By CHRISTINE HAUGHNEY the City Room Blogger at The New York Times. November 29, 2010
The City Room blogger at The New York Times Online has been doing us all a public service. Kudos to her. She started asking what kinds of controversial demands New York City landlords make on renters, particularly those renters that need a guarantor.
As expected, the horror stories started showing up almost immediately.
Below are some of them. You can keep tabs on the new horrors as they are posted here.
They couldn’t find a 3 BR for under $3400? ! Please. If you want to live the SiTC fantasy, you gotta pay. Others of us, who could care less about a Manhattan zip code, live in far more affordable apartments, ALSO located in NYC (which for you newbie transplants, includes Upper Manhattan, as well as four other boroughs)
The last time I signed a lease I made over 40 times the rent, had career references for 10 years – which the landlord called, had no debt and an “A+ credit report” (the brokers words) and was over 30, they still demanded my father sign as guarantor. I do not believe this demand would have been made if I was a male.
When I went to law school at Seton Hall, in downtown Newark, I wanted to rent an apartment in the mostly Portuguese neighborhood known as the Ironbound. On hearing my New York accent, the Portuguese landlord seemed very reluctant to even show me the apartment. When I insisted, she begrudgingly gave me a quick two-minute viewing and then gave me an application that incredibly asked me to fill in a blank listing my nationality!
Even as a budding lawyer, I knew that this question was illegal (it was a very large apartment building with about 100 apartments).
When I filled out the application, I asked if I could leave a deposit for the first month’s rent and a security deposit of one month’s rent. The landlord refused my money and said that she would decide who gets the apartment after she finishes reviewing all of the applications she received.
It was painfully obvious that the landlord was only going to rent the apartment to a fellow Portuguese.
I left there with this feeling….”Now I know what it’s like to be Black in America. Only I don’t have to feel this way every day.”
— Michael C
Our Landlord, a pleasant Gent,
Did not ask guarantors of Rent,
But his demand, demeanor mild,
Was that we would not have a Child.
This edict we chose to ignore,
But on our oaths we promptly swore.
— Larry Eisenberg
My friend from college and I were in our mid/late 20s when we decided to live in Boston. It was a gorgeous 3 story building in which a renter was on the 1st floor, the landlord on the 2nd and us renting the 3rd floor. The landlady was an old school Italian who didn’t speak a lick of English, despite being in the US for over 30 yrs. Two requirements she had for us was to never use the front porch or front door. We were only allowed to use the back porch and back door to our apt. Our only conclusion was she wanted to monitor our movements when we left the apt. Besides, we were wild girls – my friend was a grad student who worked full time and I worked two jobs. She wanted free unlimited access to the apt and would come in with no valid reason. Would call us upstairs when we moved a chair on the floor to know “what kind of noise we were making” and went to the basement whenever when she heard us going down there to check the furnace – which was something we had to do to ensure we had enough oil heat. It was worse than living with a parole officer. Despite living in a GORGEOUS 3 bdrm, living room, dining room, EIK apt, we moved after 1 yr to an apt bulding that was way smaller but less troublesome.
I am the landlord of a condo on NJ. I don’t make any of these demands of my tenants, but I can understand the angst of the landlords in making sure tenants can pay. In my case, I became a landlord not because I wanted to, but because I had to. I had to move out of the area for personal reasons and couldn’t afford to sell my place, because, thanks to the market crash, I was underwater on the mortgage and didn’t have enough savings to cover the difference. As a landlord, I have enough savings to cover a few months of unpaid rent, but long term non-payment would be catastrophic for me. Landlords are regular people with regular financial issues too!
You try being a landlord! You give over possession of your prized asset to people you just met, and if they don’t pay, you are stuck wtih them for months on end – or even years – until you get them out. We are protecting ourselves.
John Labrador Schnugert
— John Labrador Schnugert
I had an agent claim that a landlord required EVERYBODY to have a guarantor. I make more than the 40* requirement. I actually make enough to qualify as the guarantor, but he said that didn’t matter. I suspect there was something weird going on, like it wasn’t a “real” property, but that’s what he told me.
— Kevin Galligan
This was after I rented the apartment, but my landlord explained to me that because the building was so old, it was impossible to flush toilet paper down the toilet, and hence we (and the other tenants), would be expected to place our soiled toilet tissue in garbage cans next to the toilet.
— Matthew Zito
For the Guaranty form to be valid, it usually must be notarized, and notarizations aren’t always valid across state lines. This could have been remedied, but was recently vetoed by the President. That is why some landlords require a local guarantor.
In the summer of 2003 I was told by a large NYC apartment rental company that they would not discuss renting a studio for $1,500 per month unless I had a minimum net income of $80,000. Another, smaller, landlord said no visitors after 10 pm and this was an apartment building, not a rooming house. I have an excellent credit rating and no negative information on the internet. So it was so-long NYC – I miss you, but your landlords are vicious.
I just recently moved to an apartment in Astoria, Queens. During the apartment search, one apartment that we (my roommates and I) looked out wanted a pet interview, a pet deposit (non-refundable), 8 references, credit check (with a 700 credit score being the lowest allowed), and guarantors for all signing the lease. The most ludicrous part of the entire situation was that the apartment was quite dilapidated. My friends and me quickly walked away from that apartment.
— Robert M
The most exorbitant demand my landlord has made was that I live in a maggot infested room underneath an apartment where a decomposing body had been for two weeks. It was Friday before Labor Day weekend and they didn’t see why I couldn’t just wait until Tuesday. I had to go to the cops to compel them to get an exterminator. The privilege of living with larvae was all mine for a mere $2K a month…
My girlfriend just rented the ground floor of a brownstone in Bed-stuy. The landlord clearly stipulated that the security deposit, equal to a month’s rent, would be completely non-refundable.
We are both at a loss to explain his motives. While on the one hand he has guaranteed himself a little “broker’s fee,” he has at the same time left himself with no protection against whatever damages his property might incur. This is certainly one apartment that will not be cleaned, or even so much as perfunctorily straightened-up by the tenant before moving out!
— jon greene
I don’t think requiring a combined ~$135k pre-tax for a $3500/mo apartment is unreasonable. If they can’t hit that income threshold perhaps they should not live in the UES.
It flabbergasts me when I hear the prices of rent today. There was a seeming eternity when Americans operated on the concept of the Unwritten Law Of Labor. This meant that no one would ever have to pay more than 25% of their monthly income for their domesticity.
In 1966 I earned $92. take home pay and my rent was $59. for a studio on Morton St. off 7th avenue South. I was considered a “snob” by pals whose rented on the lower East Side for more like $25.00 monthly.
This allowed me to live a decent life in Manhattan. 25% does not create homeless people. Since the Reagan Administration, real estate rose dramatically in price and now we have a new class, the Homeless, and rents that are not related at all to the earnigns of the renters.
There can never be a future for the young in this climate of greed.
Our entire 20th century of entertainers were born poor in the cities that now house only the wealthy. No talent is coming up. No great artists anymore.
The rent is too damned high!
— Richard E. Schiff
Word up, Ryan. Why do these people think they deserve a place they can’t afford?
— Johnny on the spot
One prospective landlord asked me for 3 years taxes returns, checking and savings account statements, and pay stubs. I ensuingly asked him for a copy of his mortgage and cancelled checks for proof he was paying the bank monthly. Neither of us got what we were looking for.
— John M
In 1968, as a self supporting single woman with a job that paid very well, I was asked to provide an affidavit that I was not a prostitute. Since it was a rent controlled apartment with two bedrooms for $68/month, I hastened to do so and have always wondered about the logic (prostitutes don’t lie?) and where that lovely piece of paper ended up.
A few years later an arsonist burned the building down. Could I suggest “bad karma”?
— Sherry Friend
My landlord asked for a previously unannounced $2500 in cash just before lease signing for a rent-stabilized place. I paid him.
Back in the late 90’s when I was getting my doctorate and my wife was a named partner in small law firm, I had to get a statement notarized declaring that i would grant her access to our joint checking account. So she could write the check each month. From her own account. With her money in it. This was 1998, not 1898.
— Doug Laoss
During an apartment search a few years ago, I came upon a listing in the west village, but it was a sublet. In desperation I called and made an appointment to see the apartment. When I arrived, so did no less than 15 other prospective sub-letters who were all seated in a circle around the living room. The owner of the apartment then went around one-by-one to each of us, who were asked to state what improvements we would do if accepted as a sub-tennant i.e. paint, install window treatments etc. It turned into a frenzy of offers – I walked out.
In the ’90s when I was a single female I went to an open house and thought I found the perfect inexpensive 1BR. OK, the bathroom didn’t have a sink and the shower was in the kitchen, but still, I could afford it and it was newly renovated and in downtown Manhattan. I turned in my application, among hundreds it seemed, and the landlord looked over my documents and said I would get the apartment and she would call me tomorrow. When I didn’t hear back from her the next day, I called. She said she rented it to someone else. I asked why, and she said, “It’s simple. You didn’t beg me. The couple I gave the apartment to called me and begged. That’s what I want to see in a new tenant.” I was upset that I didn’t get the apt but also felt like I dodged a bullet!
— No longer a single female
My current rental is in an unregistered divided duplex or quadriplex house, with a separated 5th unit cottage in the rear yard. When I moved in, another tenant showed me the vacant unit, and they had all the utilities for 5 units in their name. After they moved, the landlord asked me to put all the utilities in my name, and they keep finding the new tenants with no screening or legal agreement with me. Several tenants have trouble paying and I finally took bills out of my name after being owed $800. Now, the landlord regularly forgets to pay (a task which takes about 10 minutes/month) and we’ve had various utilities shut off, and didn’t replace a leaking water heater for about a month. It really bugs me that he also insists that I remove flower pots from my back steps for being visual clutter.
Northbrook tried to get us to live in our apartment while the kitchen and bathroom were renovated, rendering them unusable for weeks. They thought it would be fine to give us the key to another vacant apartment on a different floor, so we could traipse up and down on the elevator whenever we wanted to cook or bathe, or in the middle of the night to use the bathroom! And then, of course, they would raise the rent because of the “improvement.”