Understanding Rent Control for Renters
By and large, rent control ordinances benefit renters far more than they do landlords. In fact, these regulations came into play in the first place to ensure affordable housing was available.
The best way of understanding rent control for tenants is to look at it as follows:
Rent control—or rent stabilization—is a practice governed by a set of ordinances establishing the rent a landlord can charge and dictating the grounds under which they can conduct an eviction. The second part is in place to prevent landlords from forcing tenants out to achieve a rent increase, thereby circumventing the first part.
Rent control ensures a certain amount of affordable housing for lower and middle-income people. Given a city like San Francisco, where apartments are in high demand and supply is extremely limited, without rent control, apartments would be extraordinarily expensive—even more so than they already are.
With rent control, tenants can be assured of having an affordable place; but more importantly, they can budget their incomes because they know exactly what their year-to-year housing expenses will be.
This is because rent increases are usually tied to the inflation rate, so they can only rise by a few percentage points each year.
This means a tenant doesn’t have to worry about losing their home because their landlord decides to suddenly raise the rent to a level beyond what they can pay.
Rent control also decreases the likelihood tenants will move out once they secure regulated housing. After all, if they move, they will most likely be going into a place where the rent is already established at the current market rate—as opposed to the reduced rate they enjoy in their current residence. This contributes to the fabric of a neighborhood by making it a less transient environment, which increases the likelihood neighbors will know one another and presumably watch out for one another’s interests.
On the negative side however, families may be forced to “make do” in an apartment much too small for their needs in an effort to avoid paying market rate rent for a more suitably sized place as their children grow. This can lead to overcrowding, resulting in excess wear and tear on a unit.
Understanding rent control for tenants, some people say it discourages property owners from performing maintenance or making improvements. However, as mentioned in part one, most rent control boards will allow owners to raise the rent in order to cover maintenance or needed improvements. Further, if a repair is needed and the owner is unresponsive to maintenance requests within a timely fashion, many rent control administrators will allow tenants to make the repair and withhold the cost from rent payments as compensation.
Another downside—although it might seem a positive at first glance—some tenants are tempted to sublet their rent controlled apartments to other people at market rate to make a profit. While this isn’t always illegal, it usually violates their lease agreement, which is grounds for eviction.
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