An open letter to all apartment landlords and realtors:
I knew that the search for my own New York City apartment would be tedious, but I didn't expect that the owners and realtors would be the ones obstructing this process.
Since over one third of U.S residents are renters, including half of New York City, I'm sure many people know what I'm referring to.
The experience of getting an apartment opened my eyes to the problems with renting. Landlords need to make some changes to improve this process.
So listen up realtors and landlords — here are five things you should do to make the experience of apartment hunting better for everyone.
1. Make credit check application fees voluntary.
While it has been documented that credit reports are error-ridden, if you still insist on using a credit report to check my rental qualifications, then I should have the option of purchasing this document myself.
All of the apartments that I visited required that I pay an application fee, which meant that I paid the realtor or owner to get my credit report. Even though most credit reports cost under $20, many realtors required me to pay them upwards of $100 to do this simple task.
Essentially, you might be paying $100 to apply for an apartment, along with a dozen other people. And only one of you will actually get the apartment. This can be especially unfair for low-income families who keep paying this application fee until they get approved for an apartment.
An alternative would be to give the potential tenant the option of retrieving their credit report. However, most of the realtors I met with wouldn't allow this. I literally printed out a certified credit report, and one realtor refused to see it because she wanted me to pay her $100 to print out the very report I had in my hand.
2. Be upfront if the viewing is with a group.
I don't care if you have the hottest apartment on the market and your phone keeps ringing with tenants who want to live there. If you plan on showing a rental to numerous clients at the same time, please give us a heads-up first.
When I saw one apartment, I was surprised when I found four other people who were waiting there to see the exact same unit.
I prefer private viewings of apartments so that I can ask personal questions and receive personal attention from the landlord or realtor.
But if you prefer a public viewing, at the very least, inform me so that I can keep my expectations in check.
3. Be honest in the ad.
Every apartment is unique. But if there are any odd abnormalities, please include them in the ad.
I'm OK if the apartment doesn't have a closet, but please tell me before I see the apartment. Or if the apartment lacks its own bathroom, please put that in the ad before I even contact you.
I spotted many abnormalities during my apartment search. One landlord wanted me to purchase my own air conditioner because there was just a space in the wall without one. Another apartment lacked a mailbox. One apartment only had a mini-refrigerator and no kitchen stove. All of those odd things were not listed in the ads.
If you were to simply list these unique properties in the ad, it would save both of us a lot of time.
4. Take into account a renter’s net worth to see if they are qualified.
Most owners check a potential tenant's annual income to see if they are qualified to pay for a rental. In New York City, some landlords expect a tenant to earn 40 times the monthly rent. For example, a $2000 apartment requires a tenant who earns $80,000 at their job.
If you're going to judge my financial health, then I ask that you also go beyond just my income and credit and look at my entire net worth. Like many people, my finances go beyond just employment income. I also have dividends, stocks, bank accounts, bonds and assets that have value.
It's only fair that you examine my full financial picture instead of just a part of it.
5. Don’t expect the tenant to move in immediately.
I understand that you, the owner, might be losing money with an empty apartment, however it absolutely absurd to expect me to move into your apartment immediately.
I began my apartment search over one month before my current lease expired, but when I called a realtor about a new apartment on the market — thirty-three days before I had to move — I was told they were looking for someone to move into the unit tomorrow.
Unless you plan on helping me pack or move, tomorrow isn't going to work.
At the same time, many owners require tenants to give 30 to 60 days of notice before vacating an apartment. In other words, I had to give a notice of leaving my current apartment weeks before I could actually look for a new one.
I ask that all realtors and landlords be reasonable in this regard by allowing their new tenants a window of at least two weeks from paying the security deposit and actually moving in.
The good news is that I found an apartment that fits my needs, and the search is finally over. Now it's time for the real challenge: moving.