Always read the fine print, Bushwick.
Due to rapid changes sweeping the neighborhood, finding a livable place in Bushwick is increasingly difficult. Brokers and landlords sometimes capitalize on the chaotic rental environment by presenting prospective tenants with lengthy leases that include undiscussed clauses, or don’t guarantee that the apartment meets New York’s housing safety standards.
Bushwick Daily finds that local apartment hunters have recently been presented with leases as long as 30 pages wherein key details went unmentioned by brokers or landlords, who may have stood to benefit from the oversight.
Some of these details include:
One Bushwick resident tells Bushwick Daily that the broker who showed her current apartment said that the building was pet friendly—and that when she arrived to sign her lease, there was a very specific no-pets policy.
“He was really nonchalant about it, even though the lease said I could be evicted if the landlord found out I had a pet,” she said. “He said that I could have a pet if I wanted to, and that the paragraph in the lease saying there were no pets allowed was just a formality for the landlord.”
No matter how dismissive a landlord may be about a part of a lease, everything that is written in the lease becomes legally binding once a tenant signs it— and the broker isn’t accountable for anything said prior to the lease signing.
“As is” apartment showings:
Brokers will also show prospective tenants a unit that is being repaired or renovated, giving the promise that the unit will be ready by the tenant’s move-in date.
However, there is often a clause in leases for newer buildings that says the tenant has inspected the apartment “as is” and accepts the current state of the apartment as livable.
If possible, tenants should avoid signing a lease until confirming that renovations are finished and have passed a building inspection.
Otherwise, landlords may drag their feet on finishing repairs if they know a tenant is already locked into a lease—and if the unfinished work proves to make the place uninhabitable, the landlord can re-lease the apartment to a new tenant at a higher rate while keeping the previous tenant’s security deposit.
Jessica Hurd, a representative from NYC Housing Court Answers, explains that tenants should never sign a lease that they don’t explicitly agree to, even if brokers and landlords make continual promises that renovations and other property modifications will be done by the time the tenant moves in.
“Tenants also have the right to sue if a landlord does not make repairs that make a property unlivable, but this is only after the tenant has moved in, not before lease signing.” Hurd elaborates.
“Otherwise, potential renters should never agree to sign a lease before seeing a property in person. That’s the only way they can make sure they know it is acceptable ‘as is.’”
Finally, according to the New York State tenants’ rights guide, landlords are not allowed to “drop-in” on tenants without “reasonable notice” —and leases that include language proposing any other arrangement is in violation of that principle.
Another Bushwick resident tells Bushwick Daily that since he told his landlord he is not renewing his lease on his current apartment, there have been brokers showing up at his place unannounced with new potential renters. “They even leave the door unlocked sometimes,” he said.
Not only are unannounced drop-ins illegal for landlords without notice; leaving a property unlocked and unattended puts both the tenant and landlord at risk of property damage and theft—a major liability in a neighborhood where local law enforcement says that gentrification has driven up the burglary rate.
The entire New York Tenants’ Rights Guide is available here. Take a look over if you have a lease signing or renewal coming up!
Featured image: Looking east at row houses on DeKalb Avenue on a sunny afternoon. Photo By Jim Henderson, via Wikimedia Commons.