Rent Control, from Life in the USA: The Complete Guide for Immigrants and Americans

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Life in the USA
American Community

Rent Control
A few American municipalities have rent control. The rent for an apartment may be legally set. In these cities, the existence of rent control often dramatically reduces the availability of apartments. It is not uncommon to find one rent-controlled apartment costing half as much per month as the identical apartment next door, if that apartment has been somehow released from the original rent control limitation. Situations exist in which the tenant who benefits from rent control may, legally or illegally, sublet the apartment in order to profit from the situation. In most communities, however, the supply and demand action of the market determines the price of apartments.

Even in those areas without a formal system of rent control, laws frequently apply that determine the maximum percentage by which your rent may go up once you enter into a new lease. Special constituencies, like senior citizens, may qualify for certain legal protections against arbitrary hikes in rent. Public housing usually operates under a strict system of rent limitations.

If you are renting an apartment, make sure you deal with a building or development that gives you an initial lease agreement that allows renewal with a reasonable rent increase, a few percentage points per year. If you do not pay attention to this issue, or if you rent without having a lease, you may fall victim to a situation in which the owner suddenly demands an increase in rent you may not be able to pay.

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