The most crucial component of apartment hunting in New York City is going into the rental market prepared – knowing what your needs are in comparison to your wants.
Manage your expectations. The newer the apartment, the appliances, the facilities and conveniences – like proximity to a subway or even NYU, means a higher price. Elevators and a doorman add to the price as well. Be open to the possibility of having to live in Brooklyn, Queens or even New Jersey to get a better price and more space.
Know your wants from your must haves — more than one bathroom or bedroom, quiet neighborhood, closet space, safety of the neighborhood, building amenities; Basically, go into your search knowing what you can live with and what you can’t live without!
Terms to Know
The New York City housing market has unique terminology that is commonly used to describe the buildings, apartment types, and amenities. Additionally, there are specific terms referring to leasing and renting. We’ve provided further information to help you familiarize yourself with commonly used language in the real estate market.
Types of Buildings
Doorman Elevator Building
Doorman buildings are typically more expensive, often offering a range of amenities and a doorman and/or concierge is on duty 24 hours a day, monitoring the entrance to the building and surrounding area.
This type of building is often smaller than a building with a doorman. Entry into the building may be accessed by voice or video intercom. This arrangement adds security without the cost of providing a full-time doorman. Acceptance of deliveries and packages when the tenant is not home is usually not provided in this type of building.
Buildings under six stories are not required to provide elevator service. Walkups can include different types of buildings. If you are looking at an apartment in a walk-up, it’s a good idea to visit the building at night and at different times of the day to get an idea how safe the building appears and how safe you would feel living in it. Also, consider the price differential between a 1st floor and say a 4th or 5th floor apartment.
Alcove Studio (ALC)
A studio apartment unit annexed with an additional and smaller alcove space, which often forms an L shape. Screens or other partitions are optionally used for privacy, creating a separate sleeping area/bedroom.
Brownstone/Townhouse (BSTN, TWNHSE, TH)
Four to five story high buildings that were built in the late 1800’s through the early 1900’s as single-family homes. Generally, apartments in these types of buildings can have high ceilings, fireplaces, gardens or ‘garden views’ (if on a high floor and in the back) and hardwood floors. Prices range from mid-priced to expensive, depending on location, size and renovations. Virtually none have a doorman.
Classic 6, 7, or 8 (CLASSIC 6/7/8)
The term classic followed by a number refers to the number of rooms in an apartment. For example, a ‘Classic 6′ would be a two bedroom with a living room, dining room, kitchen and maid’s room. Bathrooms are not included when counting the rooms of an apartment.
A condominium apartment is real property. A buyer receives a deed to the property, and owns the apartment outright. By law, there cannot be an underlying mortgage on the property. A unit owner must pay a monthly common charge to cover the costs of maintaining and running the building. Since a condo is real property, the owner is responsible for paying real estate taxes. If the unit owner has a mortgage, the bank collects 1/12 of the yearly real estate taxes every month and pays the city directly out of an escrow account. If the owner pays all cash and has no mortgage, the city will bill them twice a year.
Convertible/Flexible 1,2,3, or 4 Bedrooms
An apartment that is convertible or flexible in terms of the number of bedrooms it can provide. For example, a convertible two bedroom is a one bedroom apartment with enough space to partition off an area for the second bedroom. The terms ‘convertible’ and ‘flex’ are used interchangeably.
The resident/shareholder then has a proprietary lease for the apartment. It is important to note that co-ops often have an underlying mortgage on the entire building, meaning the tenant will have to pay a monthly share of the mortgage along with the other costs associated with running the building. The amount of shares a resident owns is determined by their apartment’s size, floor, light, and views.
An arrangement whereby one rents an apartment with one or more individuals who already live in the apartment.
An arrangement whereby a legal tenant of an apartment rents part or all of the apartment to someone else. They pay rent directly to the ‘over-tenant’ and have no contact with the original landlord.
A studio apartment consists of a single room plus a bathroom. It functions as the kitchen, living room and bedroom. The kitchen area or “kitchenette” may be divided from the main living area, or simply be a counter and cabinets along one wall. The bathroom will be the only separate room in a studio apartment.
Housing Features / Components
This is the bottom of the “L” in an L-shaped space. It’s a good place for your bed, or you can use it as a sitting or dining area. It can be made private with a screen, drape, or temporary wall.
Security Bars installed on windows to prevent brake-ins.
A bulkhead is the room on the roof that some duplexes have as their second floor.
A caretaker of an apartment building or hotel; who lives on the premises, oversees people leaving and entering the building, handles mail, and may even act as a janitor or porter.
Refers to an apartment that has an elevator that opens directly into it. One must use a key to operate the elevator. This feature is found mostly in lofts and penthouses.
Apartments with high ceilings will sometimes have a ‘loft area’ built into them. A ‘loft area’ is a platform constructed over the living space for the purpose of extra storage, a sleeping area, a home office, etc. Generally you can access the area with a staircase or ladder. ‘Loft areas’ are very useful because they make use of otherwise wasted vertical space.
A bed that is built into the wall or attached to the wall and pulled down when needed. A popular piece in studios, Murphy Beds are a great space saver and come in a variety of styles and price ranges.
A platform at least six feet above the floor, containing a bed. (See ‘Loft Areas’)
Refers to the condition of the apartment. An apartment is ‘Triple-Mint’ if the apartment, kitchen and bathrooms are all in mint condition.
A location that requires two means of transportation to get to Manhattan (ex: a bus and a train).
Leasing and Renting
A lease assignment conveys to another person all the tenant’s rights to occupy the apartment. A tenant may not assign his/her lease without the written consent of the owner, which may be unconditionally withheld without cause. However, an owner who unreasonably refuses to grant permission to assign the lease, must release the tenant from the lease upon request of the tenant upon 30 days notice. If the owner reasonably withholds consent, the lease may not be assigned and the tenant will not be released from the lease.
A state licensed sales agent who acts for property owners and prospective purchasers in Real Estate transactions. Acts as a guide in searching for apartments or homes for prospective renters/buyers.
When brokers are working on a ‘co-broke’ basis, they are sharing exclusive listings with each other. In a co-broke transaction, one broker will represent the buyer or renter, while the other will represent the owner of the property. The commission is usually split 50/50.
Fixture Fee/Fix Fee
A fee that the tenant pays for the appliances provided in a dwelling.
A guarantor is a person who assumes financial responsibility of a lease for a tenant or tenants who otherwise would not meet the landlord’s financial qualifications. For example, someone attending law school that might not have an income would use a guarantor (often a family member) to satisfy the landlord that rent payment will not be a problem. The guarantor is a ‘backstop’ for the tenants in the event of non-payment. In Manhattan, guarantors generally need to make 80 times the monthly rent in annual income to qualify.
The person who owns the apartment, house, or building; and to whom the rent is paid.
A lease is a legally binding, written agreement between a lessor (property owner) and a lessee (one who holds property under a lease) that gives the tenant the legal right to reside for a specifically stated length of time (beginning and ending dates) in the property for a set rental rate. Leases in non-regulated apartments may be oral or written, however it is recommended that you only enter into a written agreement. For more detailed definitions of and for other terms, see below, as well as the Glossary section of this website.
Market Rate or Non-Stabilized Building
With a market rate apartment, a landlord, at his own discretion, determines how much monthly rent he will charge on any given apartment. Renewals are not guaranteed unless stated in the lease. Introduced in 1993, “luxury destabilization” is the newest form of a Non-Stabilized Lease. It provides for lease-end destabilization of apartments, which rent for over $2,000.00 per month.
Month-to-Month Tenancy (Tenant-at-Will)
A month-to-month is also a legally binding agreement between a landlord and tenant. A month-to-month agreement should be, but does not have to be, a written agreement. Under this agreement the landlord or the tenant may terminate the agreement for any reason as long as written notification is given 30 days or one rental period in advance, whichever is longer. Notice of a raise in rent requires the same advance notice.
To verify the authenticity of a signature by a certified Notary Public. This is often done to certify the authenticity of a lease.
You may wish to invest in an insurance policy that covers a renter’s personal property in case of damage or loss due to fire, flood, or theft. These policies are relatively inexpensive and generally include protection from personal liability if a visitor is injured while in your residence.
Rent regulation limits the amount an owner/landlord may charge a tenant for rent and sets guidelines and restrictions on eviction and rent increases. Rent stabilization is a form of rent regulation. Rent control is another form of this governmental rent regulated process. Under rent regulation, owners are obligated to provide certain essential services.
A Roommate/Share is an arrangement whereby one rents an apartment with one or more individuals who already live in the apartment. This kind of arrangement may be organized in a variety of different ways where one or more roommates may or may not be on the lease as a tenant or even an occupant. Roommate issues, more common than may be expected, can escalate to costly and annoying legal battles. It is recommended that you take care to thoroughly screen your potential roommate. Make sure to consider the legal implications of having a roommate as well. For more information see the Roommates Tips section of this website.
A deposit, usually one month’s rent, that a rental tenant will give to the landlord at lease signing as security against damage to the apartment during the course of their tenancy. At the end of the lease term, the landlord will take the cost of any damages caused by the tenant out of the security deposit before returning it. Most of the time the deposit will be held in an interest bearing escrow account.
An agreement whereby a tenant grants possession and use of all or part of the leased property to another party, who is known as the (sub)‘lessee’, ‘subtenant‘ or ‘undertenant’. Subletting may be prohibited by the original lease or require written permission from the landlord. In a sublease, the original tenant, who is now regarded as the ‘sublessor’ or ‘over-tenant’, remains directly responsible for making the rent payments to the landlord. In co-ops, there may be rules that prohibit, limit, or otherwise control subletting.
If you sign a lease, you are obligated to pay rent for each month for the full term of the lease. For example, if you sign a 12-month lease that starts in September, you are responsible to pay for all 12 months – even if your plans change and you want to move out in May, after the school year ends. The landlord may allow you to cancel your lease, but there will very likely be a penalty.
Warrant of Habitability
Under the warranty of habitability, tenants have the right to a livable, safe and sanitary apartment. This is a right that is implied in every written or oral residential lease. Any lease provision that waives this right is contrary to public policy and is therefore void. Examples of a breach of this warranty include the failure to provide heat or hot water on a regular basis, or the failure to rid an apartment of an insect infestation. Public areas of the building are also covered by the warranty of habitability. The warranty of habitability also applies to cooperative apartments, but not to condominiums. Any uninhabitable condition caused by the tenant or persons under the tenant’s direction or control does not constitute a breach of the warranty of habitability. In such a case, it is the responsibility of the tenant to remedy the condition.