[Updated 2/27/13]

Renting an apartment in NYC is practically a bloodsport, and we recently had the chance to share a few of our favorite tips with NY1 real estate reporter Jill Urban, including some of these:

  1. No-fee buildings: If you're dealing directly with an on-site leasing agent, know that even if there are 10 or 20 vacancies, they will only tell you about 2 or 3 in order to preserve their negotiating leverage; therefore, make sure you are extremely clear about what you're looking for from the start. Also, the leasing agent probably won't volunteer information about existing concessions--you have to ask. Possible concessions include a free month's rent as well as health club or pool access free of charge--but be wary of nickel and diming in a hot rental market.
  2. Working with a rental agent:   Disreputable agents often try to attract clients by advertising too-good-to-be-true apartments that are not actually available (or at least not at that price).  Rather than finding an agent through a listing, get a personal recommendation from a friend or your company's relocation office, or tap into the network of high-quality agents recruited by our partner Suitey.com--an upstart, tech-savvy brokerage founded by a pair of young Yale grads in response to the dismal rental experiences of their classmates and colleagues. Suitey agents typically charge around 10% of a year's rent (versus 12%-15% common elsewhere). 
  3. Don't be a sucker: If you're using a broker, be sure to get an agreement in writing that the agent will disclose any fees paid by the landlord and offset your fee by that amount. Unscrupulous agents double-dip without disclosing; they may also steer you toward fee-paid apartments, skipping over a potentially better choice for you. 
  4. Pianos & pets: Landlords don't like renters with pianos, because they foresee all the noise complaints they're going to get, so don't mention it to a prospective landlord or even your rental agent, who has a longterm interest in keeping the landlord happy. As far as pets, even if an apartment is advertised as pet-friendly, your dog may not be welcome, particularly if it's known as a yappy or aggressive breed.  Convey a sense of responsibility about making sure your dog behaves and about making sure your dog will get enough exercise to not be a bother.
  5. Subletting a co-op or condo: Make sure your application has been approved by the board (not just the owner) or you can be kicked out after you've moved in.  Also, be sure to ask if renters are excluded from any amenities like bike spaces, roof decks, gyms, etc., or from having pets.
  6. Negotiating rent: It's tough to do in a hot market like this, but some signs that the rent may be negotiable include an apartment that has stayed on the market longer than normal (hours or days in hot market; in a slow market, days or several weeks), an access problem to the apt (eg current tenant won't allow you to see it), or an apartment in bad condition.
  7. Guarantors: If you don't meet the landlord's income requirements and don't have a tri-state guarantor, try offering more security to make up for it. (Note: By law, rent-stabilized buildings can only accept one month's security deposit.)  Also check out a company called Insurent, accepted by over a thousand NYC buildings, which will act as a guarantor for a fee.
  8. Bed bugs: You are legally entitled to written disclosure of the building's bed bug history when you sign the lease.  But to spare yourself some last minute drama and headache, ask about bed bug history up front. Also check the Bed Bug Registry as well as the NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development website, looking for signs of ongoing infestation and poor management.
  9. Amenities: If there's a roof deck, gym, bike spaces or other amenity in the building make sure access (and any fees) are included in the lease
  10. Letters of recommendation: Some landlords may ask for a letter of recommendation from your prior landlord.  Most important: That you paid rent on time all the time. Second most important: You're quiet and clean.
  11. Kid-friendly: Because of laws against housing discrimination, real estate agents can't discuss whether a building is family friendly or not.  Lots of family-sized apartments (two-bedrooms and up) and a well-tended playroom are usually evidence of kids.  You should also ask the doorman and park yourself outside the building in the morning when school starts or in the afternoon when school ends to watch for a kiddie parade.
  12. Noise:  Come back around midnight to see if any rooftop bars or nightclubs might pose a threat to your peace and quiet.  Street noise can be mitigated, however, by soundproofing your windows, so it's not necessarily a reason to disqualify an apartment you love.

Related:

Moving to NYC? Here's a crash course in finding an apartment here

The 8 best websites for finding a no-fee rental in NYC

8 questions you must ask before buying renter's insurance (sponsored)

The 7 worst places to live in a building

Security deposit self-defense: What you need to know now

15 lessons for first-time renters

How to find an apartment without bed bugs

My Big Fat Board Interview: What really happens in a co-op board interview

16 things I wish I knew before buying this place

How to analyze a rendering

The 7 questions all buyers should ask

The perfect landlord letter of recommendation

Relocating to NYC? FAQs brokers can (and can't) answer

4 ways to get a potential landlord to like your dog

Negotiating rent with a large landlord

Confessions of on-site leasing agent

BrickUnderground's Renter's Survival Kit

 

Note: BrickUnderground articles occasionally include Featured Partners and Resource Directory members when their expertise is relevant to the story.