Renters Tips and Tricks

Published on Mar 8, 2012

Renters tips and tricks: there's no end to the advice available on the internet to help you find and secure your dream home. Heck, the Urban Edge Apartment Guide for NYC No Fee Apartments is, in my opinion, since I helped write it, the best one-stop source in town for all sorts of renter's knowledge, and it's only a click away! That said, there are always bits of useful information that come trickling in, or handy reminders of things that you might overlook, in the stress and the excitement of searching for, signing for, and moving in to your new NYC rental apartment.

The first of our three renters tips deals with tenant blacklists. Many NYC landlords use the tenant screening report as a supplement to the standard credit report, and one of the key "red flags" is if your name has ever appeared on any sort of lawsuit that went before Housing Court... even if you, for instance, joined in with a group of fellow tenants to sue a landlord for an illegal practice, and even if you won, that action could still cause a negative tenant screening report.

Here's the the thing, though: by law a prospective landlord has to tell you, in writing, if you've been turned down for a NYC rental apartment because of a tenant screening report, as well as giving you the reason for rejection, and the name of the company that generated the report. Armed with this information, it gets a little bit easier to clear your name if there's been some sort of clerical error.

Keep in mind, however, that some landlords don't care if you won the lawsuit or not, or if it was you or the landlord that filed the case. The mere fact that you were in housing court, no matter the reason, can be construed by some landlords as you potentially being a "problem" tenant. Which means, if you were rejected because of your involvement in a housing court case, you probably won't get the landlord to change his or her mind, even if you won the case.

It may not seem fair, but it's currently legal for landlords to do so, which is why we always recommend you try to resolve any landlord-tenant issues without going to court.

The City-Wide Task Force on Housing Court website has lots more about tenant screening reports, and is definitely worth looking over before you begin your hunt... and certainly if you've been hit by landlord rejection due to a Housing Court matter. 

Two other items caught my attention recently, about less-than-sexy but nevertheless important topics of renters insurance and brokers fees. The second of our renters tips today deals with brokers fees.

The first thing you should know about brokers fees is this: every apartment listed on Urban Edge is what we call a true no-fee rental apartment, meaning that you are always dealing directly with the landlord, property manager, or leasing manager.

Many no-fee rental apartments you see elsewhere actually do involve a broker, so there's still a fee involved, because brokers need to be paid by someone. These deals are called owner-paid fees, or OPs, and it means the owner is paying the brokers fee instead of you.

While having the owner pay the brokers fee may not seem like a bad deal, an owner paying a fee is much less likely to offer any sort of concessions (e.g. free rent). Most of the time in NYC, that vacancy rate is low enough that landlords don't offer such concessions, although they were common a couple of years ago in the economic downturn.

An exception to this might be a brand new building, where the owner has hundreds of units to fill and may offer both an OP and concessions to the tenant (although sometimes it is one or the other). So if you're dealing with a good broker, and he's only showing you no fee apartments, and you don't feel like you're losing any potential concessions, then by all means use the broker... you're, in essence, getting his or her services for free.

Our third of today's three renters tips deals with renters insurance. Both the Times and BrickUnderground had nice overviews on the subject at the end of last year, much of which simply reiterates what Urban Edge provides on our renters insurance page (basically: you should get it, it's cheaper than you'd think, and there are a few different options) but when it comes to something as important as, oh... everything you own, you might as well take a few minutes and get all the facts you can.   

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