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Affordable Housing and Tenants’ Rights

Looking for Affordable Housing?

If you are looking for affordable housing units, please visit NYC Housing Connect here or Mitchell Lama Connect here. The City has created a series of guides to help make the process of applying for affordable housing easier. These guides answer frequently asked questions about the process and can be found here.

What is Rent Regulation?

There are two common types of rent regulation in NYC: rent control and rent stabilization. According to the 2014 NYC Housing and Vacancy Survey, there are about 27,000 rent controlled apartments vs. about 1,030,000 rent stabilized apartments. For more information on the difference between the two forms of rent regulation, click here.

Have Your Rent Frozen

If you are a rent stabilized tenant you can apply to have your rent frozen under the Freeze Your Rent program (formerly the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) and the Disabled Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE) programs). For more information on the Freeze Your Rent program, click here.

For assistance with the Freeze Your Rent program, including enrollment, renewals, appeals, transfers, and adjustments, you can contact the Department of Finance’s SCIRE/DRIE Unit online, or visit the SCRIE and DRIE Walk-in Office at 66 John Street, 3rd floor,  Monday to Friday, 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM.

Get Your Rental History

Every tenant should get an official copy of their rental history so that you can see if the unit you are occupying is or was previously rent stabilized, and if you are receiving a preferential rent (for more information on preferential rents, see the changes to the rent laws section of this page below.  To get your rental history you can reach out to the New York State Department of Homes & Community Renewal’s (HCR) Rent Info Hotline at 718-739-6400 (and press 1 and then 7). You can also find answers to many questions here.

Are You Being Harassed by Your Landlord?

The harassment of tenants by landlords or owners can include:

  • Not offering leases or lease renewals, or repeatedly trying to pay you to move out.
  • Unjustified eviction notices or illegal lockouts.
  • Threats and intimidation, such as late-night phone calls.
  • Overcharging for a rent-regulated apartment.
  • Failure to provide necessary repairs or utilities.
  • Deliberately causing construction-related problems for tenants, such as working after hours, blocking entrances, or failing to remove excessive dust or debris.

If you feel you are being harassed by your landlord, superintendent, or building management staff, you can reach out to HCR’s Tenant Protection Unit at 718-739-6400 (and press 1 and then 3). You can also call the Legal Aid Society at (212) 577-3300, Legal Services NYC at (917) 661-4500, or the Urban Justice Center at (646) 459-3017.

If you are being evicted and need legal assistance, click here to learn more about the Right to Counsel program and other forms of legal aid that are available to you.

Assistance if You Are at Risk for Eviction

If you are at risk for eviction there are services that can help you stay in your home. A variety of government agencies and nonprofit organizations provide support to those who have fallen behind on rent. Click here to find out more information about those programs.

Need Assistance Getting Your Landlord to Respond to Your Repair Requests? 

If your landlord has been non-responsive regarding repair requests we suggest that you document the condition with photos. CB6 may be able to help. Please send all emails regarding landlord issues to help@cbsix.org. Additionally, JustFix.nyc, a housing advocacy non-profit, has launched a free web-app for tenants to notify your landlord of repair issues via USPS Certified Mail. Click here to access that tool.

Changes to the Rent Stabilization Laws

Rent Stabilization now covers the entire state. The Emergency Tenant Protection Act (ETPA) enables municipalities in New York State to opt-in to rent stabilization. It gives tenants the right to a renewal lease, and provides protections from sudden rent hikes and retaliatory evictions. ETPA applies to buildings with six or more apartments built before 1974. Prior to June 14, 2019, the Emergency Tenant Protection Act, commonly known as “rent stabilization” only applied to New York City and its surrounding counties. Today, cities, towns, and villages across the entire state can choose to opt in.

Deregulation of Rent Stabilized Apartments Prior to June 14, 2019, landlords could remove apartments from rent stabilization once the rent reached $2,775 a month, or the residents’ income reached $200,000 a year. Both of these loopholes, which resulted in the loss of 160,000 rent stabilized units since 1994, have been repealed. It is now much more difficult for landlords to legally deregulate rent stabilized apartments.

Elimination of the Vacancy Bonus Prior to June 14, 2019, landlords were able to automatically claim a 20% “vacancy bonus” to the legally registered rent in between tenancies. Further, local Rent Guidelines Boards had the option of instituting their own vacancy bonuses annually. Both of the vacancy bonus loopholes have been eliminated.

“Preferential rents” are now permanent. Prior to June 14, 2019, landlords were able to charge a “preferential rent” – an amount lower than the rent legally registered with the State – and subsequently revoke that preferential rent at lease renewal. This both discouraged tenant organizing, and masked rampant fraud in rent registrations. Today, preferential rents have to last the full duration of a tenant’s tenure in the apartment, and annual rent increases must be based on the rent the landlord and tenant agreed to at the beginning of the tenancy. When the tenant moves out, the landlord may advertise the apartment at the full, legally registered rent. Prior to June 14, 2019, landlords were able to charge a “preferential rent” – an amount lower than the rent legally registered with the State – and subsequently revoke that preferential rent at lease renewal. This both discouraged tenant organizing, and masked rampant fraud in rent registrations. Today, preferential rents have to last the full duration of a tenant’s tenure in the apartment, and annual rent increases must be based on the rent the landlord and tenant agreed to at the beginning of the tenancy. When the tenant moves out, the landlord may advertise the apartment at the full, legally registered rent.

Changes to rent increases for building wide or apartment specific improvements: Individual apartment improvement (IAIs) increases: Prior to 2019, IAIs were a driver of skyrocketing rents in rent stabilized apartments. Today, landlords are limited to a maximum of three IAIs which together are capped at $15,000 over a 15 year period. When amortized, this translates to a rent increase of approximately $89 a month. Further, landlords are now required to adhere to a schedule of reasonable costs to prevent fraud, and to “roll back” the IAI increase after 30 years. Major capital improvement (MCI) increases: Prior to 2019, MCIs were a driver of skyrocketing rents in rent stabilized apartments. Today, MCIs are capped at 2% and amortize over a longer period of time (12-12.5 years) thus reducing, but not eliminating, the annual cost to tenants. Landlords must adhere to a schedule of costs, and can only claim MCIs if more than 35% of the building is regulated and there are no hazardous violations. To reduce fraud, a quarter of all MCI applications will be audited by Division of Homes and Community Renewal.

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Committee
Housing, Homeless, and Human Rights
Next Meeting: June 15, 2020