Let’s face it, moving to New York City involves a considerable amount of money. Fees, deposits, closing costs — there’s just no way around it. That said there are right ways and wrong ways in how your money should be handled when buying or renting in NYC. I tell all of my clients that since it’s your chunk of change, you should have a basic understanding of how the money should be put to work.
APPLICATION & PROCESSING FEES
In New York City, you can rent an apartment in a traditional rental building, in a condominium (called a “Condo”), or a in cooperative, dubbed co-op for short. Here are some guidelines in how you can pay the fees associated with renting and what to know.
Cash: A few landlords may want you to use cash when paying an application fee. This is normal and acceptable procedure but please remember to ask for a receipt. Personally, if I was asked to pay an application fee in cash, I would make sure I was actually inside the landlord’s office when I paid and not handing cash to somebody out on the street unless it was to someone you trust.
TIP – When handing over money you want to be sure it’s to someone who is clearly working for the landlord, and being in the rental office is the best way to do that. NEVER send cash via mail to someone you never met before.
Checks: Otherwise, paying for application fees is also done with checks…but not your own personal checks! In New York City, landlords only want certified checks, also called bank checks. Fortunately, they’re pretty easy to come by, just walk into your nearest bank branch and tell them you need a bank check. Oftentimes there is little to no charge for a certified check if you’re a customer of that bank.
TIP – Most landlords will accept a personal check for application fees and deposits, however ALL will require Certified Funds for rent and security. It’s a good idea to find out what the process is at your bank for obtaining a certified bank check before you need it.
Money Orders: A third option for paying fees and deposits are with money orders. Money orders are transferable notes that are accpted as a form of cash. They can be purchased at any United States Post office, at places that wire money such as Western Union, and retail establishments such as 7-11.
TIP – Fees for money orders are slight, usually in the $.75 to $4.00 range, but always ask before you purchase one.
Credit Cards: The final option for paying fees is with plastic, aka credit cards. However, unlike when you swipe your card at Macy’s for that new suit, you may be charged a transaction fee for using your credit card. Many landlords will not cover the nominal fee tacked on by the credit card company for using their service — that fee is instead passed onto you, the renter. Expect to pay anywhere from 2-4% of the total as a fee. Anything more would be egregious.
TIP – Remember to ask your broker or anyone in the landlord’s office if you will be charged a fee for swiping your card.
CLOSING PROCEEDURES & MONEY
When you rent in a traditional rental building you’ll hand over your checks to someone working inside the leasing office or your broker at the actual lease signing. After which the apartment is yours and you’re ready to move on to setting up your utilities.
However, when you rent in either a condo or a co-op there is almost always a board involved. A condo or co-op board is a small group of residents who represent everyone living in the building. Boards have oversight in how a building is managed and who is allowed to live there. When applying to rent in a condo or a co-op you will have to fill out a board package for the board to review prior to moving in, and may be asked to present yourself for a board interview prior to being granted approval. But how will a board know that you’ve paid the required fees and are ready to move in?
When you submit your board package you do NOT submit the actual checks for rent and security, only the fees for the board / building. The actual checks should be held back and only delivered once approval has been given by the board for you to move in. This will ensure that there is no chance for your money disappearing should your application be turned down.
TIP – When renting in a condo or a co-op, the checks for rent, security, and brokerage fee (if any) should be delivered to your broker only and he or she will send the listing broker photo copies to prove their existence.