MANHATTAN – More and more New Yorkers are being hit with shocking rent increases a year after Covid-19 concessions and discounts got them to their dream apartment. When Gincarlos Andrade got his rent renewal notice recently for his Upper East Side one-bedroom apartment he was shocked to see a proposed $718 raise!
Andrade had found the Yorkville space in March of 2021 at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. He signed on for the light-filled one-bedroom unit, which even came with an air conditioner and a shared laundry room. He was thrilled at getting a month free rent making his monthly rent just $1581.
Just a year later, he found himself less than thrilled. “I was in shock and felt the rent hike was unfair!” laments Andrade. “I spoke to a pro bono lawyer to check if that much of an increase was legal and unfortunately it is.”
He’s not the only Upper East Sider facing astronomical rent increases. All over NYC rents are rising, inventory is low, things are flying off the market in just hours and bidding wars are ensuing.
According to Douglas Elliman’s recent rental market report prepared by Miller Samuels, the Upper East Side is getting hit hard.
From May 2021 to May 2022 the average rent increase was up 42% and the median increase was 35.4%, according to Jonathan Miller, CEO, Miller Samuels.
This came as no surprise to another Upper East Side renter facing a huge increase. Evan Osur, who happens to work in real estate as a licensed real estate salesperson himself for Living New York, found out the rent for his East 61st Street unit would be raised a whopping $1500 per month.
Osur’s rent was originally $4500 in June of last year. “They raised me to 6,000 this month!” explains Osur. He had originally moved in with his girlfriend, who has since moved out so he is left footing the bill alone. “I will pay it because I’ve invested so much money in art and décor to customize this specific apartment,” he adds, explaining he really loves his place.
Still, Osur counsels rental clients on how to handle this sort of renewal increase constantly.
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He suggests making sure renters have comparable apartments ready to provide to their landlord or management company.
“I followed my own advice and was able to negotiate down, albeit a bit, the increase in rent on my renewal,” he adds.
Osur understands both sides of this trend. While he was personally not pleased with his rent increase, he also understands there is an overall lack of supply in rental units. “Landlords aren’t evil or wrong,” he explains. “It’s the reality. It’s a business.”
Douglas Wagner, director of brokerage services at real estate company BOND New York concurs.
“There were enormous concessions during 2020-2021 and tenants enjoyed up to 35% rent discounts,” Wagner explains. “Many property owners experienced negative cash flow or technically defaulted on their financing temporarily.”
Now that the market is recovering and demand is once again outpacing supply, owners want to move their rents back into positive cash flow.
His colleague at BOND New York, managing director, Brian Hourigan, offers his own tips to renters facing this predicament. He suggests tenants who prefer not to move ask – not demand – landlords to take into account their past rental payment history and highlight positive and productive relationships they’ve built with the management company.
“While a landlord can garner a higher rent, many would prefer to retain a great tenant than rolling the dice on a newer tenant with whom they have no history,” explains Hourigan. “Tenants may also suggest a longer-term lease in exchange for some rent price stability going forward.”
For those who ultimately decide it’s time to find a less expensive living space, it’s important to take into account each amenity and factor in its value. Hourigan suggests renters consider needs versus wants.
“In this competitive environment, make sure you have all supporting documentation ready and be open to neighborhoods which you may not have previously considered,” adds Hourigan.
As for Andrade, he did just that. He is now living in East Harlem, paying $1772 in rent for a studio. Luckily, he was contacted by the NYC Housing Connect and informed he had won a housing lottery for a studio!
“The studio is tiny and if I had the chance to stay in my original neighborhood I would have, but I didn’t have the choice,” laments Andrade. “Hopefully one day I can return to the Upper East Side.”