I’m a rent-stabilized tenant, and I saw that there will be larger increases to my rent when I renew my lease than there have been in recent years. How are these rent increases determined?
Rent increases on one- and two-year lease renewals for rent-stabilized tenants are determined by the Rent Guidelines Board, whose members are appointed by the mayor, so these hikes can change depending on who is in office, says Sam Himmelstein, a lawyer at Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribbin & Joseph, who represents residential and commercial tenants and tenant associations.
In late June, the RGB voted 5-4 in favor of a rent increase of 3.25 percent for one-year leases that begin between October 1st, 2022 and September 30th, 2023; and 5 percent for two-year leases that start during the same period.
This has come as an unpleasant surprise to many rent-stabilized NYC tenants, since these are the steepest rent increases in nearly a decade. In 2020, for instance, in response to financial hardships caused by the pandemic, there was a rent freeze on one-year leases. (Note that rent increases for rent-controlled apartments, by contrast, are based on the five most-recent RGB annual rent increases for one-year renewals, or 7.5 percent—whichever is less.)
The RGB members are appointed by the mayor, and they determine what the increases should be,” Himmelstein says. “The board is a mix of tenant, landlord, and public representatives, and every year there are raucous meetings where each group tries to advocate for their side.”
While some argue that a 5 percent rent increase isn’t bad—particularly considering the very steep rent increases many market-rate tenants in NYC have been facing–Himmelstein points out that for a low-income family, it can pose quite a hardship. The New York Times notes that the median income for people in rent-stabilized apartments is $47,000.
So why the larger increase this year, when many are still struggling economically? Mayor Eric Adams says that these increases are a middle ground between tenant advocates, who wanted another rent freeze, and landlord advocates, who wanted even bigger increases. He argues that the hikes are necessary to support small mom-and-pop landlords after over two years of the Covid pandemic.
But as Himmelstein notes, most rent-stabilized apartments are in larger buildings.
“The vast majority of stabilized tenants live in bigger buildings that are owned by landlords who own multiple properties—not mom-and-pops,” he says. “This increase is hurtful to tenants.”
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Sam Himmelstein, Esq. represents NYC tenants and tenant associations in disputes over evictions, rent increases, rental conversions, rent stabilization law, lease buyouts, and many other issues. He is a partner at Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben & Joseph in Manhattan. To submit a question for this column, click here. To ask about a legal consultation, email Sam or call (212) 349-3000.