Rent Control: What it is and How to Get it

Rent Control: What it is and How to Get it


Rent control seems like a bit of a myth, but believe it or not, it’s actually real and here’s how it works …

If you have ever heard of the phrase “rent control,” then chances are, you’re probably interested in it, especially if you’re out there looking for an apartment to live in. Rent control puts a limit on how much a landlord is allowed to charge his/her tenants. Yes, this sounds too good to be true, but like we said in the beginning, it’s real. Here’s how rent control works, how people manage to get apartments with rent control, and where to find it.

What is Rent Control?

The term “rent control” means that the tenant’s rent is frozen indefinitely. Yes, this is pretty uncommon to hear, but it does exist. When people use the term “rent control,” often times they mean “rent stabilization,” which establishes a small, set percentage by which a landlord is allowed to increase their rent every year.

Here’s what you need to know about rent control.

·         How to find apartments with rent control.

Once you have learned what rent control is, and you have rented apartments before, you may wonder why you have never had the opportunity to rent an apartment that was rent-controlled. The answer here is because it is rare. In the United States, rent control is something that is allowed only in certain cities in Maryland, California, New Jersey, Washington, D.C and in New York.

Even in those cities, rent-stabilized and rent-controlled apartments can be difficult to find because tenants in those apartments that are rent-controlled are more likely to continue living in the apartment because it is a good deal.

·         How does rent control work?

Sometimes, when you’re signing the lease, rent control doesn’t seem like that great of a deal. This is because many cities allow landlords of rent-controlled or rent-stabilized apartments to increase rents to market rate, which may be a larger percentage than usual whenever they get a new tenant. So, in the first year of your lease with rent control, it may be similar to the rate of other apartments that are in the area.

Wait, because the benefits of rent control will show over time. When the market rate for rent increases around you, the apartment that has rent control will need to stick to the rules and stay at the affordable rate.

What controls rent control rules?

Cities that have rent stabilization or rent control, such as New York City and San Francisco, have rent boards that are responsible for setting the policy.

The conditions of these landlord-tenant laws have a tendency to be extremely specific. Take New York City’s Rent Guidelines Board as an example, they require rent-stabilized buildings to have been built before the year 1975, to have a certain maximum rent depending on the tenant moved in and to contain six or more units.

·         How can I lock in a low rate with rent control?

Rent-stabilized and rent-controlled apartments are hard to find, but this doesn’t mean they don’t exist. In order to find one, you will have to have a strategy in place. Here are a couple of ways you can do it:

-          Inherit a rent-controlled apartment from an existing tenant. This is a great strategy because it will give you an opportunity to lock-in the former tenant’s rental rate. Usually, you will need to fulfill some rules to do this, and those rules can vary from city to city. Most rent boards will require you to have a family-like relationship with the existing tenant and to be roommates with them in the unit for a set amount of time before the transition takes place.

-          Check rent control databases. Not only should you check rent-controlled databases, but you need to be very persistent in doing so. Most cities that have rent control maintain a database of rent-stabilized or rent-controlled properties. Look over the list and search for vacancies that may not be listed to the public.

Once you manage to move into an apartment that has rent control, the benefits may not seem like a lot, but they are going to increase in time. Give it a couple of years, or even a couple of decades, and then you’ll be the one in the neighborhood that everyone envies. 

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