NYC Apartment Rental Red Flags

It’s no surprise that NYC tenants looking for an apartment rental need to be on guard for red flags. While everyone’s risk tolerance is different, here are a few key things to watch out for once you’ve honed in on a place you think you want. 

Pest Issues

This one probably doesn’t need much of an explanation. 

But having said that, it’s important to keep in mind that we DO live in a city that’s populated with way more than just us humans. It’s very likely that an unwelcome critter or two may make an appearance in your home at some point. 

So if you find out pests have been spotted in the building, you should ask what kinds of extermination and prevention measures are in place. If the building is handling it well and there haven’t been any recent reports of the issue, then the situation might be acceptable. 

However, if a building has reports of consistent pest issues without any real efforts to address it, RUN AWAY. 

Super Duper Below Market Rent

It’s not at all uncommon for a lucky renter to score a great deal on an apartment in a great area. But if it seems “too good to be true” (like, oh, say $1500 for a one bedroom in the West Village), it almost ALWAYS is. (link to YouTube scoring a deal video)

If you’re able to view the apartment in person, be sure to double check everything and find out as much information as you can before you sign the lease.

Sight Unseen Rental

In a super competitive market, it can be really tempting to try to rent an apartment sight unseen. There’s a number of reasons why this may not be the best idea. But if you understand the risk and are comfortable with it, then try your luck. 

However, if a landlord or agent is pressuring you to proceed with signing a lease without having seen the apartment in person, then your fraud senses should be tingling. 

If you can’t view it in person, then at a minimum ask for a virtual tour. Ideally via a “live” method such as Zoom or FaceTime. 

DOB Violations 

If a building has a number of violations with the department of buildings (or a few major violations), then you should definitely reconsider your decision. Even if a building is well intentioned in getting the issues resolved, doing so could take a while to remedy. And if you’re only going to live in a place for 1 or 2 years, you may not want to stick around for that. 

There’s No Actual Lease

Beware of rentals where there’s no physical lease. Not having a lease isn’t “wrong” in and of itself. But not having one makes things more difficult for a potential tenant because duties, expectations and rules aren’t clearly defined. There’s a good chance you’re going to have a decent relationship with your landlord. But you really ought to have something in writing to protect you in case things go south. 

How to Avoid a Lemon or Getting Scammed

Fortunately, there ARE ways you can protect yourself from either getting defrauded or renting a bad apartment. 

The NY Department of State has put out a great list of tips on what to do to prevent you from becoming a victim of a rental scam. You can check out the list here.

Additionally, you can use the Department of Buildings’s building information search to find out about a building’s violations history. And other sites like NYC’s open data portal can give you all sorts of info such as noise and pest complaints in an area

And finally, working with a trustworthy agent is always a good call as well 😉 

P.S. If you’re new to renting in NYC, then I recommend that you go check out my Renter Resources page!

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