Apartment-Seekers Asked to Front Extra Cash Despite Rent Law

(THE CITY) September 20, 2019

New York’s new rent law, signed in June, bars landlords from collecting more than one month’s security deposit from prospective tenants.

But that hasn’t stopped brokers and property owners from demanding larger sums from apartment-hunters — a “good faith” deposit that can cost applicants dearly if they have second thoughts.

That’s what THE CITY heard from some of the scores of readers who responded to a survey asking about experiences they’ve had while looking to lease a New York City apartment under the new rent law — including getting charged application fees above a new $20 limit.

One respondent, who recently moved into an apartment in Park Slope and declined to be named for fear that she would end up on a tenant blacklist, said she was asked by the broker to submit a good faith deposit with her application.

The deposit totalled $2,500, equivalent to one month’s rent, she said in an interview. But the request came with a caveat — if she was offered the apartment but declined to sign the lease, she would lose her money.

Prior to submitting the deposit, she asked to see the recent bedbug infestation history on the building — which landlords are required to provide new tenants under law — along with information about lead paint. She said the broker rebuffed her.

“They said no, that I would get that at the lease-signing,” she told THE CITY. “Obviously, that is like a high-stakes situation. If there was some sort of history disclosed recently and you wanted to walk away because you weren’t comfortable with it, that would mean you would be walking away from the apartment and losing the good faith deposit.”

She took a deep breath and signed the lease on the two-bedroom unit anyway. The $2,500 good faith deposit was then subtracted from the broker’s fee, which was negotiated down from 15% to 12% of the annual rent.