Looking for a RENTAL?

Here’s a handy guide IN CASE you decide not to work with an agent (but you should work with an agent):

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But I DON’t want to work wtih anyone!

If you don’t, you aren’t bringing your own advocate to the table, and you are going directly to someone who works for the landlord. And no matter how prepared, savvy, and good at negotiation you are, you’re going to be the underdog. Landlords hold all the cards and their agents know this business better than you. It may turn out fine, and it may not; there’s no way to know in advance. Bringing your agent could cost you nothing or it could cost you up to a month’s rent; there’s no way to know that either. What do I tell my friends? It’s totally up to them, but for many the potential cost is worth it, especially if working with a tenant advocate like me. Related posts:

But I already have a start-up finding me an apartment without a broker!

I hate to break it to you, but you’re probably incorrect. If you are using a company like Loftey or Triplemint, you are working with a real estate agent. If someone you emailed on StreetEasy or another aggregator or building site reaches out to you, you are working with an agent. Since, for good reason, NYC rental agents have a pretty bad reputation, some new companies are distancing themselves from the term while still employing licensed brokers. Others do not employ agents directly, but sell your information as a “lead” to someone else. If you’re working with one anyway, wouldn’t you rather choose an agent you like? Related posts:

But I don’t want to pay a fee!

Agents work 100% on commission, so fees are how they eat, pay rent, afford to buy their own health insurance, etc. This is their job, and you can’t expect them to do their job for free. Sometimes a landlord pays some of it, and sometimes it all falls on the tenant. It’s apartment specific, as is what the listing agent will charge direct applicants. If you only plan to stay somewhere for a year or two and feel confident without representation, I can support trying the no-fee, look-by-yourself route, even though it limits you to a quarter of total inventory. But if you plan to stay longer, you often end up spending less total by paying a fee up front. Because you know that landlords aren’t paying their agents and making apartments “no fee” out of the kindness of their hearts; they are adding some of this cost to the rent. Related posts:

But I can already see all the inventory on StreetEasy!

Sort of. StreetEasy is an aggregator, meaning it doesn’t have its own inventory, but instead shows what brokerages, landlords, and management companies post. Because the general public searches there first, StreetEasy and its owner, Zillow, have been able to charge whatever they want to host these rental listings. This year they upped it to $4.50/day and agents finally got fed up, so now many listings go up on other sites first. By just checking StreetEasy and other aggregators, you’re not seeing 100% of available apartments. And regardless, an agent’s role is getting you the keys to your next home, not finding the listing online. Related posts:

Looking for info?

I heard new rent laws were passed. What happened?

The biggest changes that affect all tenants are that landlords can no longer charge more than one month of security, that they need to return your security deposit within 14 days of move-out with an itemized list of damage for any deductions, and that tenants are entitled to 30-90 days’ notice before a non-renewal of lease or significant increase depending on how long they’ve lived in the apartment. There are other changes, like a $20 limit on credit checks and the outlawing of tenant blacklists, that are more nebulous and not having much of an impact. And there are changes to rent controlled and stabilized apartments, with the elimination of decontrol and vacancy increases, an expiration date for increases due to IAI’s and MCI’s, and more subtle changes to the DHCR’s reach and housing court/overcharge procedures. Read more than you ever wanted to know at the many links below. Related posts:

How do I know if my apartment is regulated, and what does that mean?

It’s a fairly simple process to request your apartment’s rent history and find out if it is or ever was rent controlled or stabilized. These types of apartments are highly sought after, as they offer more stability than free-market units. Rent on regulated apartments can only go up a certain percentage per year, which is decided annually, and has recently hovered around 1%. In addition, landlords are required to offer the tenant an annual renewal. In exchange for these limits and regulations, landlords receive tax benefits. But some landlords will circumvent the law and charge market rent while still claiming rent stabilization to the state, so it’s always better to check your apartment’s status and arm yourself with knowledge. Why? Read about the potential reasons you’d care at the links below. Related posts:

I’m having issues with my landlord. What are my rights as a tenant? (or vice versa)

So much depends on the specific issues and the type of lease involved that quite often tenants and landlords do not know their rights and obligations. If you are having problems at a legal level, you should always speak to an attorney who specializes in landlord/tenant law. For general complaints and disagreements, the state also provides a lot of resources online. I’ve outlined some of my experience, personally and professionally, with the rules of renting and problems that arise between landlords and tenants. And my door is always open if you have questions. I’ll answer what I can, and advise if I think it should be escalated to a legal authority. Related posts:

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