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Brooklyn Tenants Facing 'Insane' Rent Hikes Must Find Money or Move

Little Recourse for Renters in Market Rate Buildings
Brooklyn renters resigning their leases are finding prices soaring compared to one year ago.

When Svetlana P. went to resign the lease for her three-bedroom Bushwick apartment, she was left shocked: the monthly price had been bumped from $2,100 to $2,800.

“We moved out because it was too insane,” she said. She has since relocated to Greenpoint.

Svetlana, who asked BK Reader not to use her last name for fear of causing problems with her former landlord, said that in 2021 she’d felt lucky finding the apartment, and even more so that it had one month free, bringing the price down to an average of  $1,900 per month.

But it when it came time to resign in 2022, the new price was a more than 50% increase.

No recourse for tenants

“I was pretty frustrated because, you know, I feel like the price went down because all the people who fled during the pandemic. Now everybody is coming back and the rent is going up and the people who actually stayed have to leave now because the rents are back up,” she said.

 “I just don't understand this type of jump. There should be a city law that you shouldn’t [raise rent] more than 20%.”

But no such laws exist for market-rate renters. In New York City's rent-stabilized units, landlords are limited to increasing rent by no more than the rate determined by the Rent Guidelines Board. This year, that limit is 1.5% for one-year leases and 2.5% for two-year leases.

But in market-rate units, landlords are simply required to give tenants notice if their rent is going up by more than 5%. That notice usually must be given 60 days prior to renewal but can vary from 30 to 90 days, depending on how long a tenant has resided in their unit.

After the precipitous drop in rent prices at the start of the pandemic, it appears rents are almost back to pre-pandemic levels, with a two-bedroom in NYC now going for $3,300 per month.

Svetlana is far from the only Brooklynite facing a large increase.

Prices up everywhere

Another Bushwick resident, Andy — who also asked for his last name not to be used for fear of antagonizing his landlord — said he ended up renewing his lease when he was hit with an approximately 14% increase, finding that, although substantial, it was on par with what others in his neighborhood were paying.

He signed a lease in February 2021 for a two-bedroom for $2,800 a month. When he got his renewal notice a year later, he said his landlord asked for $3,200 a month.

“I researched the other buildings, similar apartments in the area, and it seemed equal,” Andy said. “I didn’t really think it was worth negotiating.”

He said he’s pretty sure the pandemic was a factor in getting his two bedroom for as cheap as he was able to in a popular area like Bushwick.

“At first, (the increase) was shocking when I got it from the landlord, but I feel like since it’s not rent stabilized, I don’t really have any option,” Andy said.

Steep rent hikes are certainly not a problem unique to Brooklyn, either.

In the East Village, Brianna Rafidi said she will have to figure out a new living situation after being told she would have to take a 34% increase in rent to renew the lease for a two-bedroom apartment she shares with a roommate.

“We are excellent tenants, we pay our rent on time, all the time, very easy, no issues at all with management or the super or anything like that and we got a notice,” Rafidi said.

“I’m not getting a 34% salary increase, and they approved us for the apartment with our tax returns, not our parents or anything.”

Good Cause Eviction Bill

A number of tenant advocates are calling for the passage of the Good Cause Eviction Bill, introduced by Brooklyn Sen. Julia Salazar — which is currently in committee, as it would give tenants the right to fight evictions if they’re based on rent hikes of 3% or more a year. It would also guarantee tenants in market-rate housing the right to renew their lease if they had paid rent on time and abided by their rental agreement.

However, landlords across the city and state are strongly opposing the bill.

Homeowners for An Affordable New York, a new organization representing landlords and property owners, said that the bill was a "dead-on-arrival initiative" that would not encourage affordable housing.

“The push for so-called ‘Good Cause Eviction’ will do nothing to create the affordable housing needed by millions of New Yorkers around the state,” spokesperson Ross M. Wallenstein said.

“In fact, the policy - if implemented - would only lead to higher property taxes, increased rents, and even less quality housing. It would create a ripple effect that would eventually make owning and renting property a lose-lose proposition for owners and renters alike."


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