New York State

What do the new rent regulations mean, literally?

New Yorkers are getting accustomed to a whole new set of rules after a slew of reforms to protect tenants passed in Albany last week. To make the transition easier, City & State defined a list of key terms to gain a better understanding of what the future holds for the state’s tenants and landlords.

Brownstones near Prospect Park.

Brownstones near Prospect Park. Solepsizm/Shutterstock

New Yorkers are getting accustomed to a whole new set of rules after a slew of reforms to protect tenants passed in Albany last week.

To make the transition easier, City & State compiled a list of key terms to gain a better understanding of what exactly the future holds for the state’s tenants and landlords.

Affordable New York Housing Program - Originally provided a tax exemption to builders in return for reserving up to 30% of a project’s square footage for affordable units. The program previously allowed builders to raise the prices of market-rate units in future leases. Under the new laws, the initial rent for market-rate units will be unregulated but these units will now be subject to regulation going forward.

Blacklist - Records composed by landlords to deny apartments to tenants who were once sued in court for a housing issue. If a tenant is blacklisted, it is more difficult for her to rent an apartment. Under the new laws, the practice of blacklisting will be banned.

High-rent/vacancy decontrol - When a landlord removed a unit from rent-stabilization because the monthly price reached a certain rate and it became vacant. With the current rate at $2,774 per month, the rule led to the deregulation of over 155,000 units. It will be repealed under the new laws.

High income/high-rent deregulation/luxury decontrol - A landlord could deregulate a unit, or remove the unit from all rent regulation, if a tenant in a rent-stabilized unit earned over $200,000 per year in two consecutive years. This will no longer be allowed.

Individual Apartment Improvements, or I.A.I.s - A landlord was allowed to renovate an apartment and divvy up a portion of the costs by increasing the rent. This will no longer be allowed. Building owners say that without I.A.I.s they will have no economic incentivize to make repairs or improvements.

Preferential rent - If an owner has charged rent to a rent-stabilized tenant that is less than the established legal rent, the owner will no longer be able to raise the rent to the full legal limit at a lease renewal. Rather, it will be the base rent or actual rent under these new laws.

Market-rate units - Units available on the private market without rent regulation or restriction on whether a lease is offered.

Major Capital Improvement, or M.C.I.s - When owners make improvements or installations to a regulated building, they can increase the building’s rent based on the cost of the improvements. Under new laws, tighter regulations will be put into place. This includes limited approvals for work, limited spending and a prohibition on approving M.C.I.s where an owner has hazardous violations in their building.

Owner-use loophole - Under new laws, landlords and their family members will no longer be able to remove rent-stabilized tenants from multiple units to use as their own residences, a method to evict tenants and commonly used to raise rents. Now tenants who have lived in a unit for over 15 years or more will be protected from eviction by the owner. Landlords will be held accountable to claim “owner use” for only one apartment to use as their primary residence. Exceptions will only be made if there is “an immediate and compelling necessity” for the landlord to use the building.

Rent controlled - One of two types of rent-regulated units, apartments that are rent-controlled must have been built before 1947 with a tenant or family member having lived there since at least July 1971. If a unit falls out of rent control, it can be leased at market rate. Under rent control, an owner is not allowed to evict tenants and is limited in how much rent they can charge.

Rent hikes (based on building improvements) - Under the new laws, landlords can only increase rents in regulated apartments by up to two percent per year instead of up to six percent. Hikes made if landlords make improvements that “directly or indirectly” benefit tenants will also be newly limited.

Rent Guidelines Board - The agency that dictates yearly increases on rent-stabilized units, hotels and single room occupancies. The city’s board’s members are appointed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, but the board extends beyond the city to every municipality that has rent stabilization.

Rent stabilized - One of two types of rent regulated units, these buildings are generally comprised of six or more units and built before 1947 where an apartment was leased after June 1971, or are newer buildings that receive tax breaks. Rent stabilization is no longer bound by geographyunder the new housing laws which allow any city or town with a vacancy rate of 5 percent or lower to regulate rents.

Security deposits - Before move-in, landlords are no longer at liberty to require more than one month’s rent for a security deposit under the newest laws. The law also requires the return of the deposit within 14 days of the end of occupancy with an itemized statement for any portion of the deposit withheld.

Statewide Housing Security and Tenant Protection Act - The law will be established to protect tenants against myriad problems including tenant blacklist and unlawful eviction, which are both illegal under the act. It will also require landlords to notify tenants if they increase their rent by more than 5 percent or do not plan to renew the tenant’s lease, and ensures more time in eviction proceedings. The law will extend to all renters throughout the state, not just tenants of rent-regulated buildings.

Unlawful evictions - Now a crime under the new legislation, a landlord will be charged with a misdemeanor between $1,000 and $10,000 per violation of a forceful eviction or illegal lockout of a tenant.

Vacancy/longevity bonus - Owners were allowed to raise rents up to 20 percent when a unit is vacated. It has been repealed and the longevity bonus, which allows rents to be raised more than the initial amount based on the time of the last vacancy, is also repealed. If there is a vacancy, owners are still allowed to charge the maximum legal rent.