Question: I’ve been living in the same apartment on the Upper East Side since 2001 and all this time I have paid the same rent. It is not a rent-stabilized apartment, but the former owner was very generous. The new owners have renovated all units (except my unit) after the tenants moved out. I like my apartment, and the new owners have offered to renovate and raise my rent by $850 a month or let me stay for another 18 months and raise my rent by $550. On one hand, given the location, it is probably reasonable. On the other hand, I will be paying $550 more for the same exact conditioned apartment. And I wonder if it is worth it. But a larger concern, however, is when I am moving out in 18 months, how will the real estate market be? Will it be worse or better?
— Hanging on in Carnegie Hill
There’s a lot going on here, so let’s take your issues one at a time:
Are you sure you are not in a rent-stabilized apartment? As generous as your former landlord may have been, you need to confirm the status of your place. Go here and check if your building is listed. Here’s more information you may want to look into. Landlords are not required to inform you that an apartment falls under the rent-stabilization guidelines, but, if the apartment is stabilized and you are not informed (including signing a rent-stabilization rider, a separate 11-page document, attached to your lease), the new landlord could end up owing you a lot of money.
If you are in a market-rate apartment, the rent increases your new landlord is proposing are well within their rights. It may be a bad business decision on their part to alienate a 17-year tenant, but it’s theirs to make. If you can afford the $850 bump and the landlord will pay for the month you are forced out (including furniture storage), then I’d go for it. You say you like the place, so you’ll like it all the more with a new kitchen or bathroom, polished floors and whatever other new things will be included.
If the $850 increase is too much of a stretch for you, and you want to stay, be sure the landlord is living up to their end of the bargain. It’s easy to overlook needed repairs and maintenance over 17 years, but now is a good time to have things taken care of. When was the last time your apartment was painted? The law says it has to be repainted every three years. What about appliances? There’s a fine, negotiable line between an old, inefficient refrigerator and a new, more efficient one. Ask. In other words, there are upgrades you may be entitled to or simply want that the new landlord may be willing to cover, short of a full-fledged renovation.
Finally, no one knows what the economy or the New York apartment rental market is going to look like 18 months from now. New York real estate is closely aligned to the fortunes of Wall Street. When Wall Street is hot, apartment prices and rents are hot. When Wall Street cools, so do rents. Keep your eyes and ears open, and watch this space. According to the most recent quarterly market report from StreetEasy, rents are on the rise in both Manhattan and Brooklyn, while rental discounts are on the decline.
David Crook is a veteran journalist and author of The Complete Wall Street Journal Real-Estate Investing and Homeowner’s Guidebooks. Do you have a question about anything real estate-related in NYC? Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For verification purposes, please include your name and a phone number; neither will be published. Note: Nothing in this column should be considered professional legal advice. If you have a legal issue, consult an attorney.
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