I've lived in a rent stabilized apartment for the last 10 years. My landlord asked if I would move to a different unit in the same building so he can fix my current unit and the one below it, because both are old and need updates. He promised that my new unit will be rent stabilized as well, but I'm hesitant to take his word for it. Will my rent stabilized status switch over to the new unit if I do move?
First, some background: Rent stabilized status applies to tenants who live in buildings that were constructed before 1974 and have six or more units, and the monthly rent on those units does not exceed the stabilization threshold of $2,733.75. It also applies to buildings built after 1974, and apartments above the threshold where the landlord received certain tax abatements.
Cooperatives and condominiums are exempt, except for existing stabilized tenants who were in occupancy at the time the building converted; buildings owned or operated by the government, such as the New York City Housing Authority and Mitchel-Lama apartments are also not stabilized.
Ordinarily, rent stabilization status cannot be granted to a tenant through other means, nor can it travel with them to new apartments.
“Rent stabilization in general cannot be conferred by private agreement or by waiver,” says Sam Himmelstein, a lawyer who represents residential and commercial tenants and tenant associations. “You either are or are not a rent stabilized tenant depending on when your building was built, how many units it has, and what the rent is.”
However, there is an exception that may apply to you. If you relocate to another apartment at the request or for the benefit of your landlord—so that they can make repairs, for instance, as in your situation—then your status can travel with you, even if the unit you're moving into is not currently stabilized.
If you decide to go along with your landlord’s plan, you can protect your stabilization status by having an attorney draft a relocation agreement.
“I do these agreements sometimes,” Himmelstein says, “and I put into the agreement that the tenant is rent stabilized, they are being relocated at the request and benefit of the landlord, and their rent stabilized status applies to the new apartment.”
To play it safe, Himmelstein adds, get a copy of the rent history of the apartment you’re being moved to, to make sure that unit is still stabilized and to see what its current rent is. Since you’re not yet a tenant of that unit, you won’t be able to get the rent history directly from the Department of Homes and Community Renewal, but your landlord can share a copy with you.
Once that’s confirmed, make sure you get a relocation agreement with specific language that preserves your stabilized status.
“If I were representing this tenant, I would then draft an agreement with language that very clearly says the landlord has to register the apartment at its legal rent and renew the stabilized lease annually,” Himmelstein says.
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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, Donoghue & 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.