You’ve likely heard the terms “rent control,” “rent controlled apartment” or even “rent stabilized apartments” thrown around in television shows or the movies, especially when they’re set in major cities. But exactly what are these mythical spaces? Does it mean the rent stays the same and never goes up? Does it mean the cheapest rent in town? answers your biggest questions about rent controlled apartments.

What is Rent Control?

In a nutshell, rent control is a legal term for when a government agency (think city, state, etc.) imposes restrictions or regulations on how much a property owner can increase rent. This is generally only for residential property. Traditionally, this sort of mandate used to only occur during times of mass poverty or austerity, such as a depression or wartime. However, now these types of controls are more likely to happen where occupation rates are high, such as major cities.

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How Does Rent Control Work?

Rent control policies may vary, but they all come down to just a few basic ideals:

  • Rent control is designed to help provide affordable housing to those who have low or moderate income, and insure the rent increases do not force them out of their homes.
  • Rent control insures landlords set reasonable limits to the amount they can charge.
  • Rent control apartments usually have less strict standards for evictions, preventing low-income renters from becoming homeless.
  • Rent control also ensures that housing is well-maintained, preventing renters from living in sub-standard housing for high rent.

How Can I Find Rent Stabilized Apartments?

In short, it’s difficult. Many renters who find themselves lucky enough to live in a rent controlled apartment are reluctant to move. Finding a new space for the same amount of money is generally difficult to impossible. In some larger cities, some renters even take to searching the obituaries to see if the recently deceased lived in a rent controlled building.

However, it’s not totally hopeless. Many cities that have rent controlled or “rent stabilized” apartments are registered with the housing division of the city. For example, the New York Division of Housing and Urban Renewal can offer you a list of all of the rent-controlled apartments in the city which can allow you to keep an eye on potential rental situations. Not sure where to start in your town? Reach out to the city offices or city council for advice.

Have you ever been lucky enough to score a rent controlled or rent stabilized apartment? What was it like? We’d love to hear your stories. Let us know below!