- Shadé Smith signed his lease in Manhattan before seeing his unit in person – now he regrets it.
- Spotting red flags early is an important way to get rid of suspicious ads.
- Here are some tips to avoid getting stuck in a bad housing situation.
Event coordinator Shadé Smith had a tough introduction to the ruthless New York City rental market after spending 12 months in an apartment she describes as a “nightmare.”
In a competitive rental market, apartment hunters must be tired of the lengths agents and brokers can go to to sell their listings – a keen eye can separate diamonds from duds.
blacksmith – who rented her apartment unseen before relocating from Texas – she told Insider that she was the victim of misleading photos and an inaccurate description of her Manhattan apartment on a popular apartment hunting site.
However, she decided to trust her future landlord’s words and “take a leap of faith” by virtually signing a lease before her big move.
After experiencing a year of communication problems from her landlord, including a lack of responsiveness to maintenance requests, he said he learned to spot the warning signs before signing a lease.
With Smith’s story in mind, here are some key red flags to avoid when searching.
Sign a lease on sight
Smith learned this lesson the hard way after he decided to sign his lease without even taking a virtual tour of his apartment. After her requests for more photos and videos went unanswered, she says she felt compelled to sign the lease for “a great deal.”
“There were so many things they neglected to tell us about the building,” Smith said. “They lied about having an elevator, the location and most of my maintenance requests were ignored.”
“If you can’t visit a unit in person, there are people in the bigger cities who visit the apartments as a side gig,” Smith added.
New York-based real estate agent Rachel Dunn offers this service to those who are unable to see an apartment in person, according to an Insider report.
“I know how hard it is to move out of state. I always tell people to handle it for free from me if an ad looks weird,” Dunn said.
Claims of “no commission” or proportional rent
Manhattan real estate agent Keyan Sanai, who has admitted his role in attracting unsuspecting prospective renters, told The Guardian that renters should be especially wary of potentially false claims such as “no brokerage fees.”
“The script is basically to lie to people: put on [an ad] that says “no commission” and once you put them in, say, “Oh, it’s rented, but I have something else,” he said of his managers’ attitude towards making more money.
The goal, according to Sanai, is to “pump the fear and pressure” of potential tenants into signing a lease.
Sanai said it has adopted a more ethical strategy for attracting customers, but warned that other brokers are taking advantage of anxious residents struggling to find housing in an unstable market.
“People are more desperate. There is very little regulation,” Sanai told The Guardian. “I’ve heard stories of people saying, ‘We really wanted this place, but we’re pretty sure the middleman took cash from someone.’
Negative or absent reviews from past or current tenants
“I always try to talk to a previous tenant or someone who lives in the building so I can get a real idea of how landlords interact with their tenants,” Smith told Insider.
In his current apartment, maintenance requests went months without being addressed. Smith said she and her roommates have been experiencing broken appliances and parasites for weeks with no response from her landlord.
Poor communication from a building manager or owner
Most of the time, a landlord’s communication skills before signing the lease can be indicative of how they will respond to problems you may encounter as a tenant.
A hard-to-reach landlord before you’ve finalized any paperwork may prove even more elusive once you’re bound by the lease.
Excessive pressure to apply while on tour
Apartment tours are the best way to find out if a unit is right for you, but the Rentable real estate blog says beware of tours that feel rushed or under pressure.
Just because an apartment looks good at first glance doesn’t mean you should apply right away. Take your time, ask questions and shop around.
“You don’t want to end up in a situation where you are tied to these people looking for every opportunity to get more money out of you,” Smith told Insider.