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):
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:
All posts about renting:
I have watched people forego beautiful, perfect apartments because of the word “fee.” It’s like the word “tax” — neither is inherently bad, but we view them as bad. Also, as you may not realize, rent is basically just a fee, since you do not build equity and it’s not going towards anything you own. You are paying for a service, just like if you’re paying an agent to help you secure an apartment (because it’s not just clicking a button and voila, all done).
Today’s post is about the biggest proposed change that DIDN’T end up in the final bill: “good cause eviction,” or, as some people are calling it, “universal rent control.” Good cause eviction would have forced a landlord to show “good cause” when choosing not to renew a lease, meaning the tenant would be entitled to an annual renewal.
Landlords aside, for those of us who work as brokers/realtors/agents there are some downsides and there will be some growing pains, but whining isn’t really my thing (jk jk). Since I’ve already covered what I don’t like, here are some potential upsides for real estate agents that the industry isn’t discussing, because it doesn’t mesh with their “boo hoo, the world is ending” storyline.
I want to take a step back to talk about what I see as a fundamental disagreement about housing in NYC. On one side we have Julia Salazar who thinks that housing should be completely de-commodified. I vehemently disagree with this. On the other side we have developers and landlords and the “industry” who think that everything becoming increasingly luxury is the end goal. I disagree with this just as strongly.
I’ve written about what the law actually says and how annoyed I am with the hyperbolic reactions to it, but today I want to dig into the things I think they did WRONG in this bill. Because while I am staunchly pro-tenant when it comes to slumlords who take advantage, there are elements of this law that will unfairly burden responsible landlords.
I’m still a little annoyed by the endless headlines about how bad this deal is for the industry, and a lot of what I’d call clickbait, propaganda, and whining around it, but I want to break down what ACTUALLY happened, because facts > feelings. And there’s a lot of info that is relevant to you, the NY renter.
Everyone within the real estate industry is entitled to his or her opinion. And I know that my opinion is biased. I also know that many spokespeople from the real estate industry are biased because they have never lived in a rent stabilized apartment and probably have never seen the lived reality of how many major landlords ACTUALLY behave.
In NYC Zillow goes by a different name: StreetEasy. StreetEasy originally started to make the rental process more transparent, but after being purchased by Zillow really went the opposite direction and began intentionally misleading consumers.
Do I want you to work with someone you trust? Yes. But are you going to? Probably not. I can talk until I’m blue in the face about all the reasons you should bring your own TRUSTED advisor to the table, but at the end of the day, if you want to DIY it, here are some tips and tricks that will make you look smart and hopefully not get totally screwed over.
A city council member, Keith Powers, is proposing a bill that would drop broker fees on rentals from 15% to a maximum 8.3%, or one month’s rent. While I completely support the thought process behind it — reducing the prohibitive fees that come with getting an apartment in NYC — I’m concerned that it won’t have the intended effect.
As a tenant, it is very important that you look up your apartment to see if it is rent stabilized, and, if so, request your apartment’s payment history. You may not know your apartment is rent stabilized, which is why I tell you to look it up. You may be paying an illegal rent, and you may be able to get that rent returned with damages and/or interest.
None of this is guaranteed to work, but if you do your research and are prepared for a conversation, you will at least seem like you’re actually capable of moving out and moving on, so the landlord may not want to call your bluff. Their biggest leverage is that moving sucks, but you can use the below to level the playing field.
I’m going to clarify something I’m often asked about regarding different real estate companies. Zillow and Redfin may seem similar, but they are completely different types of companies. Meanwhile, many of the new rental-related startups in NYC are actually more similar to Redfin in their business models than Zillow. Confused? I’ll break it down.
I am still in the midst of my DHCR complaint (sent in a 76 page answer last week) and will tread lightly rather than give too many details before it is resolved, but I want to share my multitudes of experience with you, because not everyone has time to go all “A Beautiful Mind” on housing law.
Today I’m writing something short and practical for all you renters out there, about your rights as a tenant if your landlord sells the building/apartment in which you live. It may also be helpful for anyone who owns and sublets/is considering renting out their place.
For a lack of heat or hot water 311 will reach out to the landlord IMMEDIATELY to make sure it gets fixed within 48 hours. For situations like mice, leaks, work without a permit, or a landlord who isn’t making required repairs, you can file a complaint and they will, eventually, send someone out to validate it and slap the owner with a violation.
While the more compounding complications the harder the transaction will be, there are plenty of places you and your pet(s) can feel safe and secure. Just know that you won’t be able to go everywhere, and it would be in your best interest to work with an agent (and likely pay them a fee) so you avoid any pitfalls or end up in a bad situation.
Last week I received the below email from StreetEasy. The building referenced, 62 E 1st, was one of the first listings I rented. It was a $5400 one-bedroom (I know, I know) in a condo building, meaning it was a sublet directly from the owner. I have nothing to do with the building itself, and any other listing would be completely different from mine.
Sometimes only the landlord, seller, or buyer is represented, and the other side comes to the table without their own agent. Or sometimes the buyer’s and seller’s agents work at the same brokerage firm on the same team. In these instances, the same agent/team represents both sides in what is known as “dual agency.”
Heat is free for many apartments in the city (and required from October 1 to May 1). While not true for new development, older buildings generally have one boiler that heats all the apartments, so you have limited temperature control but don’t have to pay for heating oil or gas.
Along with our perceived selfishness and rudeness, there’s an idea of New Yorkers as unwilling to settle for less, our “go big or go home” mentality driving us to compete ruthlessly with one another, to send back dishes at restaurants, to scream at assistants, and to whine and moan about any perceived dip in quality.