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While there are plenty of large rental buildings in this city where you'll probably never meet your landlord, there are still scads of small, no-frills ones owned by mom-and-pop landlords, many of whom reside in the very same building as their tenants.
Small landlords are likely to be more choosy about whom they rent to--both because your rent represents a bigger share of their rent roll, and because you may be living under the same roof, able to get on your landlord’s nerves much quicker than you could a large landlord/management company.
With that in mind, we asked several of members of Small Property Owners of New York, an organization of small landlords, to tell us what makes a promising applicant and a good tenant in their eyes. Here’s what they had to say:
On being an attractive applicant...
Treat it like a job interview, and have the money to back you up
“An owner looks for two main things in a tenant: that they pay the rent on time and take care of the apartment. So aside from having a good stable job and good credit history, I would say a prospective tenant should look for an apartment as if they were on a job interview. They want to convince the owner that they are better than the last person who came and looked at the apartment. I have had prospective applicants looking for an apartment who don't even walk into the kitchen or bathroom. This sends a signal to me that they do not appreciate how nice my apartment is.” - Chris, a landlord who owns buildings in Park Slope, Bay Ridge and Brooklyn Heights
Be prepared and ready to sign immediately
"Applicants should come on-time to the first meeting and come prepared with all the information and documents that they need to provide for an application immediately if they like the apartment that they see. I can't tell you how many times people make appointments and don't show up or come unprepared, which means that in this tight rental market, they lose out to other applicants who are prepared to act quickly and decisively. To the building owner, this shows that they applicant is serious--i.e. can be counted to take the apartment if their application review has good results--and is a reliable and respectable person. These are good qualities for the building owner as well as for other community of residents of the building if they move in." - Alan, a landlord who owns 5 small buildings across Brooklyn and Manhattan
A good credit score
“What I look for in an applicant that is very attractive to me is a credit score of 775 or above. Said score indicates to me that this person pays regular attention to his/her bills and promptly pays the in a timely manner.” - David, a landlord who owns and manages about 15 properties in Brooklyn and Manhattan
References and roommate status are key
“A tenant who has had a good relationship with his past landlords is probably easy to deal with and reliable. Red flag: Living situations that seem unstable--e.g. multiple siblings or new lovers. These can blow up, and the remaining tenants won't be able to afford the rent.” -Greg, a landlord who owns one building in Brooklyn and one in Harlem
On being a good tenant...
Don’t be shy
“There are some tenants who rent an apartment, and after signing the lease you never hear or see from them again. They always pay the rent on time. Sounds like a great tenant, right? WRONG. As a small owner I appreciate a tenant who brings important maintenance items to my attention, like a leak on their ceiling or a dripping faucet. Neglected calls for maintenance only cost me more money down the road.” - Chris
“Building owners appreciate extra eyes and ears in their building -- they appreciate it when tenants proactively inform them of problems in their apartments or elsewhere in the building. Tell me when pipes that are starting to leak...not after they cause a flood which goes down through apts 3 floors below. Tell me if you see strange characters enter the building or to a particular apartment. Tell me if someone is frequently creating a mess in the garbage areas or not recycling -- this creates an unpleasant experience for other tenants and invites vermin which could spread throughout the entire building.” - Alan
Be the landlord's eyes and ears
“I like for a tenant to make known to me on the Q.T. any other residents that are misbehaving in or around the property. I never ever reveal said conversation with the tenant in question or anyone else for that matter.” -David
Promptness, proactiveness and common courtesy
“A good tenant pays the rent on time, proactively notifies me about problems in the apartment, treats the place as if he owns it, and doesn't annoy me or the other tenants.” - Greg