Looking for information on New York rent laws? Here’s a guide to the latest rules and protections for both NYC renters and landlords, as of 2021.

Below is a running list of changes dating back to 2019.

Note: This guide is for informational purposes only. This resource is not a substitute for the advice or service of an attorney; you should not rely on this resource for any purpose without consulting with a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.

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Rent Stabilized Apartments: Rent Increases for 2021

On June 23, 2021, the Rent Guidelines Board voted to freeze stabilized rents for the first six months of one-year leases starting on or after Oct. 1, 2021. After six months, rents will be raised by 1.5%. Rents for two-year leases will rise 2.5% for the entire 24 months. If you live in a stabilized hotel, here’s some good news, rents are frozen.

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New York Rent Laws: Strong Renter Protections Set in 2019

In June 2019,  the state of New York approved a package of rent laws designed to give strong new protections to renters in New York City called the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act of 2019 (HSTPA). Landlords and some in the real estate industry opposed the regulations. But supportive state legislators and tenants’ rights advocates argued that they’re necessary to maintain affordability and stability in a city where 65% of residents — roughly 5.4 million people — are renters.

Tip: The NYC Mayor’s Office launched a site where New Yorkers can learn more about the new tenant protections.

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Broker Fees in NYC: Do They Still Exist?

In May 2021, New York State affirmed that broker fees were legal. Renters can expect to pay up to 15% of a unit’s first year’s lease to brokers. So in Manhattan, where the median monthly rent is $3,100 (as of August 2021), that means an upfront fee of $5,580, on top of the first month’s rent and security deposit typically required for a new rental.

Tip: On StreetEasy, you can search thousands of no-fee apartments all over NYC and northern New Jersey.

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Here’s a rundown of what changed for NYC renters in the laws Albany passed in June 2019. You can also review this city document providing guidance for NYC real estate professionals.

Landlords are prohibited from refusing to rent to a potential tenant based on prior landlord-tenant litigation or tenant screening reports.  Landlords are also prohibited from charging an apartment application fee and cannot charge more than $20 for background and credit checks.  This fee must be waived if the prospective tenant provides a copy of their background check and credit check done within the past 30 days.

Security deposits and prepaid rent are now limited to one month’s rent, and landlords must return them within 14 days of the tenant surrendering the unit — along with an itemized statement covering any deductions made.

Fees for late rent payments have been capped at the lesser of $50 or 5% of the monthly rent.

Landlords are required to provide at least 30 days written notice to tenants of renewal rent increase greater than 5% or of intention to not renew. The longer a tenant has been in occupancy, the more notice a landlord must give of a substantial rent increase: 60 days’ notice to a tenant in occupancy for more than one year or whose lease term is more than one year, and 90 days’ notice to a tenant in occupancy for more than two years or whose lease term is at least two years. Housing courts will now have more stringent requirements to consider how an eviction will affect the tenants’ health and well-being, including the school attendance of children in the unit.

To make sure that landlords comply with HSTPA, a new RPAPL 768 makes unlawful evictions a Class A misdemeanor throughout New York State. This carries a criminal connotation and civil penalties from $1,000.00 to $5,000.00 per violation.

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What’s Changing for Rent-Controlled or Rent-Stabilized Units in 2019 & 2020

Roughly 1 million apartments in NYC are either rent-controlled or rent-stabilized, and much of the new law pertains to these units.

However, they’ve become permanent — a significant victory for tenants’ rights advocates and rent-regulated tenants.

A significant impetus for the 2019 package of rent laws was that previous regulations dealing with rent-controlled and rent-stabilized units were set to expire on June 15, 2019.

Previously, there was fear that rent-stabilized apartments would revert to being market-rate through High Rent Vacancy Deregulation and Luxury Deregulation. High Rent Vacancy Deregulation occurred when a vacant apartment with a legal rent that reached the deregulation rent threshold of $2,774.76, could lawfully become deregulated, and the incoming tenant could be charged market rent. Luxury Deregulation allowed the landlord to deregulate an occupied unit once the legal rent surpassed the deregulation threshold and the tenants’ income exceeded $200,000 for two consecutive years. The new law eliminated both High Rent Vacancy Deregulation and Luxury Deregulation 

Many tenants in stabilized apartments have historically paid so-called “preferential rents” — rates discounted from the maximum legal rent.

Previously, these preferential rents could expire at any lease renewal, meaning the unit’s rent could rise to its legal limit, sometimes hundreds of dollars higher. Under the new law, these preferential rents are now considered the base rents for their units for the duration of the tenancy. They cannot change beyond the maximum percentage increase allowed for rent-stabilized apartments generally until the current tenant moves out.

Landlords were formerly able to raise the rent of a stabilized unit by 20% for a two-year term any time that unit hit the market. Those increases are no longer allowed.

By making improvements to buildings, landlords were also able to increase rents on regulated units. The new law limits rent hikes covering these significant capital improvements to 2% of the rent, down from 6%, and impose other restrictions on such projects.

Landlords also face new limits on how much they can charge tenants for improvements to individual units. Those fees are now capped at about $89, and the charge is temporary and expires after 30 years.

Landlords could previously claim they wanted units in their buildings for personal use and could evict rent-stabilized tenants to make room for themselves. Now, tenants with more than 15 years in a building will get special protections against eviction, and landlords can only claim a unit for personal use if they personally (or their family) will be occupying the unit.

Can a Landlord Issue a Hardship Rent Increase on a Rent Stabilized Apartment?

There’s no doubt that many New York renters are financially stressed, including landlords. That’s why landlords of rent-stabilized apartments could seek a hardship rent increase. But how does that work? And what does that mean for those living in those units? We tapped an expert for answers.

“The basic idea of a hardship rent increase is that the owner can’t cover his expenses and needs to raise the rent on rent-stabilized units,” NYC tenant attorney David Hershey-Webb told StreetEasy. “They have to file an application with the Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR), who will decide if the request is warranted.”

But just because this is an option for struggling landlords doesn’t mean they’ll jump at the opportunity. Why? “The process can take a very long time since several appeals are allowed,” said Hershey-Webb. “A case I worked on took 10 years, and the tenant won in the end. Plus, landlords are reluctant to open their books, exposing their finances.”

Also, tenants play a big part in the process too. “The tenant gets a copy of the application filed with the DHCR, and they have the right to oppose it,” said Hershey-Webb. “Even if the DHCR rules in favor of the landlord, the tenant has an opportunity to appeal it. The process can go all the way to the Supreme Court if the two parties keep appealing.”

With such an arduous process, Hershey-Webb suggests that landlords focus on lobbying the state government and the federal government for relief. But if a tenant finds themselves being served with a hardship rent increase, they can hire an attorney to contest it.

[This post has been edited and republished.]

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