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Heaven on Earth or Hellhole?

Posted on June 8, 2011

Use these tips to keep safety in mind, Gotham Brokerage says

When looking for apartments in New York City, gauging a building’s safety can be more difficult than in other cities. Because so much of Gotham’s rental housing stock is old, looks can deceive; a run-down building in a less-than-stellar neighborhood might have new deadbolts and motion-sensitive lights, while a clean, modern place might have overgrown shrubbery and dark corridors.

239 West 13th Street between Seventh and Greenwich Avenues in Greenwich Village - Beyond My Ken, Wikimedia Commons

But there are some basic things every apartment hunter should look for, in NYC or not:

  • Is there more than one entrance, and are the entrances well-lit and easy to see from outside?
  • What’s the lighting like in and around the building? Are there motion-sensitive or timed exterior lights? What about hallways?
  • Have the locks to the apartment been replaced since the last tenant? Is there at least one deadbolt, a door lock and a chain?
  • Do the windows lock? Are there bars on them?
  • Do the doors have peepholes?

Apartment hunters also should ask the landlord about the policy for making copies of keys. Many landlords do not allow copies to be made for anyone who doesn’t live there. In general, if you live alone and do make copies, put them somewhere that only you have access to.

New Yorkers should learn a few other tips that can be more useful in the city than anywhere else. As hard as it can be, resist the urge to chat on the cellphone or key in text messages as you approach your home. That’s when attacks are most likely. It’s not a bad idea to write only your initials or last name on your mailbox. Tenants open themselves up to ID theft by revealing their full names.

People need to be vigilant. With a big city vibe and high rents that come with it, New York is an easy place to wind up living in a substandard, dangerous place. It happens all the time here. The most important thing, of course, is to have a thorough home inventory — with a photographic or video record of your items put away in a safe place and a good renters insurance policy that’ll cover anything of value against burglary. For sound advice on any of these issues, feel free to call or e-mail Gotham Brokerage — we’ve been operating in the city for a half-century, and there’s no rental situation or potential hazard we haven’t seen.