#2107 How to rent an apartment in New York City

There are a few moments in a man’s life that automatically take him from child to adult: Embarking on a career; having a baby; proposing to the woman he loves; signing a 12 month lease on an apartment in New York City. After browsing Craigslist for about five hours and viewing apartments in four different areas of the city, Tom Bull and I had seen everything we needed to see – cramped two-and-a-half-bedroom squats in the Lower East Side (for only $4500 per month!!); flexi-bedroom shoeboxes in Flatiron with great rooftops and a doorman (for only $4350 per month!!); and punky warehouses with vegan graffiti on the walls in the depths of Brooklyn ($2500 per month). But it was the first phone call we made, and the first apartment that we viewed that caught our eye.

Located directly below the Wiliamsburg Bridge in Brooklyn, it was huge, airy, clean, light, warm and currently tenanted by a 30-something year old New Zealander named Renee. The broker, a 25 year old Hasidic Jew with two children, a limp handshake and a quick smile, told us that it was his mission to help us in any way that he could – he was now at our service. He quickly pointed out that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity – this location with this much space at this price was unheard of. Renee whispered that the advertised rent had been hiked $750 on what she was paying.

Can we add an extra bedroom? Of course, no problem. Will you seal the sandy grout in the exposed brick wall? Of course, no problem. Will you rewire the lighting so this living room switch doesn’t turn off the light in that upstairs bedroom? Of course, no problem. Then, the most important question of all: Will you build me a hanging clothes rack? Of course, no problem. I was sold.

Now came time for the logistics. Since Tom and I are both non-US citizens with no credit history (it takes at least a year of paying regular bills to even begin to build credit), the owner – a portly 60-something year old Hasidic Jew with endless stories, multiple business interests and a somewhat confusing answer to any question thrown his way, “Up to you,” – wanted a little extra up front on the usual first month, last month and one month security. “You pay five months, the apartment is yours,” he told us. The room went black and I vaguely remember hearing someone call for smelling salts. When I came to, Tom was shaking his hand.

We signed the lease on Monday and moved in Thursday. All the work was completed before we arrived, and the landlord honoured everything he promised. The moral of the story is this: Cash talks, and make sure you get absolutely everything in writing.

We’re now the proud tenants of our very own Brooklyn loft. God bless America.


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