I feel poor. I feel demoralized. I need a hug. This wouldn’t happen in any other city; being sucker punched by the housing market. In February I allowed my lease to expire for my old apartment because I had several months of travel planned, including trips through Scandinavia, London, and Malta. My significant other at the time and I decided it would be best for me to move into her place temporarily. This gave us an opportunity to test out the possibility of living together. It also saved us a good chunk of moola. Some of the money was used for plane tickets so that she could visit me in Europe, and the rest of the money was set aside for moving to a new apartment. Unfortunately, that experiment didn’t work out in the way we expected, and it also further solidified my view that couples shouldn’t live together in the modern age. Anyway, I’m sinnnnggggglllleeeee, and apartment hunting.
A friend of mine was generous enough to let me crash on her couch after the “divorce”. Some of my stuff is still at my ex’s place and everything else is in storage. My life has been in limbo since the breakup and I’ve been searching and searching for a new home. Initially I was unsure if I wanted to still live in Manhattan or if I wanted to live in Brooklyn. If I decided on Brooklyn, which neighborhood would I choose? Using Craigslist, StreetEasy, and renthop I started visiting vacant apartments in many of the neighborhoods I was interested in, but hadn’t frequented in the past. During this research period I observed that the Upper East Side was too, moms in yoga pants pushing around strollers, for me. Downtown Brooklyn/Clinton Hill/Fort Greene offered apartments with a lot of value for the price, but it’s not my type of crowd. I’ve never heard anyone say, “let’s go hang out in Downtown Brooklyn!”
I eventually settled with the following neighborhoods in the order of preference: Lower Eastside (LES), East Village (EV), Williamsburg (WB), and possibly Bushwick (BW). Not only did I want to be in a neighborhood with a good vibe, but I wanted my next apartment to serve as a strategic location for stand up comedy. Seeing how 50% of my work is within a mile of LES/EV, living in either of those neighborhoods would keep my commute limited. I’ve also wanted to live in LES/EV since forever, because it’s grungy, artsy, has some of the best food in the city, and, at least in my view, it’s the best area in New York City. It would be huge for me to experience that for a couple of years.
I ended up finding an apartment I wanted to rent in the LES through the Listings Project, a weekly mailing list with no fee apartments, sublets, office spaces, etc. (if you’re looking for deals in NYC I suggest signing up for the mailing list). The apartment was listed by someone who was breaking their lease, but needed another tenant to take over. It was in a perfect location, on a quite street, yet a block away from all the action. The apartment had a loft bed, which was unique, but it created enough space to fit my couch, bed, and desk and still be comfortable, which is rare for NYC. I was super excited! Even though the landlord was asking for $150 more than the original lease, it was still a good price for the fact that it was rent stabilized.
I filled out an application and gave the landlord’s broker all the necessary paperwork. I’ve previously written about New York’s ridiculous housing market, so it was expected that I would have to meet the landlord’s stringent requirements for documents required during the application process. In the New York market, especially in a neighborhood with such demand, the landlord isn’t trying to woo you. Instead you are begging them to approve you based on your merits. I can empathize with the landlords because they are protecting their interests, and they don’t want a tenant that is difficult, but it can mean a long, grueling, and stressful process for the applicant. You have to be perfect; You need great credit, recent pay stubs, employment letter, copy of your ID, tax returns, bank statements, proof of payment for your previous apartment, reference letter from your previous landlord, personal and professional referrals, while also having a salary that is 40x the monthly rent. So if the rent is $2,000 a month, you need to be making at least $80,000 per year. The only thing missing from their list of requests are fingerprints and blood and urine samples.
I thought I had everything needed to secure an apartment. I was so excited that I would be living in LES! Then the landlord’s broker got back to me and stated that I had dings in my credit report due to medical bills from when I collapsed in 2011 and ended up in the hospital. Even though, according to the broker, my score was 703 and is considered great (my credit score shows 723 on Mint, but these scores all vary based on the financial institution), the landlord found the derogatory marks alarming. FUCK! The issue stemmed from my health insurance not paying out my medical bills as I thought they were supposed to (can we get single payer healthcare please?). I’ve never had issues with obtaining anything due to my credit since I was in my stupid early 20s. Also, whenever I log into my Mint account I always see an excellent score and I haven’t had issues getting credit or even renting my previous apartment in Manhattan, so I never cared. Plus I have enough money in my bank to show that I could handle the rent for several years. Regardless, it was my dumb ass mistake that this was still on my report, and now it was affecting my application. The landlord wanted to protect himself, so he asked me to get a guarantor, but it had to be someone that made at least 80x the monthly rent ($2,000 X 80 = $160,000). Uhhhh, my family ain’t rich, so I don’t have the luxury to call up my parents for help. In fact, I haven’t called my family for money since I was in my stupid early 20s. I ended up writing an eloquent e-mail back to the broker/landlord explaining why the medical issue occurred, and that hopefully all the other excellent points about my application would justify my worthiness to rent the apartment.
Rejected. The broker e-mailed me back with the landlord’s decision and he stated, “He makes business decisions we don’t always agree with but unfortunately are unable to influence and must convey regardless of our opinion.” It was all due to the minor dings on my report. The broker also told me over the phone that these types of denials were rare, and he was surprised that the landlord didn’t accept my application.
I was laying in bed when I got the rejection, but instead of being down, I got my ass up that morning, took a long shower, dressed fly for a Pakistani guy, and started the day positively. I was thinking that it’s okay, I’ll find something better. There’s no way this would happen again. I know I made a mistake, but I’m a responsible person and hopefully another landlord will see that.
I continued my search, but this time I was much better prepared. Note, that the supply in the market for apartments is very small in Manhattan and even more so in LES. If you see an apartment you like you have to put in an application right away. After looking at a few apartments I found a place that was a bit better than the first place I applied to. It had a lot of natural light, a big bedroom, and a shared courtyard which would be awesome to use during the summer. I informed the broker ahead of time about my credit situation and he stated it shouldn’t be a problem. He checked all my info and it all looked good to him. According to this broker my credit score was 693, but again it’s probably because it was from a different financial institution. The broker said it shouldn’t be a problem and that I had a good application.
Rejected. Same reasons. Same bullshit. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. That day was so shitty. I had to walk to the broker’s office to get back my deposit check. It was only 5pm and the city was gloomier than the backdrop for every Batman movie. It was raining balls, a huge zit popped up on my right temple, and Donald Trump was out on the campaign trail talking about shutting down mosques and tracking Muslims. Ahhh the whole registering a Muslim thing, again?!!
The second broker told me the same thing as the first broker. That it’s rare for an application like mine to be denied and that it may just be the landlord. Yeah. Two different brokers. Two different apartments. Same damn result. I asked the broker what he recommended I do, and he stated that I should call the creditors/collectors and get the issue sorted out while getting a letter to show that it’s been fixed. Having a guarantor would be an added benefit too.
I was mentally drained, but my analytical mind was racing. What was it? Just the credit? Twice? Come on! A friend of mine who understands the New York market asked if they were just being racist? Ummmmm, I doubt it. Why would they be? Then I started thinking, well, what if they read or watched some of the stuff on my site and didn’t agree with it? I am planning on applying for an apartment again, but I can’t just take stuff down from my site. So, if you’re a landlord that is reading this right now, I swear I’m a nice and responsible person! If you let me lease an apartment in your building I will be very respectful, I will pay my rent on time; refer to the tenant reference letter or payment activity portion of my application please ????. I just made a human mistake. Plllleeeassseeeee accept me! Unless if you’re a racist landlord, then, well, I strive to be white everyday, so please look past my skin color dear sir! White power ✊!
Third Time’s the Charm
I went to sleep early the night after my second rejection and recharged for over 11 hours. The next morning I called the debt collectors and worked out a way to remove the information from my credit entirely. I received faxes (yeah, they don’t do e-mail) confirming that the collection had been resolved and would be deleted for my credit report. I also made a phone call to someone close to me who had a sufficient salary to be a guarantor and embarrassingly asked them for their help in case I needed it.
Man, I’m too old for this shit. In any other city I would be getting months of free rent and a hand job for my qualifications. Though I’ve definitely learned a lesson, don’t mess with credit algorithms made by the man.
This entire process has been depressing, but I’m going into the next apartment application process with all the ammo a tenant can have. I’m hoping that third time’s the charm, but if I get rejected again I don’t know what I could possibly do to get an apartment, at least in downtown New York City, and I will probably have to go to Brooklyn or something. Waaahhhhhh. Pleassseeee nooooooooo!
Have you ever had problem renting? Have you ever had issues with your credit? Most of us have had these types of issues, so feel free to comment or share your experiences below.