Renters' Frequently Asked Questions in Manhattan, NYC

Real Estate Agent with Compass

 Renters’ Frequently Asked Questions


Is there a difference between rent control & rent stabilization?

Rent Control:

The rent control program generally applies to residential buildings constructed before February 1947 in municipalities that have not declared an end to the postwar rental housing emergency. A total of 51 municipalities have rent control, including New York City, Albany, Buffalo and various cities, towns, and villages in Albany, Erie, Nassau, Rensselaer, Schenectady and Westchester counties.

For an apartment to be under rent control, the tenant (or their lawful successor such as a family member, spouse, or adult lifetime partner) must have been living in that apartment continuously since before July 1, 1971. When a rent controlled apartment becomes vacant, it either becomes rent stabilized, or, if it is in a building with fewer than six units, it is generally removed from regulation. For more information on succession and the definition of family member, check out the fact sheet.

An apartment in a one- or two-family house must have a tenant in continuous occupancy since April 1, 1953 in order to be subject to rent control. Once it is vacated after that date, it is no longer subject to regulation. Previously controlled apartments may have been decontrolled on various other grounds. On rare occasion, a decontrolled apartment is ordered back under rent control as a penalty for certain violations of the rent laws.

Rent Stabilization:

In NYC, rent stabilized apartments are those apartments in buildings of six or more units built between February 1, 1947 and January 1, 1974.  Tenants in buildings of six or more units built before February 1, 1947, who moved in after June 30, 1971 are also covered by rent stabilization laws.

A third category of rent stabilized apartments covers buildings with three or more apartments constructed or extensively renovated since 1974 with special tax benefits. Generally, these buildings are stabilized only while the tax benefits continue.


Should I be getting interest on my security deposit?


If the building has six or more units the landlord must pay interest, if any, on your security deposit. The owner may keep one percent of the deposit amount each year as an administrative fee. If the building has fewer than six units and the owner deposits the security in a bank, the interest also belongs to the tenant, less one percent for administration.

The following information is from the Attorney General's "Tenant's Rights Guide": 
Landlords, regardless of the number of units in the building must treat the deposits as trust funds belonging to their tenants and they may not co-mingle deposits with their own money. Landlords of buildings with six or more apartments must put all security deposits in New York bank accounts earning interest at the prevailing rate. Each tenant must be informed in writing of the bank's name and address and the amount of the deposit. Landlords are entitled to annual administrative expenses of 1% of the deposit. All other interest earned on the deposits belong to the tenants. Tenants must be given the option of having this interest paid to them annually, applied to rent, or paid at the end of the lease term. If the building has fewer than six apartments, a landlord who voluntarily places the security deposits in an interest bearing account must also follow these rules.


If we renovate our building and reduce the number of units from six to five, would the building be removed from regulation?


No. Although you as an owner of a rent stabilized building have the right to take one or more units for your own use, reduction of the total number of units to less than six would not remove the remaining units from rent stabilization. Even if a new certificate of occupancy is obtained, tenants in the existing units would remain under stabilization.


What are my options if I want to get out of my lease early?


First, ask your landlord if s/he will let you out of the lease. Landlords are sometimes pleased to obtain vacancies - especially if it will lead to a rent increase.

If your landlord refuses to let you out, you can ask the landlord if you can "assign" the lease. This means that you would have to find a new tenant. The landlord can refuse to do so, but if his refusal is unreasonable he must release you from the lease in thirty days upon your request.

Generally speaking, if you break your lease the landlord can claim part or all of your security deposit for "unpaid rent." He could also go to court to enforce the terms of the lease (i.e., ask you to pay additional rent until a new tenant is found). Under current rulings, landlords have no duty to promptly re-rent the apartment. 

What are my landlord’s responsibilities in terms of upkeep?

All landlords have a legal obligation known as “Duty of Repair.”  Landlords of buildings with three or more apartments must keep the apartments and the buildings' public areas in "good repair" and clean and free of vermin, garbage or other offensive material. Landlords are required to maintain electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating systems and appliances landlords install, such as refrigerators and stoves in good and safe working order. Tenants should bring complaints to the attention of their local housing officials. (Multiple Dwelling Law (MDL) §78 and §80; Multiple Residence Law (MRL) §174. The MDL applies to cities with a population of 325,000 or more and the MRL applies to cities with less than 325,000 and to all towns and villages.)


When and how do I renew my lease?


Except for rent-regulated apartments, a tenant may only renew the lease with the consent of the landlord. A lease may contain an automatic renewal clause. In such case, the landlord must give the tenant advance notice of the existence of this clause between 15 and 30 days before the tenant is required to notify the landlord of an intention not to renew the lease. (General Obligations Law § 5-905)

The renewal leases for rent stabilized tenants must be on the same terms and conditions as the prior lease and rent increases, if any, are limited by law but may provide for a rent increase according to rates permitted by the Rent Guidelines Board. Rent stabilized tenants may choose either a one-year or a two-year renewal lease. For New York City rent-stabilized tenants, the landlord must give written notice to the tenant of the right to renewal no more than 150 days and not less than 120 days prior to the end of the lease. After the notice of renewal is given, the tenant has 60 days in which to accept. If the tenant does not accept the renewal offer within the prescribed time, the landlord may refuse to renew the lease and seek to evict the tenant through court proceedings.


What happens when the rent for my stabilized apartment rises above $2,000?


An apartment will remain rent stabilized even if the rent rises above $2,000 while a tenant remains in occupancy and household income is less than $175,000 for the two previous years. However, as the rent reaches $2,000 or more, the owner has a right to petition the NY State Division of Housing and Community Renewal to deregulate the apartment

What is Section 8?


In general, Section 8 refers to the federal housing allowance program that provides rent subsidies in the form of vouchers and certificates for low-income households. Established in 1974 as part of the Housing and Community Development Act, at the heart of the program is a housing allowance to provide a low-income household (usually-based on a percentage of income) to rent a housing unit of better quality than they could obtain unassisted. The New Construction, Substantial Rehabilitation and Moderate Rehabilitation Section 8 subprograms (in which subsidies were made to developers to encourage the building of affordable housing) in the 1974 Act have been phased out.

In New York City, the program is administered by The NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA), the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the NYC Department of Homeless Services (DHS).

NYCHA handles the bulk of vouchers and certificates in NYC, according to NYCHA 77,000 families use vouchers and certificates in private apartments. If you wish to apply, or are participating but have a question, call the City's Citizen Service Center by dialing 311 or check out their website.

Some tenants living in buildings rehabilitated through HPD programs may receive Federal Section 8 subsidies administered by HPD. Tenants who are now receiving Section 8 benefits through HPD, or building owners with tenants receiving such benefits through HPD, can call (917) 286-4300 for assistance. You can also follow this link to the HPD Section 8 web page.

DHS administers a Section 8 program to assist homeless families and singles in locating suitable permanent housing. This includes individuals and families currently living in the subway and Amtrak systems of the City. Also included are those households who are in substantial danger of becoming homeless due to a destabilizing event. To apply, contact DHS through the City's Citizen Service Center by dialing 311.

courtesy of:

Mitchell Hall, Associate Broker, The Corcoran Group


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Mitchell J Hall
Compass - Manhattan, NY
Lic Associate RE Broker - Manhattan & Brooklyn

David, Thanks. It is very convoluted and political. The irony is that many of the rent stabilized apartments are in the best buildings in Manhattan. Building that converted to coops and condos under non evict plans. The same apartment that a buyer pays $2million for a rent stabilized tenant pays $1200 that doesn't even cover the monthly maintenance.

Many of the coveted rent stabilized apartments are occupied by wealthy New Yorkers. Those fortunate enough to get the apartments 25-30 years ago.


Jun 16, 2011 08:54 AM #2
Patricia Kennedy
RLAH Real Estate - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Great post, Mitch!  It answers a lot of the questions I had back when I lived in a rent-controled 5th floor walk up at 83rd and Madison.  And I'm amazed that there are many apartments left for $2000 a month!

Jun 17, 2011 03:14 AM #3
What percentage can a landlord raise the rent on an apartment that is vacated. The previous tenant live their for 25 years. Her last rent was $450.00 Her apartment is rent stabilized. She had SCRIE. She was 90 years young. Thanks
Jun 19, 2011 03:57 PM #4
Mitchell J Hall
Compass - Manhattan, NY
Lic Associate RE Broker - Manhattan & Brooklyn

Laws expired at 12:01am on June 16, 2011

Tenants who reside in apartments that are Rent Stabilized should be aware that the Laws affecting these units expired at 12:01 am on June 16, 2011. For more information, please see the DHCR website or call them at (855) 391-4526.

The RGB hearing scheduled for Monday, June 20 in Manhattan is still expected to be held. The RGB meetings and hearings schedule can be found here.

Find out how much rent can increase in rent stabilized apartments,
lofts & hotels

On May 3, 2011, the NYC Rent Guidelines Board adopted a proposed range of renewal lease guidelines for rent stabilized apartments, lofts and hotels. The proposed guidelines, as well as procedures relating to public meetings and hearings concerning the guidelines, is detailed in the Public Notice (in pdf format).

Each year, the NYC Rent Guidelines Board adopts guidelines for rent stabilized apartments, lofts and hotels in NYC. You may view and download details of the current and previously issued guidelines for apartments, lofts and hotels in the Rent Guidelines section of our website.

Jun 20, 2011 01:13 AM #5
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Mitchell J Hall

Lic Associate RE Broker - Manhattan & Brooklyn
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