention DHCR. So if you think the
apartment that you rented is supposed to be rent-stabilized,
request a rent history from DHCR. (The agency has
a one-stop portal
, called NYS Rent
Connect
, where you can easily do this.) This may lead to a

fraught legal battle
with your landlord, but it can be worth it
if you can get your rent lowered.

Step 4: Move in and stay put.

Landlords are required to offer a renewal for all
rent-stabilized leases, so once you’re settled in your regulated
apartment, you’ll never be forced to give it up.

Source: FS – All – Real Estate News 1
How to find a rent-stabilized apartment in New York City