The other day my husband and I received the following email from our 20-year-old daughter, who will be a senior at NYU continuing to live off campus:
“Hi wonderful parents, I’m starting to look for apartments again. Here’s the required paperwork I will probably need from you as Gurarantors:
1. an annual income of 80 – 100 times the monthly rent with excellent credit; 2. a letter of employment on the company letter head including hire date, title, and base salary; 3. the top two pages of most recent 1040 tax returns; 4. two of your most recent pay stubs; 5. the balance page of your most recent bank statements; 6. an enlarged copy of photo ID (155%); 7. a mortgage statement, or deed if you own free and clear.”
“You’re kidding, right?” was our reply.
Perhaps this explains my mindset leading up to my explosion of expletives while discussing the very idea of this prospective apartment- see my last f%&king post. When your kid needs to find an apartment in Manhattan on a budget (our rule is it can’t be more expensive than on campus housing,) you can’t help but get a little tense.
Melissa actually wasn’t kidding- she’ll need this documentation. And while she doesn’t need it to go see apartments, when she finds one, she’ll need this documentation pretty darn quick- or she’ll be at risk of losing something very, very terrible- the perfect apartment.
We should have known. We should have remembered from last year when she rented her first NYC apartment with two girlfriends. The memories of last year’s apartment rental came flooding back to me as I tossed and turned at 3AM. Last year, we didn’t have the guarantor information handy. Last year, we almost lost that most perfect apartment. Last year, after the girls had been approved for the lease, as a former real estate attorney, I volunteered to read and “negotiate” the documents. It did not go well:
Property Manager: “I need the Guaranty and the Lease back tomorrow.”
Me: “But I just got the lease today. And it’s 24 pages single-spaced-and it’s very teeny tiny font.” I was trying not to sound too lawyerly.
Me: “So, I was going to mark it up and send it back to you with changes.”
PM: “Why would you do that?”
Me: “Because I’m a real estate attorney and I actually read these things. There are usually a few provisions that require some changes.”
PM: “Oh that’s funny…you don’t practice real estate in The City, do you?”
Me: “Well, A City, yes-I practice in the Boston area.” (unless she was about to kill me, I was not going to admit I no longer practiced at all.)
PM: “Well, this is going to be a problem. Maybe the girls don’t really want this apartment.”
Me: “Of course they do. I just have a few concerns.”
PM: “Like what?”
Me: “Like I notice there is no grace period for rent before a penalty kicks in. I would like to see a 5 day grace period.”
PM: “We give you 5 days. We just don’t put it in the Lease. What else?”
Me: “It says that over 90% of the floor has to be covered with carpet. The floors are hard wood. They only have a few small throw rugs. Can we take that out?”
PM: “No, just ignore that.”
Me: “Will you take it out of the lease?”
I continued with a series of other concerns, while she sighed with exasperation and said no, before she cut me off entirely. I had clearly wasted 15 minutes of her very busy day.
PM: “Look, do the girls really want this apartment? We don’t make any changes to the lease. You would know that if you lived or practiced in The City.”
Ouch! F%&k You! Take your apartment and shove it up your ass.
Me: “Huh…Really? None? Ever? That’s hard to believe.”
PM: “None. This happens to be a very hot apartment. The girls need to sign the lease, you all need to sign the guaranty, and we need to receive bank or cashier’s checks for first, last, security deposit-by tomorrow. And, by the way, all the Guarantors’ signatures must be on the same document.”
Me: “On the same document? Are you kidding me? That’s crazy and it’s going to be very hard- none of us are in the same state, and one set of parents actually live in Greece.”
PM: “Well, that is not my problem. Do the girls want the apartment, or not?”
Did she hate me because I was a lawyer, or because I had dared to ask for changes, or was she just a bitch?
We scrambled. First, last, security deposit, guaranties, lease, all delivered as required. They got the apartment, and don’t ask why they are now leaving, because I am not really clear on that myself. I’m just bracing myself for another go around.
But I am no longer a neophyte guarantor. I keep reminding myself what I have learned. What didn’t kill me made me stronger, and I’m willing to share. Perhaps these hints will be helpful to you if your child decides he or she needs your help in renting his or her first apartment in NYC before he or she has credit of his or her own:
- Expect that your child will cancel everything to see a potentially good apartment. Classes, dates, medical appointments, probably weddings and funerals- no contest. This year, mine canceled her appointment to get her wisdom teeth removed.
- Brace yourself for outrageous commissions… not a standard one month, no– not even 10% of the yearly rental— for a “hot” property, like a tiny 4th floor walk up studio in the #trendy lower east side, it’s a whopping 15%.
- Be ready. Have your guarantor documentation at your fingertips. You will need to be approved with the rental application. You snooze, your kid may lose.
- Don’t expect to pre-approve the apartment in person. There is no time. Settle for Google maps and cell phone pictures.
- Make sure he/she opens and closes those cabinets quick to make sure there will be no little creatures living there with her.
- Ask about locks, and outside lighting, and check the shower pressure (by actually turning it on.)
- Ask anyone you see who lives in the building what it’s like to live in the building (noise, etc.)
- When you express concerns about safety, expect comments like: “all of Manhattan is safe now.” Just ignore those.
- Pretend your own mother is joking when she asks whether the building has an elevator or a doorman. Ha ha, that’s funny, mom!
- Do not let a lawyer anywhere near the lease.