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Ask Sam: How long can I live in my 80/20 apartment?

It depends on when your building's tax abatement expires—and whether your landlord has included certain language in your lease. 

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Question:

I am a renter in an 80/20 building. When can I expect my stabilized apartment to go market-rate—and to have to move out?

Answer:

It depends on what type of tax abatement your building is receiving, and when the tax benefits began, says Sam Himmelstein, a lawyer who represents residential and commercial tenants, tenant associations, and co-op shareholders.

Developers taking part in the city’s 80/20 program receive tax breaks for reserving 20 percent of the apartments in their building for low-income renters. There are different types of abatements: One is 421a, which requires participating landlords to put a percentage of apartments into rent stabilization, and another is LIHTC, or low income housing tax credit.

Both these types of abatements come with expiration dates. But in order to raise the rent on affordable apartments to market rate, landlords must follow very specific guidelines.

“The landlord is supposed to attach a rider, in 12 point font, which informs the tenant that they are rent stabilized by virtue of a tax abatement, and will lose their stabilization status after the abatement expires,” Himmelstein says. “The rider must be in the original lease and every renewal lease, stating that once the abatement expires, the tenant won’t be stabilized and won’t be entitled to a renewal lease.”

If you find that your landlord has failed to do this at any point, you are entitled to stay put, and your apartment will remain stabilized until you move out.

Your landlord may try to dispute this, which is why it’s important to hang onto copies of all your leases, and get things in writing.

“Write a letter to your landlord and explain that you’ll remain rent stabilized even though the abatement is expiring because the rider was not in the initial lease or following renewal leases,” Himmelstein says. “But if your landlord ends up taking you to court, it could be a credibility battle, so make sure to keep all the copies of your leases.”

On the other hand, if your landlord has abided by all the rules for informing you about your status as a tenant, you should prepare yourself to have to move out once the abatement expires.

“Abatements usually last from 10 to 35 years or so,” Himmelstein says. “So if you move in right at the beginning, you’re going to be there quite a long time.”

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Read all our Ask a Renters Rights Lawyer columns here.


Sam Himmelstein, Esq. represents NYC tenants and tenant associations in disputes over evictions, rent increases, rental conversions, rent stabilization law, lease buyouts, and many other issues. He is a partner at Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, Donoghue & Joseph in Manhattan. To submit a question for this column, click here. To ask about a legal consultation, email Sam at shimmelstein@hmgdjlaw.com or call (212) 349-3000.