So you want to find an apartment in New York City ? To say it can be challenging is an understatement however, by doing your homework and following these tips, you can be sure to have a successful apartment hunting trip.
Have a List of Questions for Your Leasing Agent
Stopping by an apartment complex unannounced is not always a good idea. By calling ahead and making an appointment, your leasing agent will have time to prepare for the meeting. Just as the leasing agent will be asking a number of questions and having you fill out an application to learn about your suitability as a tenant, you should be conducting your own screening interview to determine if the apartment is the best option for you.
Some potential questions you might want to ask are:
- How old are the appliances?
- Is the property in a rent stabilization area?
- What are the fees and deposits?
- What amenities are available?
- What is the policy on pets?
- What are the quiet hours?
Before signing any lease, make sure all the information provided by your leasing agent is reflected in the lease terms.
Read Your Lease
You would be surprised how many people do not read their leases. A lease is a legal contract between you and the landlord and spells out responsibilities and how disputes are to be handled, as well as the consequences of breaking a lease.
- Does the lease have the correct property address and the landlord’s name and address?
- Are the agreed monthly rent, due date and mentioned in the contract?
- Are utilities included in the monthly rent?
- What are the restrictions on number of guests, pets, or operating a home-based business?
- What happens if you break the lease?
- Does the lease automatically renew at the end of the term, or must the tenant give notice to renew?
- Can you sublet or assign the lease to someone else?
Moreover, if you are sharing an apartment with someone, having your name on the lease gives you certain rights. If your name is not on the lease and the other tenant leaves, you will have to vacate the apartment as well.
Know Your Rights as a Tenant
Be sure to check your lease for specifics on how often your landlord can enter your apartment and what type of notice is required. If the wording is ambiguous, you can ask to have it modified to include language regarding this issue. Tenants are allowed to change the locks on their rental property, however, you are required to provide your landlord with a duplicate key.
If you are considering renting an apartment that is rent-stabilized, you will want to be sure the following items are addressed before signing a lease:
- If applicable, ask your landlord to include a rent stabilization rider in your lease. This should specify the last rent for the apartment, as well as the tenant’s and the landlord’s responsibilities according to the rent stabilization law.
- Your landlord is required to negotiate the rent if you are the first tenant in a previously rent-controlled apartment. You have 90 days to challenge the rent by using the Fair Market Rent Appeal process.
- If your apartment building was operating under a 421-a or J-51 tax incentive program, the rent is regulated under the rent stabilization law for 10-20 years.
Check out the Landlord
Let’s face it, a landlord can be your best friend or your worst nightmare. You don’t exactly have a choice of who your landlord will be; however, there are a few things you can do to find out what kind of landlord you are dealing with before you sign the lease.
Take a walk around the apartment complex and talk to any tenants you run into. Asking a few simple questions can save you the potential headaches of dealing with a difficult landlord down the road.
Check out Your Neighbors
While you’re checking out your landlord you might as well check out your neighbors. While this is not for everyone, it can shed considerable light on the kind of neighbors you may be living near. So how do you do this without being assertive? It’s quite simple really. Take a deep breath, knock on your neighbor’s door, and introduce yourself as a potential tenant in the building looking to learn a little bit about the property. Most people don’t mind helping, but keep your questions brief and to the point. You can learn a great deal about someone by having a casual conversation with them.