Bohemia Blog by Agent Emily Ackerman Mencke
Working in Upper Manhattan, we have a ton of listings that are stabilized. You hear about this in the news a lot, or it is part of NYC lore—“My aunt has a stabilized apartment in the Village, and she only pays $250 for a 3 bedroom”.
While we aren’t going to be able to find you a stabilized apartment for $250, we can still occasionally find you an apartment that falls under stabilization protection.
So what is stabilization anyway? Stabilization is a series of protections that are on some buildings and apartments where the legal rent of a unit is under $2500. Typically it means that the rent can only be increased by a set percentage that is voted on every year by the city (typically between 2-4% for a 1 year lease, and between 4-8% for a two year lease). Which is great, and may stop your landlord from doing what my shady ex-landlord in Park Slope did, which was to raise my rent by $600 in one year. I moved. As would most people. The apartment sucked anyway and the electricity blew in the summer about every five minutes. Seriously, if I wanted to use the microwave I had to yell up to my upstairs neighbors to not use any appliances until I was finished. It was awesome.
Here is where stabilization gets tricky. Every single apartment has it’s own unique rental history. It is based on the maximum increase every year, and how many times previous tenants moved out. So, an apartment may be stabilized, and you may be renting it for a preferential rent of $1400, but the legal rent of the unit may be $1950. A landlord can raise your rent to the legal rent at your lease renewal, they just cannot exceed the legal rent. They do this if you are a problem tenant, if they want you out, or if they just want more money.
When the legal rent exceeds $2500, and the current tenant vacates, the apartment will destabilize. Or, if your income exceeds $200,000, the apartment will also destabilize. And a word of caution, if your income is already over $200,000, you may be denied for a stabilized apartment. You may also be denied if you own property elsewhere and the landlord suspects that other property may be your primary residence. And if you are living in a stabilized unit and you move elsewhere but keep your NYC apartment, that may also be grounds for eviction if they can prove your primary residence is elsewhere.
So is it a good deal to get a stabilized apartment? Yes. Kind of. Landlords are usually pretty careful about following the stabilization laws, which also dictate that they must offer you a renewal (instead of just telling you that you have to vacate because their aunt is moving to town). And if your preferential rent is close to your legal rent, then you will never get a massive increase and actually be given some stabilization protection. And finally, if you ever have to go to housing court, the first thing that the court will do is look at the rental numbers to see if your landlord has over-charged you and kept an accurate rental history. If they haven’t, you win. (But really, you want to stay out of housing court at all costs—most landlords do a housing court search with each new apartment applicant, and will deny your tenancy if you have ever had a housing court case).
Stabilization is confusing. We can answer your questions about it and give you the lowdown, so feel free to ask your agent about it when you are on your apartment search. There are still deals out there, and with a little luck, you can nab a great stabilized apartment to call home.