I was inspired to write again about renting in the city after I came across this article in the fabulously trashy New York Post. Turns out one enterprising woman had been living in her dead aunt’s fancy Brooklyn apartment at rent-stabilized rates for FIVE years by pretending the dear old lady was still with us. “She has a touch of arthritis”, she would airily advise suspicious members of the co-op board.
When I spoke with my boss about this today, she laughed and said this was very New York. Is bare-faced fraud really the only way to keep your rent down when living in the Big Apple? From my own experience (of which more shortly), this kind of under the radar activity seems almost the rule, not the exception.
You see, the time has finally come from me to move on from my current abode. I don’t think I ever really explained, but basically I have been flying under the radar in my current place as a semi-illegal sub-letter. Well, I say illegal, but really I just mean the management company don’t really permit it. The doormen in my condo are well-aware of what’s going on and turn a blind eye. The leasing office did become suspicious about packages being delivered to an undeclared person based in this building, but to my knowledge are not aware of this irregular, yet very common, situation.
This scenario has enabled me to avoid (so far) the whole broker’s fee, first and last month’s rent plus deposit scandal that is depressingly de rigeur when renting a New York apartment. But now the lease is up I will finally have to face the music and fork out some serious cash for a new place to live.
In the meantime, I have to ratchet up the whole pretence that I don’t live here by several more notches. The leasing office are showing people the apartment and so they need to be thrown off the scent. This currently involves having to hide everything that gives away that a guy lives in this bedroom and not a girl (as on the lease). I have even had to take this to the level of hiding my shoes and toiletries, leaving the seat down on the en suite loo and laying floral cushions on the bed before I leave. Yes people, I’m that devious.
Fortunately, this chicanery is just for a few weeks. I have begun the search for a new room by scouring anew the depressing ads of Craigslist New York, with admittedly mixed results. My response to one listing brought no reply, just a reposting of the room available (aka a virtual slap in the face). My response to another secured an invitation to look round one pad in Gramercy – the residents were nice lads, but turned out to be on the 5th floor of a walk-up. This would be no fun when drunk, so I bowed out. A third, however, may be a goer.
Last week, I looked round a room-share in Brooklyn, which would involve sharing an apartment with another guy of a similar age who seemed sane, easy-going and sociable. Believe me, these are not attributes possessed by all NYC apartment-dwellers. He did assure me that the area was safe (“you maybe hear gun-fire only twice a year”) and we got on – so I’m currently waiting on tenterhooks to find out if I get the room or if it goes to one of the other prospective tenants he had lined up. The suspense! Wish me luck…