What is Rent Control?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Rent control is the act of a governing body exerting control over how much landlords may raise rent. Several major cities in the US have rent control, most notably New York City, where the city government enacts laws that control the rent. There are opponents to and proponents of this practice.

Rent control laws regulate how and when it is legal for property owners to raise rent prices.
Rent control laws regulate how and when it is legal for property owners to raise rent prices.

Opponents typically feel that rent control strips landlords of their rights as property owners, since it does dictate how much they can charge once a tenant is established. They also suggest that people who are new to an area end up paying a higher price for rentals, since the rent for new tenants may not be controlled.

Some proponents of rent control feel that raising rent leads to unstable and unbalanced communities.
Some proponents of rent control feel that raising rent leads to unstable and unbalanced communities.

In other words, established tenants are not likely to move and give up the advantage of paying below market value. As a result, available properties are offered at very high rents. If rent control were abolished, it has been argued, then rents would go up for some people but would stabilize so that new renters would not have to pay overwhelmingly high prices.

Opponents also argue that rent control may ultimately cost landlords more and turn some into slumlords by necessity. Strictly controlled rent means that property owners may not have the money to make necessary repairs on properties if rent increases do not keep pace with inflation rates for other industries, like construction or painting.

Proponents feel that raising rents leads to unstable and unbalanced communities. When people’s economic circumstances change, such as when they have another child or when they retire, an increased rent may force them to have to move. This means that a neighborhood's makeup changes more frequently, which decreases the chances that neighbors really get to know each other. It also means that some people will have to move into increasingly poor or unsafe neighborhoods if their incomes are not in keeping with rent values.

Lack of rent control does affect school districts and their ability to predict attendance and budget. If people must move because rent increases are high, then children may have to change schools on a frequent basis. It also tends to decrease the diversity of a neighborhood when rent increases will only support people of a certain income level residing in a particular area. For proponents of this type of law, the ideal community is one composed of people of varying socio-economic status, age groups, and ethnic groups. High rents tend to segregate populations.

There are good points for and against rent control, and both sides do share similar concerns. One of these is that rents, even in a rent-controlled area, are often not in keeping with compensation, especially for those without college or high school educations. Most proponents and opponents also share concerns about the lack of diversity in neighborhoods. Each group poses different solutions to these problems, however.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


Re: Item 3 above: Rents were never frozen. They have gone up at the rate of 7 and 1/2 percent per year plus an additional fuel charge (over $15 per room monthly) and an appliance fee as well. Controlled rents are now well over stabilized rents in the same building for similar apartments as a result, and continue to climb.


Sure she could pay off the mortgage, and pay all those taxes too, and fix the roof, or move if you don't like your neighbors, without coughing up 10 percent of the house value.


Greenweaver- That is true, but landlords do have the right to put an apartment on the rental market that rents for more than $2,000 a month as long as the renters earn in excess of $175,000 per year or more.


Sunny27- I agree with you. According to the Wall Street Journal, over 43,000 apartments are New York City rent control apartments that has rents that were frozen in 1947.

In addition, about 70% of New York City rental apartments have some sort of rent control. This makes it harder for landlords to want to make repairs.


I loved how you offered both sides of the issue. I just want to say that my sister lives in a New York rent controlled apartment and has for many years.

It does offer stability in the neighborhood because people usually think twice about giving up a rent controlled apartment.

I often wonder if my sister had chosen to buy a co-op instead would she have been better off?

She has lived in the building for close to twenty years and a few more years after that and she could have paid off a mortgage.

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