What Is Rent Control?
If you’re looking for affordable housing, or if you’ve watched just about any TV show about life in New York City, there’s a good chance you’ve come across the term ‘rent control’. Rent control seems to be a great way to save money on rent, especially if you are moving to a large city or a particularly desirable area where rents can be high. Get to know the basics of rent control before you start looking for a rent control apartment so you understand how it can affect you.
What is rent control?
First, what does rent control really mean?
Rent control is actually a general term that refers to laws that limit certain rental rates in cities or states. How rent control works depends on where you are, as laws vary by jurisdiction. In general, rent control works by putting a cap on the amount a landlord can charge in rent for certain units, so that the amount of that rent can be increased annually. This is different from rent stabilization in that the rent for rent-controlled apartments cannot be increased at the end of a lease.
Cities tend to adopt rent control measures as a way to keep prices from getting too high and to regulate the housing market, although the evidence is mixed as to whether rent control policies actually work. as expected. New York City has had rent control regulations since 1943, making it the city with the oldest rent control laws in America. Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, DC are also notable cities with rent control laws.
At the same time, rent control laws are not that common in the United States. A 2019 study found that Maryland, Washington, DC, New Jersey, New York, and California are the only states that have municipalities with rent control regulations. However, 37 states actually have rules prohibiting rent control measures.
How does rent control work in practice?
How rent control works depends on the city you live in, as cities have different rules and regulations. In general, the value of renting a rent-controlled apartment tends to increase over time. Most cities allow landlords to increase rents at market rates when a new tenant moves in, even if the unit is subject to rent control.
The first year you move into a rent-controlled unit, your rent will likely be similar to the market value in your area. However, the longer you live there, the more valuable the rent control will be, as your landlord can’t just increase the rent each year at market rates and instead must follow your city’s rent control laws.
Instead, the city or state usually decides the amount that landlords can increase the rent on rent-controlled units each year. For example, in the state of Oregon, landlords can increase rents on rent-controlled buildings by 7% plus inflation each year. In New York City, on the other hand, a committee called the Rent Guidelines Board decides what percentage the rent can increase each year.
Do I meet the rent control requirements?
Even for housing with rent control, most cities have rules about who is eligible for rent control. As a tenant, your eligibility generally depends on:
- If your income is above the threshold for your building or apartment complex
- The age of the building
- Municipal or local municipal laws that may contradict state laws
That being said, you’ll need to check your city or state’s rules to see if you qualify for rent control and how it works in your city, township, or municipality, as everyone is different.
How can I find rent-controlled apartments?
Since rent control is limited to a few cities and states, and tenants tend to stay in one location if they have been successful in securing a rent controlled apartment, it can be difficult to find an apartment with rent control. . If you are looking, you might benefit from checking out older buildings. Some cities also have a database or website where rent-controlled units are listed, so you can check if any of these units are available.
Keep in mind that rent control is usually only beneficial in the long run, as landlords can increase the rent to market value when you first move in. If you plan on staying in a unit for a few years, it’s probably not worth the hassle of finding a place that has rent control.
Is it ever worth leaving a rent-controlled apartment?
Finding rent-controlled accommodation can be a difficult task, but it can be a lot. So, is there ever a reason to leave your rent-controlled apartment to move to a new location?
Many tenants who live in a rent-controlled unit stay there for the long term. As we’ve already noted, the benefits of rent control accumulate over time, so some tenants are absolutely determined to stay in their rent-controlled apartment for as long as possible.
However, rent control is not always as important as it sounds. It is important to keep in mind that just because an apartment is rent controlled does not mean that all of its costs are regulated. Even if the monthly rent is still relatively low, your landlord may charge you other fees before your move-in date, which could increase the cost of finding rent-controlled accommodation.
If you’re looking to save on rent, understand how rent control works in your city and state, and learn about the pros and cons of living in a rent-controlled unit. Then start your search and find low cost and affordable apartments for rent on Zumper.