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Curbed Readers Reply: Cash Up Front in Billyburg?

Yesterday's lunchtime query from a concerned Curbed reader asked whether it was sane to put down $1,750 in cash or certified check for a place in Williamsburg before the landlord even deigns to draw up a lease or run a credit check. We heard from a slew of Curbed readers, from the dubious ("This situation sounds pretty shady") to the realistic ("That?s called a deposit out there"). After the jump, the full report.

Here's a trio of readers deeply suspect about giving any kind of cash up front:

Been renting in NYC since 1988 (I'm old too) and I'd never give anybody a cent unless I had a lease to sign... Especailly since the parents/guarantors are paying anyway. What happens if the apt. falls through like cause cameron diaz has decided to buy the whole building for herself (or some other hipster hood nonsense) and they need the $$ for another downpayment?

Before grad school I spent a couple of years in the NY real estate trenches. This situation sounds pretty shady, as you should never hand over one months rent until you are at the lease signing. Sometimes management companies ask for a deposit, and usually request a credit check fee (which is totally bogus, as it costs about 8 bucks to do the one most do instead of the $50 they usually ask for) before approval. I personally think asking for cash is shady anyway, as certifieds are the same as cash but give the renter some evidence of payment. Then again, some landlords are just shady and you have to deal with this to get the apartment that you want.

Here are my 2-cents regarding the parents-from-L.A. situation:
1. NEVER exchange cash - they will pocket it if they asking for cash.
2. If $1750 is their fee, fine. BUT, brokers should only get their fee when the tenant signs the lease, after the credit check goes through and they are approved for the apartment.
3. If they're asking for this prior to or in order to do the credit check, they are full of crap and are scammers.
4. Get them to put this nonsense in writing and report them to the NYC Dept. of Consumer Affairs.

... while others with recent experience in these matters point out that hey, this is Williamsburg. Shit happens: