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Diary of a New-to-New-York Renter: Part I

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Curbed intern Jeremiah Budin is currently trying to move out of his parents’ house using money he made playing online poker. As a recent college graduate who majored in English, his life-skills are pretty much limited to waking up and pretending to have read things, neither of which is particularly helpful when it comes to looking for an apartment. Another thing that would be helpful is a job, which he also doesn’t have. But is he going let any of those things stop him from attaining his birthright (living in a tiny apartment in Brooklyn with his friends?) No way! Well, actually, maybe. Let’s not think about it!

"The first place we looked at was near Central Park, which is a nice place to live, probably. Unfortunately, it crossed the line into completely unaffordable territory when the broker told us was a charging a non-negotiable 17% fee, but that taught us a valuable lesson: Move to Brooklyn! Of course! Everybody moves to Brooklyn!

The following Saturday, we found ourselves taking the train into Crown Heights to look at a 5BR that was going for $3200/month with no broker fee! Perfect, right? Definitely not too good to be true. The apartment was great? probably. The whole building was being redone and according to the guy who showed it to us, it was going to be the best. Brand new floors, appliances, air-conditioning, etc. And the living room was huge and long. As soon as I saw it, I realized that my number one goal in life was to live in an apartment with a huge, long living room. Imagine the possibilities! You could put? like? a huge, long couch in it. Playing coy, we told “Ari,” the agent that we might be interested, at which point he told us that this apartment was so great (no argument here) that it would probably be gone within hours. We’re in! we told Ari. We’ll take it! WHERE DO WE SIGN???

We were ushered back to the “Orange D Realty” office and given a bunch of confusing forms to fill out. Ari, to his credit, was very reassuring throughout the whole process. Whenever we came across something unsettling, such as a block of text that read “ONE MONTH’S RENT AND SECURITY DEPOSIT MUST BE PROVIDED WITHIN 48 HOURS NO PERSONAL CHECKS” we would ask Ari about it and he would say, “No, no, don’t worry about it, man!” We resolved not to worry about it.

When it came time to put down a $500 lease-application-deposit (this seemed like a very legitimate thing at the time), Ari realized that somebody else had already put down a $500-lease-application-deposit on that apartment. Whoops! We were shown another apartment—less nice, but still acceptable—and told that we could rent a unit identical to that one. Don’t worry about it, man!

Ari assured us that we could take our time getting our paperwork together since the place wouldn’t be ready for a while, and so a few days of us not-worrying-about-it passed until we received a phone call from a woman at the realty company who told us that everyone needed to get their forms in immediately. At that point it occurred to one of us to google Orange D Realty. They did not, as it turned out, have a website. They did have a Yelp review, however. It read as follows:

This is one of those terrible New York real estate companies that scams you and takes your money.
That was when we really started to worry about it. Following this discovery, there was some dissention within the group. Some of us wanted to call the whole thing off and cut our losses. Some of us weren’t sure. I wanted to stay the course. It couldn’t be a completely fake company—they had an office and everything! And they had shown us two apartments, which were definitely real apartments. They had walls, and ceilings, and toilets? well, they said they going to install toilets soon.

We got our forms in—most recent 1040s, bank statements, pay stubs, etc. Those of us without real “jobs” where you get “paychecks” and pay “taxes”* got our guarantors’ forms in. At that point, Orange D told us that they needed the remainder of the security deposit ($2,700) by the end of that week, or else the apartment would go “back on the market,” but we couldn’t sign the lease yet because something something paperwork. We ended up giving them the money after being assured that we could sign the lease the following week. This is a diplomatic strategy known as “appeasement” and historically it has pretty much always worked out really well.

The responsibility of setting up a time to sign the lease fell to me, for reasons that can be explained with this Venn diagram:

My attempts to set up a time went as follows:

Tuesday, September 27: I called the office and was told that everyone would be taking the rest of the week off for Rosh Hashanah. I was instructed to call back next Monday to set up a time to sign the lease. “Could we just come in and sign it on Monday?” “No. Call.”

Monday, October 3: Called the office, was told to call back after 3:00.

After 3:00: Called, was told that they were still waiting for the lease to arrive at the office, but they should have it by Wednesday. Spent the afternoon googling “How do lawsuits work?”

Wednesday, October 5: Was told to call back after 1:00.

1:00, exactly: The secretary gave the phone to “Gabe,” the head honcho at Orange D Realty. Gabe: “There are problems with the apartment.” Me: “What problems?” Gabe: It will not be ready until December.”

This was my first dealing with Gabe, and, unfortunately, it would not be my last. I went into Crown Heights to meet him that night...

Check back tomorrow for Part II.

*Just kidding! I pay my taxes! Don't audit me!
· Renters Week 2011 coverage [Curbed]