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Before signing the lease, it doesn't hurt to do some extra research (Pexels - Andrea Piacquadio) Before signing the lease, it doesn't hurt to do some extra research (Pexels - Andrea Piacquadio)
From hidden leaks to hidden freaks, being a renter in New York City is full of surprises. Fortunately, renters now have access to a growing number of open-access databases to research prospective apartments and landlords before they sign on the dotted line.

This article introduces six databases every prospective renter should explore before they make their next big move. It also takes a look at some of the most significant of the 182 rental listings that experienced price reductions from March 22-28, 2023.

Researching Infestations

Finding out that your new and presumably unoccupied apartment is home to dozens or thousands of rats, mice, bedbugs, or cockroaches—or even worse, a combination of these critters—can be stressful, costly, and destabilizing. Fortunately, a bit of pre-lease-signing sleuthing can help renters mitigate the risk of ending up in this unwanted situation.

NYC Rat Information Portal

From affordable walk-ups to white-glove doorman buildings, rats are a problem in NYC. Unabashedly bold, they've even taken up residence in Mayor Eric Adams' property in Brooklyn. The experience prompted him to hire the city's first "rat czar," and renters are advised to take precautions of their own. To discover whether a building has recently had a Department of Health inspection and, if so, passed or revealed signs of rat activity, search the NYC Rat Map site, formally known as the NYC Rat Information Portal.

NYC Bedbug Registry

While bedbugs are making fewer headlines than rats at the moment, they haven’t disappeared. Bedbugs are another common New York City pest and don’t seem to be going anywhere. They are also a huge nuance for renters. Fortunately, there is also an open-source registry for bed buds. Just type your prospective rental building into the registry. If there has recently been a bedbug infestation or the building has had repeated infestations, the registry should provide details.
Rat Open source databases can help you avoid unwanted guests (Pexels - DSD)

NYC 311 Service Requests

Unfortunately, cockroaches are so common they don't even seem to merit their own registry in New York City, but that doesn't mean you can't discover where they are lurking. The most up-to-date data on cockroaches, and other building problems, can be found by visiting 311's Service Requests search. Type in your prospective address and its borough, and select a date range. Since there is no category for cockroach infestations, leave the dropdown menu blank or click on the general category of "sanitation condition." Click on search, and when the results appear, click on any results generated for the address in question. If there is a "sanitation condition," click on the pop-up box for details—this is where you'll discover the nature of the sanitation complaint, and cockroaches are frequently listed as the culprit.

Researching Neglected Maintenance and Repair Requests

If you've ever been a renter, you'll appreciate that some building owners are better than others at maintaining their buildings and responding to emergency repairs. To find out if your prospective building owner has a history of maintaining and repairing their building in a timely manner, do a search on the NYC Department of Buildings' Building Information site. If your building owner has a history of failing to replace broken boilers, fix plumbing or electrical issues, or repair broken elevators, this is the best place to find out.

That said, remember that maintenance and repair issues are ongoing, and nearly all buildings will have some information on file, and in many cases, the listed concerns are minor. For currently active service concerns, also search the DOB Now site (this is also a useful way to find out how much active construction is happening in your prospective building).

Researching Ownership and Rental Stabilization Status

In some cases, rental units are plagued by problems that have nothing to do with rodents or other common pests. For example, when market conditions are ideal, rental buildings in New York City frequently change hands. While this is an excellent way for investors to generate revenue from their real estate portfolios, for many renters, rotating landlords can create an unstable environment for renters. To find out if you’re about to rent in a building that seems to change hands often, do an ACRIS search of property records with ownership history.

As long as you’re digging into your prospective unit’s history, you may also want to find out if the unit you’re thinking about renting is or has ever been rent stabilized. This article explains how to find out how to investigate your prospective unit’s rent stabilization history, but a quick way to get started is to simply fill out this online form available on the NYS Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) site. Notably, this is also the easiest way to obtain a detailed rental history, which can be helpful as you negotiate the rent on your next home.

333-Central-Park-West-01 The Turin, #73 (Brown Harris Stevens)
From the Listing: Delivered unfurnished, this elegant and spacious 3-bed, 3.5-bath home provides unparalleled views of Central Park and the city skyline. Prewar details, grand scale proportions and herringbone floors provide the perfect blend of historic charm and contemporary style making this an ideal home for sophisticated living and entertaining. Five enormous picture windows bathe the living and dining room areas in wonderful light all day long and provide sparkling views of the city in the evenings. The gracious foyer and expansive hallway lead to the well-planned layout of this magnificent residence. A luxurious primary suite with an enormous dressing area and bathroom with double sinks, soaking bath and walk-in shower provides modern luxuries. See floor plan and full details here.

61-West-62nd-Street-01 The Harmony, #18MN (Compass)
From the Listing: This corner combo unit with stunning new hardwood floors has incredible western sunset views over the Hudson River. The layout of the unit allows for privacy among the bedrooms. The in-unit laundry room has a second refrigerator for extra storage. Although it’s a coop, this unit can be continually rented, so long-term renters are welcome. The Harmony is a full-service building with live-in super and excellent staff. See floor plan and full details here.

170-East-77th-Street-01 Diamond House, #3C (Douglas Elliman)
From the Listing: This triple exposure home offers a spacious and airy layout, with original beamed ceilings and new hardwood floors throughout. Upon entering the open foyer, you are invited into an expansive entertaining sunken living/ dining room. The eat-in kitchen was designed by Bulthaup and is equipped with a Sub-Zero refrigerator and other top of the line appliances, including a wine cooler. All four bedrooms are generously sized, and the home also features a den/home office area. See floor plan and full details here.

73-Fifth-Avenue-01 The Kensington, #5B (Luxe Group NYC LLC)
From the Listing: This architecturally designed home offers approximately 3,100 square feet of sumptuous living with no comfort or detail overlooked. The harmonious design allows for lively entertaining or a quiet night in front of a fireplace. There are three bedrooms, one of which is currently a very generous office. Three full baths, Japanese soaking tub, and one powder room. Chef’s kitchen, Bertozzini stove, large marble island, Subzero fridge, wine cooler, and kitchen pantry. A very gracious foyer/gallery wall opens into the living space, where a 13-foot ceiling soars above walnut floors and five large windows. See floor plan and full details here.

269-Ainslie-Street-01 269 Ainslie Street, #1 (Compass)
From the Listing: Charming three-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment with direct access to shared garden. Recently renovated, the apartment offers a washer and dryer, dishwasher and full sized stainless steel appliances. Heat and hot water are included. See floor plan and full details here.

211-East-53rd-Street-01 The Hawthorne, #14C (Compass)
From the Listing: This newly renovated enormous corner one bedroom has all the luxury and design elements that make it a perfect home and an ideal space to entertain. The apartment features a corner living room and dining area with eastern and northern exposures, a spacious primary bedroom, newly refinished hardwood floors throughout, a marble bathroom, and ample closet space. The windowed open kitchen is equipped with stainless steel appliances and granite countertops. See floor plan and full details here.

450-East-83rd-Street-01 Cielo, #21A (The Corcoran Group)
From the Listing: This spacious corner two-bedroom is anchored by floor-to-ceiling windows that provide tremendous city views, taking in the RFK Triborough Bridge and stretching all the way across the East River. The mint-condition apartment features hardwood floors, soaring ceilings, dramatic oversized windows, and custom recessed lighting in every room. The entry foyer leads into an expansive living room/dining room, built around a large open kitchen equipped with top-of-the-line stainless steel appliances. Floor-to-ceiling windows fill this entire space with natural light, while all windows in the apartment have electronic blinds that provide privacy with the push of a button. Option to rent furnished. See floor plan and full details here.

15-Broad-Street-01 Downtown by Starck, #2420 (Compass)
From the Listing: An ultra-stylish south and west-facing, 2-3 bedroom /2 bathroom (windowed library/office can be configured into a third bedroom) is imbued with the eponymous designer’s trademark flair. At 1,800 square feet, this high-floor home stands above its peers thanks to beamed ceilings, rising to 11’, striking oversized sash windows, re-finished hardwood floors, a comprehensive & thoughtfully curated suite of modern customizations, deigns & upgrades, in-unit washer/dryer, charming built-ins, and the aforementioned 650-square-foot wraparound terrace-adjacent to the living room, which comes furnished with an outdoor shower, tasteful weatherproof furniture, and an irrigation system. See floor plan and full details here.

25-Central-Park-West-01 The Century, #23K (Brown Harris Stevens)
From the Listing: Stunning Central Park and city views highlight this tastefully furnished apartment at The Century. A spacious entry foyer leads to the inviting sunken living room with its two east facing windows overlooking the Park. The living room’s comfortable funishings include a large TV, and round dining table with 4 chairs. The spacious corner primary bedroom has a king size bed and a windowed en-suite bathroom. The two windows in the primary bedroom provide a panoramic direct park view to the east and a dramatic northern view up Central Park West. See floor plan and full details here.

429-East-52nd-Street-01 River Court, #29AB (The Corcoran Group)
From the Listing: Beautiful renovation with top-of-the-line finishes, appliances and fixtures. All rooms have stunning north and east facing views. including the 59th Street Bridge. Your new home features 3 large bedrooms all with ensuite bathrooms. Extraordinary powder room in center foyer. Magnificent hardwood plank wood floors throughout. Washer and dryer in kitchen. See floor plan and full details here.

460-West-145th-Street-01 460 West 145th Street, #GARDEN (Compass)
From the Listing: This stunning gut renovated floor-through one-bedroom apartment is in a four-unit gut-renovated townhouse on 145th and Convent. This garden apartment features private garden, washer/dryer in unit, dishwasher, high ceilings, brand-new appliances, recessed lighting, ample closet space, and virtual intercom system. Price reflects two months free rent. See floor plan and full details here.

240-East-86th-Street-01 The Ventura, #019F (Rose Associates)
From the Listing: This stunning 25-story glass, steel, limestone and brick Upper East Side apartment building offers studio, one and two-bedroom apartments, some of which feature terraces. Each luxury residence includes a gourmet kitchen, limestone bath with Kohler fixtures, customized closets and an in-home washer and dryer. No fee and save 50% on your security deposit! See floor plan and full details here.

27-West-16th-Street-01 27 West 16th Street, #LF (Mirador Real Estate LLC)
From the Listing: Massive two-level apartment right off of Union Square/ Flatiron area! The apartment has two full baths, two bedrooms plus another room for storage, and a spacious living room. Additional features include Caesarstone counter tops; Fisher & Paykel, Blomberg, and Kohler appliances; Restoration Hardware pedestal sinks and vanities, and wide plank flooring. Ask about current promotions with Life Time Fitness. See floor plan and full details here.

318-West-20th-Street-01 318 West 20th Street, #TH (Brown Harris Stevens)
From the Listing: This newly renovated mansion offers over 8,000 interior square feet, an elevator serving all levels, four outdoor spaces of nearly 2,000 square feet, automated home system, and space for entertaining on a grand scale. Originally built in 1900, this six-bedroom house has just undergone a modern revamping with meticulous attention to detail and exquisite finishes. Equipped with state of the art technology throughout, the home includes Savant lighting, ICRealtime surveillance system, Sonos sound, and Ring smart home automation. See floor plan and full details here.

100-Riverside-Drive-01 100 Riverside Drive, #2A (The Corcoran Group)
From the Listing: Be the first to live in this all-new classic six! Huge 24' x 14' sunken living room with working marble fireplace. The bedrooms include a 17' x 13' primary bedroom with en-suite bath, a 17' x 12' second bedroom, and a 14' x 7' third bedroom. The is an enormous dining gallery, an open kitchen with stainless appliances including dishwasher and microwave, and a stacked washer and dryer. See floor plan and full details here.

631-East-18th-Street-01 631 East 18th Street, #6A (The Corcoran Group)
From the Listing: Stunning sunrise and sunset views from this penthouse, one bedroom with a 1,000-square-foot private roof deck with landscaping, as well as a balcony off the living room with Manhattan views. With a contemporary open kitchen, and 2-zone mini-splits for air conditioning and heating, it doesn’t get better than this! Recycling and trash chutes on very floor. See floor plan and full details here.

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Contributing Writer Cait Etherington Cait Etherington has over twenty years of experience working as a journalist and communications consultant. Her articles and reviews have been published in newspapers and magazines across the United States and internationally. An experienced financial writer, Cait is committed to exposing the human side of stories about contemporary business, banking and workplace relations. She also enjoys writing about trends, lifestyles and real estate in New York City where she lives with her family in a cozy apartment on the twentieth floor of a Manhattan high rise.