If you’ve ever looked for a rental in New York City, you know the process can be competitive to say the least.
With so many renters angling for apartments, you may often feel the pressure to decide immediately after seeing one. Other times, you'll need to fill out the application as soon as you've seen the apartment. Whether you’re relocating to the city for the first time or shopping for a rental upgrade, here’s our quick guide to what you should ask before signing on the dotted line.
1. How old is the building and when was the last renovation?
We all love iconic prewar charm, but when it comes to the New York market there can be a fine line between historic ambiance and just plain old. With older properties, ask how long ago basic systems—wiring, water heating, plumbing—were upgraded. With new developments, find out if all work is complete. That promised on-site gym sounds great, but not if it means construction outside your window for the next six months. Many Dixon Leasing properties undergo a basic renovation (at minimum) before hitting the market. We check systems, install hardwood floors and new tile, and provide stainless steel appliances in most units.
2. What utilities are included?
Ask if the rent includes heat, hot water, electricity and cooking gas. If you’ll be paying the utilities yourself, ask how high an average monthly bill runs and factor that in when comparing apartments. For example, a $2,000 unit with all utilities included might actually be cheaper than an $1,800 unit where you have to pay extra for utilities.
3. How much has rent increased recently?
We all know New Yorkers who have landed the perfect apartment only to see rent skyrocket a few years later. While market conditions change year to year, finding out how rent has changed in the past will offer an idea of what you can expect down the road. Find out if the apartment building is rent stabilized, which means landlords can only raise your rent a small set percentage rate each year.
4. What can I change?
The best apartment-hunters will be able to envision themselves in a space even if it’s not perfect just yet. But before you plan to put own stamp on an apartment, make sure to find out if you’re allowed to paint. Similarly, if you want to put up a temporary wall to accommodate a roommate or make any other major aesthetic changes, ask beforehand.
5. Can I have a roommate and/or sublet?
Speaking of roommates, if you plan to have one, make sure it’s allowed first. Similarly, if you think there’s a possibility you will move out before the lease term is up, ask whether subletting is allowed. Most rental leases stipulate that only the person signing the lease may live there, so if you need to find a roommate or sublet later, you may be out of luck.
6. Are pets allowed?
As for your four-legged roommates, every building has different rules. If you’re planning on bringing a cat or dog with you, be sure to ask what’s allowed before committing. At Dixon Leasing, we love your pets as much as you do and all our properties are pet-friendly for cats and dogs (up to 30 lbs with a few breed restrictions). We also don’t charge “pet rent” like many other places will.
7. How are repairs handled?
When you rent an apartment, the expectation is that the landlord will handle things like broken appliances, but you’ll want to make sure there’s a good system in place to ensure repairs happen in a timely manner. Is there a live-in super or on-site maintenance crew? Dixon Leasing has people “on call” around the clock to fix problems when they arise, day or night. There is no added fee for this professional service, and our tenants have a landlord that they can trust.
BONUS! One question you can’t ask: Is this a “safe” neighborhood?
Because of Fair Housing laws designed to prevent renters from discrimination, brokers can’t answer questions about local crime statistics or who lives in the neighborhood. Instead, do your own research. Talk to people on the block and ask if they like living there. If possible, visit the block at different times—both day and night—to make sure you’re comfortable.
Of course, you should never take any of this for granted. Before writing a check, make sure you have read the lease in full and that the terms address any concerns you have.
Start your apartment hunt today!