The Market

Be glad you live in NYC, and not San Francisco, where even rent-controlled apartments can quadruple in price

By Lucy Cohen Blatter  | March 17, 2015 - 3:30PM

Every NYC renter dreads a bump in rent, but a $6,700 rent increase? That's the stuff of nightmares.

Curbed San Francisco reports on one woman's (apparently legal) four-fold rent increase. Here's the story: a woman who lives in SF's Bernal Heights neighborhood in a rent-controlled two-bedroom since 2004 was paying  $2,145. Then, earlier this month, her landlord informed her that her rent would soon jump to $8,900, a move that quite possibly could be legit thanks to some particular loopholes in local housing law.

So could the same thing happen to a regulated tenant here? No, the experts say. "I have never seen an increase even close to that size," says Steve Wagner, an attorney with Wagner Berkow.

When it comes to rent-stabilized tenants, increases are limited to the percentage authorized by the Rent Guidelines Board for one- or two-year leases, says Wagner.

Rent-controlled tenants don't get lease renewals, but their increases are capped at 7.5 percent a year.

Landlords can charge a bit more if they've made individual apartment improvements (IAIs)  or major capital improvements (MCIs) to these regulated apartments, but all increases are subject to review by the Division of Housing and Community Renewal. (The cap for rent increases due to MCIs is 15 percent for rent-controlled tenants and 6 percent for stabilized tenants, explains Catharine Grad, an attorney with Grad and Weinraub.)

"Certainly tenants in New York City see increases that can be hard to manage, but not increases that quadruple their rent,"says Grad.

While technically speaking a landlord could raise someone's rent four-fold after their apartment becomes deregulated,"that wouldn't happen overnight," says Grad.

"If your rent goes above $2,500 your landlord can get involved in a process with the DHCR wherein they check your income, and if it's been over $200,000 for two years in a row, they can issue an order of destabilization, and theoretically quadruple your rent." But, she says, it's unlikely and most certainly won't happen as quickly as it did in San Francisco.

So while SF is achingly beautiful (and has better burritos), this is yet another reason to cancel that move to the Bay Area.


Ask Sam: What's a "major capital improvement," and does it really mean my landlord can raise the rent?

Rent Coach: How much notice of a rent increase is our landlord required to give us?

New Yorkers' biggest misconceptions about rent stabilization

Rent Coach: How much is my landlord allowed to raise my rent?

Here's how your rent-stabilized apartment can get de-stabilized


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