5 Red Flags to Watch Out for When NYC Apartment Hunting

nyc apartment red flags cat

The Big Apple is great for tons of reasons—easily accessible public transit, unbeatable mouthwatering pizza and a renowned melting pot of culture. One thing that can be a bit challenging though? Finding a good apartment. With the ridiculously high rents only getting higher, you want to make sure your NYC apartment gives you as much bang for your buck as possible. So we tapped the pros to give us some insight on what we should be keeping an eye out for when looking for a rental in the Empire State. Below are five red flags you should watch out for while apartment-hunting in New York.

1. Every single light is on during the showing

If not for taking stellar Insta pics, an apartment with natural light just radiates with joy and also makes a great home for your plant babies, so if it doesn’t have some semblance of sunlight coming in, you might want to pass. “While you can fix a lot of things in an apartment with a coat of paint, some multi-purpose furniture, and some chic design decisions, there is nothing you can do if your home doesn't have good natural light,” says Clare Trapasso, deputy news editor of “Without it, you can find yourself depressed, especially if you spend much of your time at home. So, try to visit rentals during the day and turn off the lights (which most landlords will conveniently leave on during open houses) to assess the situation. If your windows are just a few feet from a neighboring building or face north, the unit may not get as much sunlight as you would prefer.”

 2. There's a record of noise complaints in the area

For city dwellers, hoping to score an affordable apartment in a quiet neighborhood can be a far-fetched dream, but that doesn’t mean you have to live right in a construction zone. Take note of your needs—working from home, sensitive pet, newborn baby etc.—and make your decision accordingly. “Before you sign a contract, you can survey the block you want to live on. Is your prospective rental near a school or a church? How will you feel about the traffic and noise when parents drop off their children or congregants attend service? Is it next to a nail salon or a fish market? [If so] are you alright with the smell?” Trapasso advises. “And while it's tough to know what your neighbors down the hall or one flight up are like, you can go on the city's 311 site and see what kinds of complaints have been made within a 500-foot radius of your prospective rental.” In summation, scope out the entire neighborhood, not just your immediate dwellings.

 3. The elevator's down and there are signs of insects or rodents

Rats and mice are such populous inhabitants of this island that they too should pay rent. But since that’s never going to happen, you want to make sure your potential abode doesn’t come with any unwanted, mooching roommates. “Most likely, you want to move into a pest-free apartment that will be well maintained if something breaks or springs a leak. While it's hard to know how responsive the super or management company is without asking other residents, you can find clues by looking around the building you're considering renting in,” Trapasso says. “Is it well-maintained and clean? Does anything appear chipped or broken? Is the elevator in good working order? Were there any signs of insects?” If there are too many issues that haven’t been tended to—major red flag.

 4. Rent is Way below market value

The number one complaint for most Concrete Jungle dwellers is the ridiculous dough they have to dole out to get a decent apartment. So if you happen to find a $900 one-bedroom with all utilities included and a washer/dryer in the unit, plus a fitness center and doorman. We’re sorry to say, odds are something isn’t right. To avoid any pitfalls, do your due diligence because if the rent is that low, there’s a reason and most likely not a good one. “Visit your prospective block during the day and again in the evening to make sure this is a place you want to call home,” Trapasso urges.  

 5. Landlord doesn’t give you a lease

While it isn’t unheard of to not have a lease when you agree to rent an apartment, it’s always good to have one as an added security measure because the lack of one might indicate that something’s up. Again, if the building seems to have some maintenance issues or there’s something wrong in the actual apartment, it’s good to have some legal document listing who’s responsible for what. “Not having a lease isn’t ‘wrong’ in and of itself,” stressed licensed associate real estate broker Nikki R. Thomas of The Corcoran Group. “But not having one makes things more difficult for a potential tenant because duties, expectations and rules aren’t clearly defined. There’s a good chance you’re going to have a decent relationship with your landlord. But you really ought to have something in writing to protect you in case things go south.”

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Resident Hufflepuff, Beyonce historian, self-proclaimed tea sommelier

Steph is a native of Zimbabwe who is both enamored and genuinely baffled by the concept of silent letters. From 2020 to 2022, she served as Associate Editor at PureWow covering...