The first thing you should know about New York City’s rental apartments is that the market is divided in three parts: rent-controlled, rent-stabilized and market-rate apartments. Each has its special features that you need to understand when you start looking for your NYC apartment.
These apartments are the holy grail for tenants. These are the 6-room apartments that rent for $1,000 that you sometimes read about in the papers. However, pretty much the only way a newcomer can get one is to marry someone who is already living in a rent-controlled apartment. Renting a rent-controlled apartment means that the tenant or their family member would have had to move into that apartment before July 1, 1971. So, the odds are against you. In addition to the bargain rent levels, there are limits on how much the landlord can raise your rent each year, with the maximum annual increase capped at 7.5%. The tenants maintain the right to renew their lease for one or two years at a time.
Your chances of finding a rent-stabilized apartment are much better than getting a rent-controlled unit. These apartments are primarily in pre-1973 buildings, or in newer buildings that had received tax abatement benefits. Rent increases for stabilized apartments are set each year by the NYC Rent Guidelines Board. The latest guideline is 1% for one-year lease and 2.75% for a two-year lease, on renewals between 10/1/14 and 9/30/15. Just like rent-controlled tenants, rent-stabilized tenants have the right to renew their lease under the same terms as the original lease.
The third rental category is market-rate apartments. The only limit to what the landlord can charge is “what the market will bear.” Another downside to market-rate rentals is that the landlord does not have to renew the tenant’s lease, so you may be looking for another rental at the end of your lease.
There are several other terms you need to get acquainted with when you rent in NYC:
No bargain lasts forever. When a rent-controlled or rent-stabilized apartment’s legal regulated rent hits $2,500 a month it becomes deregulated if the tenant has income of over $200,000 for the two previous years.
You can only get the benefits of rent regulations if you use the apartment as your primary residence. If you are caught living at another residence over half of the year, found using a different address on official governments forms (tax return, voter registration, etc.) or have sublet your apartment more than two out of every four years, your lease renewal can be denied. There are some exception to the subletting limitation (for example if you are living elsewhere to receive medical treatment), but you should know that landlords are very aggressive in rooting out the cheaters, even hiring private investigators.
Each tenant has the right to have one unrelated roommate. The landlord needs to be notified about the roommate, but his permission is not required.