Signing a lease is stressful. Maybe you’re anxious to get settled in, or you want to close it before someone else puts in a stronger application. Regardless of your situation, rushing the lease signing process could be a costly mistake. We all know not to judge a book by its cover, which is why it’s important to get the inside scoop on your building and landlord before signing the dotted line.
At openigloo, we’ve received thousands of reviews from New Yorkers who are sharing their experiences about renting in their buildings. Some expressed regret about getting reeled in by an apartment's new renovation only to learn the landlord was a tad overbearing: “If you move into this apartment be aware of how utterly inappropriate and unprofessional the landlord is. And you may think to yourself that you really love this apartment and that it will be fine and that you’ll just avoid them at all costs. But you can't.”
Another renter was disappointed to learn that their building was the constant target of package theft only after they moved in: “Don't be fooled by the security cameras, as they do not work. Sadly, me and my partner only learned of this after we had some packages stolen. When we reached out to management, they indicated that the cameras had not worked in some time. I guess the criminals are aware of this.”
Here are 3 things you should check before signing your next lease.
1. Talk to Other Tenants or Read Building Reviews
No one knows what it’s like to live in a building better than other tenants. If you’re seeing an apartment in person, try and talk to some of the neighbors - or even better, the person who currently occupies the unit you like. They can share invaluable insight about the rent, the unit, how the building is managed, and why they’re leaving. If you don’t come across any neighbors, you can also read reviews online about the building and landlord. On openigloo, tenants are sharing detailed reviews and answering questions like how the building ranks in categories like cleanliness, heat, water pressure, and more. Renters are also sharing detailed comments about the pros and cons of their rental experiences. If you can’t find any reviews for the building you’re interested in, check other buildings in the landlord’s portfolio. This will give you a sense about how they manage their other buildings.
A renter shares the pros and cons of their building on the openigloo app.
2. Check City Data on the Building & Landlord
New York City has dozens of departments that collect data on buildings and landlords. Department of Buildings, Department of Finance, Housing Preservation & Development, The Division of Housing and Community Renewal and the list goes on. By checking city sources you can learn who your landlord is, how many buildings they own, if they have a history with building violations, bedbugs, litigation, and eviction.
To make this research process a little easier, openigloo has compiled all this data into one place. Just type any address into the openigloo app and you can get a snapshot of all the city data that’s available on that property and landlord. One renter shared that accessing this data helped them avoid a nightmare building: “I was about to sign a lease and then found out the apartments had lead paint violations that the landlord didn’t disclose”.
City violations presented on the openigloo app.
3. Read the Fine Print
Never sign your lease without reading it all. We know leases can be long and overwhelming, but it’s important to make sure the lease doesn’t include any strange clauses that go against housing laws. A renter wrote us recently to share some of the clauses their landlord included in the lease to see if it was typical. The landlord wanted the tenant to pay for professional cleaning of the apartment 2 times per month. Additionally the lease stipulated that the landlord could conduct inspections every 4 months and have access to the apartment 3 months before the lease termination to begin showing the unit to other tenants. While there is nothing illegal about these clauses, it’s far from typical and could result in a contentious relationship with your landlord if you were to sign without being fully aware of their expectations. If there is something in your lease that you’re unsure about, you can ask the landlord, the broker, or leverage various tenant hotlines in NYC, such as the Met Council on Housing.
Renting in NYC is not easy and signing a lease is stressful. But signing a lease is a big financial commitment and likely your largest expense, so it’s crucial that you have as much information as possible before making a decision. Be sure to check other tenant references, access available city data, and ensure your lease is fair and reasonable.
Have a rental experience to share? Submit an anonymous review about your building on the openigloo app, and help a future renter find (or avoid) their next apartment!