Do you much prefer renting a room rather than buying an apartment? Chances are it’s financially, economically and socially appealing to you. But the very last thing you want is to rent an illegal place. You can avoid this by looking for rooms for rent on a roommate finder website.
To help you be cautious, though, we’ve found a list of 10 red flags to watch out for.
Department of Buildings Report
Robert LiMandri, New York Buildings Commission, recently issued a report that featured 10 red flags for renters on how to spot the signs of illegal rentals that risk endangering the safety of its neighbors, occupants and first responders.
The list came about when the Department of Buildings carried out an undercover investigation into the illegal apartments advertised on popular roommate finder website, Craigslist. Investigators decided to pose as potential tenants so that they could inspect over 60 buildings throughout New York City. This came about after three people had lost their lives during a fire in an illegal apartment in the area of Queens. The Department of Buildings opted to launch a city-wide campaign in order to educate residents on the dangers of illegal rentals, those being apartments and rooms that did not have proper permits.
What the DOB found during their investigation were illegal conditions of 54 of the apartments advertised for rent. 33 properties were issued with vacate orders as conditions therein posed an immediate threat to the safety of the public. The Department also issued 104 violations to property owners who had created illegal conditions, such as illegal plumbing, gas an electrical work, inadequate means of egress and fire safety hazards.
While illegally renting a room could save you a few dollars, it can also end up costing you your life. Some illegal living spaces may well be spacious, clean and only have one emergency exit and that can lead to tragic consequences for you and your loved ones.
Property owners who have created these kinds of conditions and still advertise rooms for rent are deceiving their tenants and putting their safety at risk. This is exactly why New Yorkers need to be aware of the potential risks. Tenants need to ask questions, do some research and confirm whether the living space that has been advertised is legal as well as if construction work is performed with the correct permits.
If you’re considering renting a room here are 10 signs you do not want to take the room.
Top 10 Red Flags
- Start by knowing the market and be wary of any units advertised at significantly lower prices for comparable spaces in the area.
- Avoid apartments that have rooms with very small windows or no windows at all. These are usually illegal basement or cellar apartments. Roommate finder websites will sometimes advertise these as “sunny” to entice tenants.
- Beware of the words “attic” and “basement.” Ads that use these words tend to be apartments that lack adequate exits.
- Be cautious of the word “flex.” This tends to imply that the apartment may be converted into a multi-room space using pressurized walls. The construction and insulation of a wall without the required permits from the Department are actually illegal.
- Stay away from strange layouts. Apartments with odd layouts are sometimes described as “interesting” or “unique” and are oddly situated, such as a shower installed in the kitchen.
- “Utilities included” can be a big red flag. A landlord may be avoiding having utilities under another name as residents connected to the property may violate the legal occupancy of the particular building.
- Be wary of no-lease rooms and apartments. Be very suspicious of landlords who decline to draw up a lease when looking for rooms to rent. Requests for a month-to-month agreement or even cash payments should be regarded with caution, too.
- If a landlord refuses to disclose the exact address, don’t even bother. Landlords who advertise illegal apartments on roommate finder websites may ask to meet with you in person before exposing the address. Ask yourself why.
- Are there adequate means of egress and are there any locked doors in the unit? Tenants should be able to access all the available exits either from a public hallway or directly from the apartment.
- Be wary of landlords who won’t let you have mail delivered to the apartment. These are typically illegal apartments and landlords will tell you that you need to obtain a separate P.O. Box.
Use a Reputable Roommate Finder Website
These 10 red flags are essential for anyone wanting to rent a room. The last thing you want is to rent out a room in an illegal apartment and risk getting kicked out when you least expect it.
Register with Roommates and find reputable rooms for rent today.