Guide to 421-a Rent Stabilization
What is Rent Stabilization?
Rent stabilization is a set of laws that apply to some rental apartments. The laws generally protect tenants both in the amount of rent that can be charged (set yearly by the Rent Guidelines Board) and by providing other rights (e.g. succession, right to lease renewals, protection from no cause evictions). The New York State Division of Homes and Community Renewal (DHCR) is the agency in charge of rent stabilization. You can find more information on their website (https://hcr.ny.gov/rent-regulation-fact-sheets)
What is 421-a?
“421-a” is tax benefit for recently built apartments. In exchange for a large tax benefit owners usually must opt into rent stabilization for a certain time period. The 421-a program has been through many iterations, which means that 421-a rules and rights may vary based on when the building was built. You can find out if your building is receiving 421-a benefits by checking online at NYC Department of Finance (https://www1.nyc.gov/site/finance/benefits/benefits-421a.page).
Developers often layer other “affordable” housing programs on-top of 421-a such as: Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), Inclusionary Housing, or Section 8. Each of these programs has separate rules and rights, which may affect the rights of the tenant.
Do I remain rent stabilized when my building’s 421-a benefits expire?
This depends on a few factors, including when construction on your building began, whether your unit is “affordable” or “market-rate”, and if your landlord provided the proper notice with your first lease. There also may be important information or additional protections in your building’s regulatory agreement. With proper notice, generally most “market-rate” units can be removed from rent stabilization at the expiration of the 421-a tax credit. Many “affordable units” REMAIN rent stabilized for the duration of a tenancy regardless of whether the tax credit has ended.
What should I do if I am having an issue with my 421-a rent stabilized apartment?
Whether your benefits have expired or not, you have rights as a tenant. Even if your landlord has given you an eviction notice, it does not mean you have to immediately leave. You have a right to fight your eviction in court.* Under New York City’s Right-to-Counsel (RTC) law, tenants facing eviction in Housing Court who fall below 200% of the poverty line are entitled to free legal representation, and those above to free legal advice. Call 311 if you have received an eviction notice.
*Court records are public and some people prefer to leave rather than risk their name becoming public.
Do your own research.
Read through your lease and any riders that may have come with it. Read through the regulatory agreement for your building. Be aware that if some lease provisions can conflict with the law or the regulatory agreement, they may be invalid. Check if your tax benefits are about to expire by visiting the NYC Department of Finance (https://www1.nyc.gov/site/finance/benefits/benefits-421a.page).You can also find information about your building on ACRIS (www.nyc.gove/site/finance/taxes/acris), www.whoownswhat.justfix.org, or ANDH’s Displacement Alert Portal (www.portal.displacementaltert.org).
Talk to your neighbors
You’re stronger together! One of the best ways to advocate for your rights both with agencies, politicians, and with your landlord is to form a Tenants’ Association. This is a great place to share information, make plans, and take action. If you need help forming a Tenants’ Association and live on the West side of Manhattan (34th to 110th Street) reach out to Housing Conservation Coordinators. You can also find organizing resources and get connected to the movement by visiting Right to Counsel (www.righttocounselyc.org) or Housing Justice for All (www.housingjusticeforall.org).
Housing Conservation Coordinators offers brief legal advice or full representation based on location and income requirements. Call (212) 541-5996 to make an appointment. The NYC Department of Finance (DOF) and the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) oversee the 421-a program, and the Department of Homes and Community Renewal (DHCR) oversees issues with Rent Stabilization within 421-a. Your elected officials can also often help (nysenate.gov/find-my-senator and nyassembly.gov/mem/search/)