Although specifics vary by jurisdiction, rent control is a restriction on chargeable rent by a landlord in a given area—generally imposed by a municipality. Only five states and the District of Columbia currently have active rent control laws on the books—either statewide or at the municipal level. Economists debate the efficacy of rent control in facilitating access to affordable housing, with critics arguing that such policies promote investment in commercial real estate and disincentivize proper upkeep due to poor returns for landlords. Proponents counter that rent control is a critical tool in battling the rising cost of housing in the United States by ensuring tenants, particularly those on fixed incomes, can avoid potentially catastrophic rent increases.
[Last updated in August of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]