Landlord/Tenant Law

Rent Control Definition and Laws

One of the most sought after gems for renters is a rent controlled property. But which states have rent control laws on the books? Why are they so rare? What is rent control, exactly? What are the benefits of rent control? Can your landlord evict you if you live in a rent control building? This article will shed some light on rent control laws and how to navigate them.

What is Rent Control?

Rent control laws set limits on how much landlords may charge for rent. Rent control laws specify:

  • Which types of properties qualify for rent control.
  • How often rent limits may be adjusted.
  • How rent limits may be adjusted. Most rent control laws tie rent limit increases to an annual percentage of inflation in a local Consumer Price Index.
  • Conditions for when a property is "decontrolled."
  • Restrictions on evicting tenants with rent control.

There are no federal rent control laws as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that rent regulation is a state matter. Most states have deregulated rent control laws. Only a select number of cities and communities in a handful of states still enforce it.

Only Washington D.C. and these four states have rent control laws: California, Maryland, New Jersey and New York. Some of the largest cities in the U.S. with rent control laws include New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. While there may be state rent control laws, rent control rules and regulation vary by city and county.

Rent control laws were adopted in the United States during World War II when the nation was experiencing a housing shortage. President Richard Nixon later passed wage and price laws that influenced the modern rent control laws still in use today. That's why most rent control laws tend to apply to older properties constructed before the 1980s.

Rent Control in California

California cities may create their own rent control laws and regulating bodies. The only state rent control regulation enforced restricts rent control from being established for properties that were issued a certificate of occupancy after February 1995 and for single family homes and condos if a tenancy began after January 1996.

The following are a few California cities that have rent control ordinances:

  • Berkeley
  • Los Angeles
  • Oakland
  • San Francisco
  • San Jose

Rent Control in New York

New York's Office of Rent Administration regulates rent control for every county with qualifying residencies. New York's rent control ordinances are among the oldest in the country and date back to World War II. Generally, buildings constructed before 1947 and tenants or lawful successors who've continually resided in their homes since before July 1971 have rent control.

Rent control ordinances only apply to select neighborhoods in:

  • New York City
  • Albany County
  • Erie County
  • Nassau County
  • Rensselaer County
  • Schenectady County
  • Westchester County

Rent Control in Washington, D.C.

Washington D.C.'s Rental Housing Act of 1985 and the Rental Accommodations Division regulates rent control for all properties in the district. The only properties that are exempt from rent control are those that:

  • Were built after 1975.
  • Were vacant when the Act took effect on July 17, 1985.
  • Are owned by a person (and not a business entity) who owns four or fewer rental units.
  • Are subsidized by the district or the federal government.
  • Classify as housing accommodations as part of a building improvement plan. The Department of Housing and Community Development must provide rehabilitative assistance to these properties for them to be exempt from rent control.

Rent Control in New Jersey

New Jersey has no state laws that regulate rent control. However, under its Newly Constructed Multiple Dwellings Law, newly constructed multi-home buildings in municipalities that have rent control ordinances are exempt from rent control until 30 years have passed at most.

New Jersey has more than 100 municipalities that enforce their own rent control ordinances. Among them are:

  • Atlantic City
  • Gloucester Township
  • Hoboken
  • Jersey City
  • Newark
  • Springfield

Rent Stabilization in Maryland

Maryland has no state rent control laws or a rent control regulating body. Takoma Park is the only city in Maryland that still enforces rent regulation—and only in the form of rent stabilization. Takoma Park's rent stabilization ordinance is similar to rent control except that it doesn't provide special eviction restrictions nor conditions for when a property loses its rent stabilization status.

Generally, rent stabilization applies to all rental properties in Takoma Park except for those in which the owner occupies a unit as their primary residence. Every year in late spring, the city publishes an annual rent stabilization allowance. The allowance sets a maximum rent rate that may be charged based on the annual increase of the Washington/Baltimore region's Consumer Price Index.

Get Legal Help

Rent control laws can be tricky to work around. Make a mistake and your rental property can become decontrolled or you could face eviction. Whether you're moving into a rent controlled apartment or you have a rent control dispute with your landlord, consult with an experienced landlord-tenant lawyer to protect your rights and interests.