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Complete an Application...

Since you already have all your personal, employment and financial data prepared, you can complete an application on the spot. Most rental landlords will make a decision in about 24 hours. If there is hesitation on the landlord's part, he/she is probably looking for a better qualified applicant, so keep looking and keep applying. Nothing’s a done deal until you sign the lease.

As part of the application process, the landlord will most likely charge you a credit report fee.

Credit Report fee - Typically, this fee is from $25 per person to $75 per person applying, including a credit report on the guarantor, if any. This fee is non-refundable.

Each landlord will want to run their own credit report on you and your co-applicants and guarantors for two reasons;

  1. To be sure that it is an authentic report and not one that has been doctored digitally to make it look better than it really is, and
  2. Because credit reports are a “profit center” for many landlords, helping to defray the cost of personnel that handle the apartment leasing.

TIP: Volunteer to add financial incentives to your application if you know you have a weak credit history. Offer to supply a guarantor or to prepay a portion of the rent as part of your application.

TIP: Volunteer more information on the application if you have weak credit due to a one-time lapse (for example, you were hospitalized or you lost your job). Have a pre-prepared cover letter as part of your application to explain what your difficulty was and how you have overcome it.

Renting in a co-op building

Renting a co-op or condo apartment is usually a two step process. The apartment owner will review your application. Then, if it’s acceptable, the apartment owner will ask you to prepare a second application for the co-op/condo’s Managing Agent.

Renting an apartment in a co-op is technically “subletting from the shareholder” and the application you complete is referred to as the co-op sublet package.

Each Managing Agent has unique application requirements and each package should come with a checklist of the necessary items for the co-op/condo Board to review.

Many landlords, condos, and co-ops require you to pay a processing fee that could be as much as $400. A processing fee is not unusual and is entirely legal.

Furthermore, there will almost always be significant delays in applying to rent an apartment in a co-op building, with one exception I’ll discuss towards the end of this section.

The delays are because the managing agent for the co-op corporation (the building’s management) will do a more in-depth investigation of you. They will look to verify all of the information you have stated on your application. This investigation can take a week or two.

Once your co-op sublet package is complete, it will be forwarded to the “sublet committee” of the Board of Directors. The sublet committee will most likely want to interview you prior to the next Board of Directors meeting. Waiting for the interview can add another week or two to the process.

Once you have been interviewed by the Sublet Committee, they will forward their recommendation on approving you to the full Board of Directors to vote on. The Board meeting is often the same night, but not always, so waiting for the full Board meeting can add another week or so to the process.

In short, aside from all the detailed paperwork and expense of applying to “sublet” in a co-op, you can be faced with a delay of from three to six weeks before you will know if you have been approved.

If you can’t afford the luxury of waiting that long, and still risking that your application will not be approved, then don’t apply to rent (or sublet) in a co-op building.

However - there is one exception to this grim process of applying in a co-op.

That exception is when you apply to rent one of the apartments still owned by the “developer” or “converter” of the building to co-op. This is know as renting from the Sponsor, or more technically, “the holder of unsold shares”.

Since the sponsor bought the building and converted it to a co-op, and wrote the “Offering Plan” that created the co-op corporation, the sponsors’ always carve out an exception for themselves from some of the rules of the co-op. One of the exemptions they create is the need for Board approval when they want to sublet an apartment.

Thus, if you are renting a sponsor-owned unit in a co-op building, you very often will be exempt from needing the Board of Director’s approval. Thus, there is no interview, other than meeting the sponsor and getting him to approve you. When you rent (sublease) directly from the sponsor, you can often arrange to move in to the building within a week, although you will not be exempt from paying the various fees discussed in the next section.

What if you’ve been “Blacklisted”?    From the NY Times Q & A Column by Jay Romano on 02/12/12

Q  Several years ago I joined a lawsuit with my neighbors against my landlord, who had told the tenants of our rental building for several years that it was nonstabilized. The case settled, and we were paid back overpayments and damages. Recently I applied for an apartment in another building, and the management company discovered that I had been involved in the lawsuit. I was denied the new apartment. Am I on some blacklist because of the previous litigation, and can I get my name removed from it?

A  “The tenant may have been blacklisted, but he can protect himself,” said Leon I. Behar, a Manhattan real estate litigation lawyer. If a landlord withholds an apartment based on a tenant screening report, he is required to notify the tenant, in writing, of the reason for the denial and the company used for the screening. He noted that Housing Court cases can appear on the court records for seven years after the case was filed. Detailed information on such records can be obtained on the Web site of the City-Wide Task Force on Housing Court at And since February 2010, New York City landlords of buildings with five or more apartments must notify prospective tenants if they use tenant screening reports, and provide the name and address of the screening bureau. Tenants can then request a free copy of any report, and can use that to try to clear up any erroneous information.

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