In a city where everyone has a housing horror story, Preston Pujol’s tale of woe, reported by Annette Konoske Graf in the Brooklyn Ink last week, is still a knockout. If you had just moved to New York and found a place on Craigslist, the last thing you’d want to hear a few days after moving in was that you needed to move out again because the building is collapsing. Pujol’s un-sweet new pad was at 494 Wilson Ave, right by Irving Square park and it collapsed last week. It sounds like he got his money back, but jeez, how’s that for a warm welcome to the Big Apple.
And unfortunately, it’s all too easy for this kind of thing to happen. It’s easy to talk dirt on landlords, but when it’s advantageous for both proprietors and tenants to have some gray areas in their agreements, especially about building history and upkeep, then it’s probably safe to say that nothing about this state of affairs is going to change any time soon.
But! Bushwick Daily has a humble suggestion to make for the next time you hit the Rooms / Shared section of NYC Craigslist to help you stay out of sketchy situations like this. It is our pleasure to inform you there’s literally an app for that.
Check Google Street View
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though! Make sure you cover the basics before busting out the technological big guns. The first thing to do when you identify the address of a place you might be interested in moving into is: check it out on Google Street View. While imperfect, it’ll give you some basic info about the spot before you show up on the block. Then, set up the appointment.
Maybe bring a friend for viewing
If you watch scary movies, chances are you always bring a friend when you go to check out a potential living situation–in which case, good on you. Another benefit of the buddy system is that it’s always good to have a second objective opinion of your real estate options, especially if there’s something about the place that you’re not quite sure about (sagging floors, plumbing problems–feel free to get thorough).
Email the landlord, get stuff in writing!
And if you do see anything questionable while you’re there, even if the person showing you the place tells you in person that the issue will be resolved before you move in, shoot them an email afterwards to get that in writing–timestamped, date-marked, writing–before making any big decisions. Yeah, yeah, there are a lot of people interested in the place, the city never sleeps, whatever. It’s worth it to hold off for a hot minute to resolve glaring issues.
Check DOB App for your building
Then, if you are STILL feeling stoked on the amazing room, go check out the information in the NYC Department of Building’s Information System. Launched in 2003, the system has the dirt, including complaint, inspection and periodic safety report information, all updated in real time as the Department collects new info, on nearly a million properties city-wide. And yes, that’s right: as of the beginning of this year, if you can’t get to a computer to check all of this or are just intimidated by the thought of an enormous database open in a web browser, there is a free app for iPhone and Android that boils the whole process down for you.
We have to say, it’s a pretty handy thing. When we look up 494 Wilson, we find out that there have been 21 complaints filed about the place (including a recent one for “building shaking”), it’s racked up 33 Department of Building Violations and it has a whopping 42 Environmental Control Board Violations. Looks like the last time a work permit was filed for the building, which is on the corner and also includes the address 1238 Hancock Street, was back in 2006 when the boiler was replaced; the work permit includes contact info for the owner at the time and the contractor who did the job, neither of which are current.
So, ouch. Our sympathy goes out to all of the tenants evicted last Tuesday. We’re glad that you’re all safe!! Get in touch if you want to give us an update on your current whereabouts, we’re hoping there are more stable buildings in your lives now.
And everyone, if you get a chance, check out that app! Even if you’re not looking to move, it might provide some fascinating info about your current domicile’s history.
Do you have a real estate story that Bushwick Daily needs to hear? Is there a building falling down on your block at this very moment? Drop us a line and tell us all about it! You can email us at bushwickdailyAtgmail.com.