Building managers matter in a rental: Make sure yours isn't a dud

You can tell a lot about a building's management and staff by how clean the hallways, stairs and common spaces are.

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As a New Yorker on the hunt for a new rental, you're probably steadfast on a few key points: number of bedrooms, closets, windows, maybe an elevator. But do you scrutinize the quality of building management? If you don't, big mistake.

A good property manager (or landlord) can make living in a building a much more enjoyable experience. They're easy to reach, address problems quickly, and they hire competent professionals to do repairs. That is, if they do their job right. Here's how to figure out if a building's management is top-shelf:

1. Scope out their social media. These days, big management companies are getting wise to the virtues of Twitter, Facebook and other ways of connecting with tenants online. Are they responding to complaints via tweet? Promoting events for residents on Facebook? That's a good indication they're on the ball offline, too.

2. Chat up future neighbors. Before you sign a lease, get a hold of someone who lives in the building and ask them about the staff or management company. Do the porters clean up well? Do they respond to questions and complaints quickly? Tenants know this information firsthand, and they're more trustworthy than brokers. 

3. Search StreetEasy forums. If a company is really bad (or even really good), it may very well feature in the discussion boards on StreetEasy. It doesn't hurt to do a quick search.

4. Check YelpIt's not just for nail salons and Thai restaurants. Yelp also has reviews of some of the bigger management companies in the city. Of course, don't take the reviews as gospel, but if you see a lot of negative feedback, you may want to factor that into your decision to rent in a building.

5. Sniff around the common areas. Take a look at the hallways, basement, and garbage rooms in any building you're considering. Are they clean and well-maintained? If garbage is piling up or the hallways look dingy, those are signs that the staff just isn't on top of things.

6. Call the management company's office. If you call a few times and get no answer, expect that to be a trend. A pick-up on the first ring is a good sign.

7. Look up building violations. This may sound like a complicated thing to do, but it's not. Searching the Department of Buildings' free database by address will show you all the complaints and violations associated with a building, giving you insight into what problems are cropping up there. More important, you can see how (or if) each one was resolved and how quickly, highlighting whether a building owner is on top of issues or not. Likewise, the website AddressReport promises to help you "avoid renter's remorse" by giving you the skinny on a building's vermin, leaks and more.

8. Check for bugs. Similarly, poke around the Bed Bug Registry to see if the building has had an infestation—or more than one. 

***This story was updated on May 19, 2016. It was originally published in May, 2014.


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