TenantsTips / USA / The Basics of Rent Control

The Basics of Rent Control

Many of the biggest cities in America, including those in California, New Jersey, New York and Washington, D.C., have laws that limit the amount of rent a landlord can charge a tenant. In addition to controlling the rent price, these laws also dictate whether or not a landlord can end a month-to-month rental agreement or decide against renewing a renter’s lease.

Cities where local rent control ordinances are in place include New York City, San Francisco, Newark and Oakland.

Due to the local nature of these rent control laws, they are very different throughout the country.

New York is one of the cities where these laws are the most stringent, whereas others, in cities like Oakland, are in place in name only. In many states, the law prohibits rent control rules.

For example, 32 states in the U.S. prevent the creation of rent control laws altogether. Despite the differences, and the complexities of these laws, there are some primary regulations found in most of them.

Even if a city has rent control laws, this doesn’t mean all properties are automatically subjected to the rules and regulations. Many city ordinances don’t include new buildings, owner occupied buildings that don’t have any more than four units, single family rental homes and units that are considered luxury with a rent that’s above a certain price point.

Typically, a rent control law will either be one that protects current tenants, or one that provides regulation in the long-term, regardless of how many tenants live in that unit.

A law that’s in place to protect current tenants of a unit means that the landlord can raise the rent as much as they wish, once a tenant moves out and a new one moves in. The rent control is only applicable if a particular, current tenant is living in the unit. Under these circumstances, if a tenant is evicted, or leaves on his or her own, the rental price can go up when a new tenant moves in. This means in a city that only utilizes protection for current tenants, a new tenant can expect to pay a higher amount of rent.

For cities that have rent control even after a unit turns over, the rent is set by a rent board. The rent board uses a broad range of criteria to determine the price, including how much rent was before rent control, the operating costs for the landlord, maintenance expenses, inflation and supply and demand for housing in that particular city.

There are circumstances in which the rate can be raised, even with this type of rent control, for example, if there’s an increase in the level of inflation. Once a tenant moves out, the rent remains at that level, if the formula used by the rent control board remains the same.

In areas where rent control ordinances only apply to current tenants, there are usually regulations in place to prevent a landlord for unjustly evicting a tenant, just to receive a higher amount in rent. A landlord is required to demonstrate just cause during an eviction, such as the tenant engaging in illegal activities onsite, or a violation of an important aspect of the rental agreement.

In addition to the two primary types of rent control, there are other local laws and ordinances in place that provide similar protections. For example, in Los Angeles, landlords must put their tenant’s security deposits in accounts that collect interest.

There are also special notice requirements in place in many of these cities that stipulate the amount of notice that is required for a landlord to raise the amount of rent or evict a tenant.



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Rental Assistance Resources

I live in the New England area and I'd need some assistance in paying July and August rent. Is there anyone out there that knows of any Churches or Charitable Organizations that can help me out. I've tried the United Way, they don't cover my area. The Salvation Army has no funds available at this time and neither does the N.O.W. Corp.

Thank you very much for any advise or leads to any reliable sources in my area.
M.E.

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