How to Get a Rent-Controlled Apartment in Manhattan

by Marilyn Lindblad ; Updated July 27, 2017
Rent-controlled apartments are generally found in pre-war buildings.

Rent-controlled apartments make Manhattan affordable for the middle class. Under rent control, the city adjusts the Maximum Base Rent for each eligible apartment every two years to account for cost increases in operating expenses. In Manhattan, operating expenses include increased fuel and labor costs. Owners can raise the rent by 7.5 per cent per year until they reach the MBR. Competition for rent-controlled Manhattan apartments makes finding an apartment a challenge, but the right preparation for your apartment search can give you an advantage over the others.

Step 1

Assemble the information that a broker or building owner needs to know about you. Make copies of your credit report and paystubs or tax returns. Ask a former landlord to write a reference letter for you, and include it with other letters of reference from employers and co-workers. Assemble the information in a dossier about yourself, and take it with you when you go to look at an apartment.

Step 2

Tell everyone you know that you are looking for an apartment. Many building owners avoid brokerage fees by relying on word-of-mouth referrals, and telling lots of people increases the likelihood that one will know about a rent-controlled apartment coming on the market. Spread the word even further by asking friends and relatives to ask others that they know where they work or go to school or to post an ad for you at their workplace.

Step 3

Limit your search to buildings that were built before 1947. New York created rent control regulations after World War II to protect returning soldiers from being gouged during a housing shortage. Because of the program's ties to the end of the war, rent control generally applies to pre-war buildings. Besides word-of-mouth, extend your search by reading classified ads online and in the paper and walking around the neighborhood where you want to live, looking for a "for rent" sign. Hire a broker if you can afford the fee.

Step 4

Fill out a rental application on the spot if you are interested in a particular apartment, and give the owner a copy of your dossier. Pay the requested security deposit. When the owner selects you as the tenant, negotiate the lease, sign it and move in.

About the Author

Marilyn Lindblad practices law on the west coast of the United States. She has been a freelance writer since 2007. Her work has appeared on various websites. Lindblad received her Juris Doctor from Lewis and Clark Law School.

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