Landlords in NYC tend to be very picky about prospective rental tenants. They ask for multiple pieces of identification, your financial records and even letters of recommendation from previous landlords before they even present you with a lease to sign. In such a hot market as NYC, it can be so difficult finding an apartment that you jump at the first opportunity to grab one.
But rather than jumping before you look, why not take a leaf out of the landlord’s playbook and do some research of your own. It’s important to know what you’re getting into before you sign a lease. At first glance, a home might seem perfect but if something is wrong you could be in for a long year. Fortunately, there’s plenty of online recourses to help you research the building and landlord before you sign on the dotted line. Make sure you do the right research before you risk your money and patience.
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Research your landlord
Most landlords in NYC are decent people but there are a few to watch out for. Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to determine who they are. The office of New York City Public Advocate Letitia keeps a landlord watchlist of the worst landlords in the city. This is a list of the cities 100 worst landlords and allows you to search by landlord/management or building name. It also keeps a list of the top ten worst buildings in the city. If you see a property on the list that you’re considering, then run away fast.
For more information, there are a few crowdsourced websites that can provide landlord reviews. The most popular is Rate My Landlord, Review ReviewMyLandlord.com, and WhoseYourLandlord.com. As with most review sites, the info is provided by tenants sharing their own experiences so don’t believe everything you read.
Investigate the building
You can make things easy by having NYC government agencies do the work for you. Check out the Department of Buildings and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development for any complaints lodged against a building. This also includes any DOB violations and Environmental Control Board violations. Make sure to take special note of any ECB violations as these indicate more severe issues such as mold or pest infestations.
Check for bedbugs
Once you’ve got bed bugs it can be a huge pain and expense to get rid of them. NYC landlords are required by law to disclose if whether the property has bed bugs are not, so it should be enough to simply ask. But if you suspect your landlord may be hiding something you can check the Bed Bug Registry.
The site is crowdsourced by other people, so you can’t always be sure of its accuracy but it’s a useful starting point. Simply type in the address of the building your researching and any reported cases will appear along with nearby buildings that have bed bugs. If your building comes up, mention it to the landlord and ask how (or if?) they addressed the problem.
Consider renting a condo
Choosing a condo may be more expensive but if you’re planning to stay for more than a year the price is worth it. Condo owners tend to have a larger interest in keeping the property in good condition as they’ve made a larger investment. They also tend to be more attentive to your needs and concerns as a renter than a multi-property career landlord.