What 68 New York renters wish they'd known before they moved in

By Leigh Kamping-Carder  | August 4, 2014 - 3:59PM

You live and learn, they say. Well, if we had to do it over again, we'd tell ourselves that no, that fifth-floor walk-up was not the preferred method for sending less of our paycheck to Crunch every month. And no, it would not get easier to haul up the groceries, no matter what kind of fancy tote bag we bought.

We're not the only ones with a nugget or two of wisdom won the hard way.

RentHackr--a New York-based website where renters post information about their apartments and lease expirations to get the inside track on other upcoming vacancies--has collected responses from hundreds of users about what they'd tell themselves about their apartments if they could travel back in time.

The results are a capsule of New Yorkers' perennial complaints--crazy neighbors, lax building staff, maddening levels of noise--as well as a heads-up on the oft overlooked questions worth asking before you put your name on a lease. 

Below, the most enlightening ways of completing the phrase, I wish I would have known....

Landlords, property managers and building staff  

  • That my landlord would try to raise our rent by $600 a month because they made us sign a 14-month lease that put us into the summer season, where rents are high
  • To ask more questions about the apartment management company and their responsiveness to questions
  • How awful the landlord is about jacking up rent for lease renewals
  • That I needed to be best friends with the super; the building is nice but super old and knowing the super is beyond critical.
  • The super is not very quick to fix things. On the plus side, they're very laid back.
  • The super is not on-site and does not fix things on the weekends.
  • That the management system is horrible. They’re so old school—no email, digital systems, communication, or super access.

The new place

  • How small 400 square feet really is.
  • To look at the apartment during different times of the day.
  • How important it is to have a big living room!
  • How much I would miss a bathtub as this unit only has a shower stall.
  • To peel off the plastic from the brand new stovetop before using it.
  • The shower doesn't drain well.
  • That the bathroom doesn't air out very well, which can lead to molding easily.
  • It's important that each room has more than one electrical outlet; extension cords are a pain!
  • The toilet has poor pressure and the door doesn't shut all the way.
  • You won't open the curtains of your floor-to-ceiling windows because of the blocked view and office windows looking in.

Noise complaints

  • The apartment faces the street and the garbage truck comes every day at 7:45am.
  • I should have checked the noise made when people go up and down the steps.
  • Construction always takes longer than expected.
  • The downstairs neighbor's dogs bark frequently.
  • The first floor is loud.
  • I can effectively use temporary walls for sound absorption to reduce the echo in the apartment.
  • How much noise there is from the 24-hour garage and how poorly the building is insulated from noise both between the floors and from the hall.
  • The church downstairs is the loudest thing that has every existed. Don't live here if you will be home Sunday mornings.

Neighbor issues

  • My downstairs neighbor blasts NPR all day.
  • A band lives downstairs.
  • A rambunctious child lives upstairs and stomps around dropping things left and right from 7a.m. to 10p.m.
  • The upstairs neighbor is crazy, in the true sense of the word, and mean. She pounds on walls and doors at the slightest sound of noise.
  • There's a lady upstairs that loves feeding pigeons.


  • To check if the appliances were installed correctly and to double check the outlets in each room to make sure they all work.
  • About the leak in the bathroom.
  • To ask the super to properly fix the window before moving in.
  • The elevators are unreliable. They break down all the time.
  • The plumbing makes odd noises, and the electric outlets are loose.

Decorating tips

  • The light fixtures are not the best. Almost every bulb needs to be changed and the sconce in the one bedroom is butt ugly.
  • To be efficient with space. Kitchen is nice, and having two bathrooms is handy.
  • To buy a shower curtain and rod before you move in.
  • To buy newer couches.
  • To get smaller furniture
  • Not to move into an apartment with a partitioned off living room.
  • To buy a butcher block because the counter space is super minimal.
  • There’s no overhead lighting. I wish I had additional lamps for the room
  • The fixtures and many other things in the apartment were Italian-made and expensive to replace.

The building

  • The 5 flights of stairs don't get easier.
  • A backyard does not replace a living room very well in the winter.
  • Amenities aren't all they are cracked up to be.
  • The elevators are super slow and break down all the time. Other than that, I like this building a lot.
  • The roof deck never opened. We were told in May 2013 as we were viewing apartments that it would be open by February 2014. Still closed.
  • They shut the water off at least once a month to fix some plumbing issue.
  • You can't buzz anyone in. You have to go get them at the front door.

Pest control

  • There is a lot, a lot, a LOT of mice. Make sure all of the holes in the apartment are filled before moving in.
  • If you leave crumbs, little bugs or mice will show up, but if you're not a slob, it's a gorgeous apartment.

Location, location, location

  • There is a pierogi kitchen on the ground floor. Onions every morning.
  • It’s good for nightlife, bad for practical things like a nail salon and grocery store.
  • It's a hard location to travel to. Harder to get people to visit you a second time.
  • The block gets really crowded when the elementary school kids are going to and from school.
  • They were going to be tearing down and building a new building right next door (owned by the same management company).
  • The apartment is 0.4 miles from the closest laundromat.
  • There are a few new construction projects going on in the neighborhood—more concern with air quality and neighborhood cleanliness.

Temperature woes

  • To check insulation from the A/C unit by the windows.
  • It's a hotbox in the summer, as the window is too big for an air conditioning unit, and the apartment is to small for a standing unit.
  • The steam heat is ridiculously loud during the winter months and spits rusty water all over the bathroom.
  • Exposed brick is beautiful in rooms but not the best insulator during the winter months. Rooms can get pretty chilly.
  • Heating a large space is expensive, especially if it is electric heat.
  • It can get cold in wintertime since I have five windows facing the river.
  • How dry the apartment gets when the heater is on.
  • The apartment has casement windows which make it drafty in the winter.


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