How to Navigate Rent Control Laws: Tips for Landlords

by Patrick Freeze  2/06/2024

Finding affordable rental housing can be challenging for some renters. Combining high rental rates with utility bills and other living costs can become unrealistic and problematic, especially for low-income renters. That’s why some individuals look for places with rent control laws–to keep these costs down. Today, we’ll go over what rent control means, where it’s prevalent, and how landlords can navigate areas with rent control laws. 


Contents of This Article: 

  • What Is Rent Control?
  • Do All States Have Rent Control Laws?
  • Rent Control vs. Rent Stabilization
  • How to Navigate Rent Control Laws
  • Pros and Cons of Rent-Controlled Properties
  • Keep Your Properties Compliant With PPM

What Is Rent Control?

Rent control, or rent stabilization, is a legal way for state and local governments to cap the amount landlords can charge for monthly rent. It also limits the amount that landlords can raise for existing tenants or new tenants signing a lease agreement. 

Generally, rent control policies are used to address housing affordability concerns and prevent landlords from raising their prices excessively. So, whether you’re a landlord, tenant, or property manager in Northern Virginia, staying up-to-date with rent control laws is important, especially if they apply to you.


Typically, rent control involves limiting how much a landlord can charge for rent on a specific property. Under rent control laws, landlords are restricted from unjustifiably increasing rental prices yearly for existing tenants. That said, these caps often follow a certain percentage increase, usually tied to factors like inflation rates or local economic conditions. 

The primary goal of rent control is to protect tenants from excessively high rental rates. However, it can come with potential drawbacks for landlords and property owners. Before we review some of the pros and cons, let’s discuss which states implement rent control laws and the difference between rent control vs. rent stabilization.  

Do All States Have Rent Control Laws?

Not all states have rent control laws; they can vary depending on location. Some states may even have local jurisdictions with their own rent control regulations. However, not all states have strict rent control policies. In fact, some states, 33 of them, even prohibit it. 

Currently, only California and Oregon have statewide rent control regulations. However, various states, such as Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, and Washington, DC, have implemented rent control laws at the county and city levels.

It’s important to note that while there may be state rent control policies, specific rules and regulations may vary by city and county. For instance, some properties in Washington, DC, are exempt from rent control laws, including those built after 1975, owned by an individual with four or fewer rental units, or subsidized by the district or federal government. 

Rent Control vs. Rent Stabilization

Understanding rent control laws is crucial for tenants, landlords, and property managers, especially in states or cities where such laws are applicable. Additionally, it’s important to differentiate between rent control and rent stabilization, as the two are often confused. 

Rent control typically establishes a maximum limit on the rent that landlords can charge for their rental units, with government authorities determining these limits. These restrictions are usually tied to factors like the unit’s historical rent, the cost of living, and the overall housing market.


That said, rent control policies are quite strict, significantly limiting a landlord’s ability to increase rents. In some cases, rent control may include provisions related to eviction procedures and the rental unit’s condition. 

On the other hand, rent stabilization represents a milder form of rent regulation, where rent increases are limited but not as strict. For instance, landlords can increase rents under rent stabilization laws, but there are usually caps or guidelines dictating the maximum allowable increase. These caps are generally tied to factors like inflation or other economic indicators. Additionally, rent-stabilized units experience more moderate increases than regular market rates, protecting tenants against excessive rent hikes. 

Ultimately, rent-controlled housing is less common, limited to specific states and regions, and subject to specific criteria. On the other hand, rent-stabilized housing is more prevalent and accessible for renters. Next, we’ll review some tips for landlords on navigating rent control laws. 

How to Navigate Rent Control Laws

Rent control laws aren’t usually favorable for landlords or property owners. Without being able to increase rental rates, it may be challenging to keep up with increasing operational costs due to inflation or other economic factors. As such, it’s important for landlords to navigate rent control policies carefully. Here are a few tips for landlords who own rentals in rent-controlled areas. 

  • Understand Local Regulations- If you live in an area with rent control policies, it’s crucial to research and thoroughly understand laws applicable to your property. Regulations can vary widely by jurisdiction, so it’s crucial to be well-informed. 
  • Know Rent Increase Limits- Know how much you can increase your rent, if applicable to your property. Be aware of factors that may influence these limits, like inflation rates or other economic indicators. 
  • Stay Informed- Regularly check for updates or changes in rent control laws. Laws may be changed, and staying informed helps you adjust your practices accordingly to ensure ongoing compliance. 
  • Seek Legal Advice- If you’re unsure of the details of rent control laws in your area, consult with an attorney who specializes in this area. Legal advice can give you more clarity on compliance matters and help you navigate any potential legal challenges. 
  • Consider Professional Management- Hiring a professional management team can be beneficial, especially if navigating rent control laws becomes complex. Property managers are usually well-versed in local regulations and can help ensure compliance. 

Pros and Cons of Rent-Controlled Properties

Many investors tend to shy away from rent-controlled properties. After all, with fewer opportunities to increase their rates, landlords may have a hard time profiting, especially when inflation is high. However, rent-controlled properties have pros and cons, and their impact can vary depending on local regulations and housing market conditions. Here are some of the benefits and disadvantages of rent-controlled properties.

Benefits of Rent-Controlled Properties

  • Long-Term Tenants- Rent-controlled properties can lead to more long-term tenants. After all, tenants who don’t want to keep paying for increases will likely stay in properties that don’t allow them. As a result, long-term tenants can reduce vacancies and lower turnover costs for landlords. 
  • Tenant Protection- Rent control laws protect tenants against sudden, steep increases, pushing them out of an affordable rental home. In turn, it reduces the risk of displacement and homelessness. 


  • Creates Stability- Rent control ensures affordability in housing for tenants, particularly in regions facing high demand and limited supply. As such, it provides stability and provides a sense of security for renters. 

Disadvantages of Rent-Controlled Properties

  • Less Profitable- Rent control laws may discourage landlords from investing their time and money into property improvements or even maintenance. Without the incentive of more income, landlords may prioritize other investments. 
  • More Regulations- Rent control policies can make a landlord’s job harder. With more documentation and compliance regulations to consider, it creates more administrative work for landlords or property managers. 
  • Poorly Maintained- With fewer financial incentives, landlords may put maintenance or repairs on the back burner. Unfortunately, this hurts tenants and the property’s value over time. 

Keep Your Properties Compliant With PPM

Rent control laws can benefit renters but may disadvantage landlords. However, it’s crucial that landlords stay up-to-date with important rent policies to avoid legal trouble and stay compliant. Additionally, it’s important for renters to know where they can find affordable housing solutions.

Setting fair rental rates takes research and due diligence. You have to consider rent control laws, compare prices with other similar rentals, and stay competitive in the market. However, if you don’t have the time to do the proper research, it can be challenging to set fair rates.

If this sounds like you, it may be time to hire a comprehensive rental property management team, like Professional Property Management in Northern Virginia. Our team of experienced property managers can help you set fair rates, find qualified tenants, maintain your properties, and ensure your rentals are compliant with federal, state, and local laws. Contact PPM today to learn more about how we can help your rental business succeed!

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