Moving into a new apartment can be fun and exciting. However, it is also a major financial decision. According to Business Insider, an average American spends about 37% of their total budget on housing costs.
Nevertheless, eager to start life in a new apartment, many renters enter a new contract without taking the time to determine if their new or current apartment is rent-controlled.
The rent-controlled status of an apartment is also important for potential buyers. You may not want to purchase a rent-controlled apartment with tenants from the previous owners still living there.
But what is it anyway, and how can you find if your apartment is rent-controlled? Let’s find out!
How to Find If an Apartment Is Rent-Controlled
To know if an apartment is rent-controlled, you need to know what it means first.
What is a Rent-Controlled Apartment?
Rent control is an umbrella term that entails laws and legislations that govern the rental rates of properties in a state or city.
The exact laws vary depending on the municipality. However, they are created to perform the same function in every municipality – stabilize the housing market.
These laws limit the maximum amount of rent that a landlord can charge for a unit. The amount of rent that can be increased every year is also governed by rent-controlled laws.
The goal is to control the price and ensure affordable rental housing for renters with low and moderate-income.
However, not every apartment is rent-controlled. Generally, it is applicable to older buildings. Plus, the tenant must have occupied the apartment for a certain number of years to qualify for rent control.
For obvious reasons, rent-controlled apartments are the preferred choice of renters. However, while it is beneficial for the renters, it is not always good news for the landlord.
Tips to Know if an Apartment Is Rent Controlled
Whether you are looking for an apartment for rent or ready to buy your own property, it is always a good idea to check if the apartment is rent-controlled or not before entering any kind of contract with the landlord or the seller.
Here are a few tips that can help you determine the status of your apartment.
Ask the Landlord/Seller
Perhaps the easiest and most straightforward way of determining an apartment’s rent control status is to ask about it!
If you are buying the house, ask the seller. On the other hand, if you are renting the place, confirm the status with your landlord.
Keep in mind that some people may not disclose the apartment’s rent control status, even upon inquiring.
While these actions are wrong both morally and legally, this information has been withheld, or false status is shared in several instances. This is especially when it comes to selling the property.
However, such foul play is rare. It’s still better to be safe than sorry. Therefore, it is advisable to take further steps to confirm your apartment’s status after confirming it with the landlord or seller.
Check Out Apartment Finder Websites and Online Resources
We live in the internet era, which means any information you need is just a few clicks away. This is true for apartments as well.
Different apartment finder websites can disclose valuable information, including the rent control status, about apartments to help tenants and buyers find the perfect apartment.
For example, residents of the City of Los Angeles can use the Zone Information & Map Access System for this purpose.
The source is known as ZIMAS. All you have to do is type in the apartment’s address, and the ZIMAS directory will pull up information about your apartment.
Another popular apartment finder website that you can use is ForRent. It provides vital information about properties that are up for rent, including the apartment’s rent control status. Similarly, there are several other resources that you can use to learn more about any property.
However, these are not always easy to find. Plus, there is no guarantee if the website or resource will have information about your apartment or not. Regardless, it is worth a try!
Determine the Year of Construction
The year of construction of the building can help you determine the rent control status of the apartment.
For example, in San Francisco, buildings constructed before 1979 are rent-controlled. Any building built after 1979 are unlikely to be rent-controlled.
Similarly, in the real estate world of New York City, rent control was a thing in buildings constructed before 1947.
As you can see, the year of construction varies from city to city. Therefore, it is essential to do your research and find the parameters that apply to your locality.
Also, keep in mind that the year of construction of the building is not the only parameter for determining the rent control status of an apartment.
Other factors, such as the duration of the tenancy, also matters. Regardless, learning about the year of construction is an excellent place to start.
If you don’t know the year in which your building was constructed, you can always contact the landlord or concerned authorities to learn more about the building.
Contact the Local Authorities
Another option is to contact local apartment authorities to confirm the rent-controlled status of your apartment.
For example, suppose you are a resident of New York. In that case, you can contact the officials at the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) to confirm if your building or apartment is rent-controlled or stabilized.
It must be stated that the DHCR may refuse to give out enough information to help you make a final decision. Therefore, it is recommended to talk to an attorney regarding the issue at hand.
Usually, if an apartment is rent-stabilized, a Rent Stabilization Lease Rider is received with the lease. However, if you think your rent is regulated but you did not receive a Rent Stabilization Lease Rider, you can file a complaint against your landlord at the DHCR.
Considering all, it is best to hire an attorney to help you traverse through the legalities related to regulated rent, whether it is rent-controlled or rent stabilization.
Consider the Exceptions
Rental control exceptions are an important point to consider when determining the status of your apartment. There are various factors that may exempt property from rent control coverage.
For example, if the rental units or apartments are subject to government funding or regulations, such as project-based Section 8 housing, public housing, etc., it may not be rent-controlled even if it meets the basic criteria for it.
Similarly, apartments in a building that have been converted to cooperatives or condominiums are unlikely to be subject to rent control regulations.
The exception criteria may vary from state to state. Therefore, you must take the time to learn about the apartment as much as you can.
Can You Still Move into a Rent Controlled Apartment?
Now that you know how to find if your apartment is rent-controlled, let’s take a look at how you can move into one or not.
Since an apartment’s rent-controlled status depends on the number of years of a tenancy, it can be difficult to move into a rent-controlled apartment if you are not already living in one.
The problem is that lease terms can be updated as soon as the original tenants vacate the apartment.
This allows the landlord to charge market competitive rent. Even if the apartment stays rent-controlled, the base rent is highly likely to be raised to accommodate for inflammation.
So, while difficult, it is not entirely impossible to land a rent-controlled apartment. In order to do that, you need to plan ahead and check a few boxes. First of all, the original tenant of the apartment must be your relative.
Secondly, you must already be living in the house when the original tenants move out.
If you can meet these two conditions, you may be able to take ownership of the rent-controlled apartment. It is essential to mention that the transfer does not work if you are a friend or roommate. It only works in the case of relatives.
You can also get lucky if you want to take advantage of rent control without having a connection.
However, such apartments are becoming increasingly hard to find because these regulations never favor property owners, which is why most landlords choose to update the lease terms as soon as the apartment is vacated.
Moreover, only a few states follow customary rent control laws, which means it is nearly impossible to find rent-controlled apartments outside New York, New Jersey, Maryland, California, and Washington DC.
Some of the most popular cities that still contain rent-controlled apartments include NYC, San Francisco, Los Angles, and Oakland.
The Bottom Line
Finding the perfect apartment is not an easy feat in today’s economy. However, if you can manage to get into a rent-controlled apartment, you have a safety net knowing that the rent will never get too high.
Before you settle for a new apartment, make sure you learn about the rent control status of your current and potential residence to make an informed decision.
It is always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the rent control laws in your municipality or city and clear out any doubts you may have regarding your apartment’s rent control status before deciding to move into a new apartment.
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