See If You Can Top These New York City Apartment-Hunting Horror Stories
Finding a place to sleep at night is terrifying.
You've heard the horror stories. You've seen the Tumblr of "Worst Rooms," all of which look like the scary space beneath the stairs in a falling down building AND cost upwards of $500 a month. For a room. That barely fits a futon. Folded in half.
But you told yourself that it wouldn't be that way for you. "I'm a grown-ass adult," you said. "I'm very good at responding to Craigslists ads." You didn't realize that no one who posts an ad on Craigslist ever checks their email, let alone cares about how prompt and polite your response was.
You thought you could figure out a way to get a nice, unsketchy place without a broker.
. . . . . You were wrong.
You thought you could use the money from your last security deposit, plus the thousand in your savings account, to cover new apartment costs.
. . . . . OH MY GOD WERE YOU WRONG.
You thought, in a city this big, with this many apartments in this many neighborhoods, that you wouldn't spend all your waking hours trolling StreetEasy and obsessively texting the listing agent like an ex-boyfriend.
. . . . . You were so fucking wrong.
My personal story has a happy ending -- just two days ago, I found a place, it's great, the broker with the gold chain and well-groomed K-Fed goatee was very kind when he took my $2000 in exchange for ten minutes of labor -- but hearing success stories won't make you feel better.
But you know what might? Some horror stories. I beseech you: share your own in the comments, and we'll make everyone feel a little better/worse about the entire broken process.
"I need my tool shed."
Went to see a one bedroom, got there and two of the doors that had been advertised as "large closets" were locked. The landlord said, "That one is the boiler room, that one is my tool shed. If I need to get in I will call you, and if you don't pick up, I will come in any way. I need my tool shed."
"A 45 degree angle tilt."
"We met a broker at a Starbucks who I swear was Mr. Bean IRL. With tons of scattered papers in hand, he got out of his too small for him yellow VW Beatle and rushed us to an apartment we just HAD to see. It was a 4th floor walk-up so not bad by NY standards but we got in and the floors were titled. Not like a normal uneven wood floor in a lot of NY apartments: I mean a 45 degree angle tilt.
I told him I didn't think it would work and he went into this elaborate story about a man who lived under a bridge that would raise up and down for boats to go under. And HE got used to it (now I'm wondering if that man was him?) so we could get used to it too. He also suggested we put a few books underneath the side of our furniture that would inevitably be far down the slope of the apartment. And that apartment did NOT come cheap."
"Creepy, broken kids' toys lyng on the living room floor."
"When I was looking for my first apartment in New York, my roommate and I came across a listing that seemed suspicious in its perfection: a cheap two-bedroom in an old brownstone on a gorgeous leafy block right next to Prospect Park. Suspicion is an unaffordable luxury when you're looking for an apartment in New York, so we went to go see it. The block was indeed leafy, and the brownstone was indeed old. Things went downhill from there.
The landlord, who lived on the second floor, was a tiny and shriveled old woman who really, truly didn't speak English. In order to get the key we had to awkwardly edge around hoarder-style piles of crap into her kitchen (which smelled more like 300 years' worth of boiled cabbage and kitty litter than I knew was possible). Key in hand, we proceeded up to the third floor to find that the door to the apartment had actually been, for some reason, left open. So had a couple of the windows. Then we went into the kitchen and noticed that something smelled a little funny, and figure out that a burner on the tiny and ancient gas stove had been left on, full-blast. Although in retrospect all of this was probably just someone being careless, at the time it was legitimately unsettling (especially given the added touch of some creepy, broken kids' toys lying on the living room floor) and I was pretty convinced that the landlady was trying to ensnare us in some kind of gas death trap. We left, immediately. We did not apply for a lease."
"Sorry, wrong person."
"Once I had a broker who would take us to apartments he didn't have appointments to see so he'd just ring doorbells hoping the tenants would be home? That's not the weird part though. The weird part was his boss accidentally texted me instead of him saying "just get off your ass and fucking show her some more apartments." He then texted me "sorry, wrong person."
"I actually couldn't tell if they were dead."
"A broker walked my friend and I into an apartment where about eight people were strewn about sleeping midday, and I actually couldn't tell if they were dead. We literally had to step over someone to look at the bathroom."
"Sometimes we get drug addicts in the backyard."
"I was once showed an apartment by a landlord who wore nothing but overalls. He told me, 'sometimes we get drug addicts in the backyard, but call me and I'll come get rid of them. They're harmless.'
I lived in that apartment for a year."
"There were people freebasing in the apartment."
"This isn't really a broker story. It's a story about why a broker isn't always a bad idea, even though they suck. When I moved to NY after college in the 1990s, I was determined to live in Manhattan for less than $500 a month. You get what you pay for. I wound up in this weird share with this 40-year-old Falstaffian "artist" who was renting "rooms" in his studio in Chelsea. He gave a few disturbing instructions, such as "the gas hook up is a little strange, so be careful not to use the stove unless I am here to turn it off, otherwise you could blow the whole place up." I went out to celebrate my new apartment, and my new grown up NYC lifestyle. When I came back about 11 pm, I walked from the street into my apartment without every going through a locked door. I spoke to the other roommate about this. He was recently arrived from Iowa. He said. "Yeah, it's kind of a problem. I came home the other night and there were people freebasing in the apartment." For mysterious, possibly sinister reasons, this wasn't enough to convince the "artist" to lock the doors. I continued to fret out loud about this to my new roommate, and finally he said. "Well, I got myself some extra security." Then he reached behind his toiletries and a photograph of his family on his bookshelf and pulled out a gun.
I went to my room, and told myself I was in NYC now and things were different. I lasted until 2 am when I left that apartment in my pajamas with my teddy bear and baby blanket and got sobbing into a cab headed for a friends house. I moved to Brooklyn the next day."
"He toppled down a flight of stairs in the building."
"I went to see this railway apartment in Greenpoint and the owner was very drunk when he showed me the place. He showed me the roof and I was terrified he'd fall over. He didn't, but he toppled down a flight of stairs in the building when he was showing me out. He said, 'It's okay. I'm too drunk to feel a thing.'"
"Every other floor was a sweatshop."
"My first NY apt was on Walker Street. This was before Craigslist. I found it through a sign taped to a street post. It was a sixth floor walkup and every other floor was a sweatshop filled with Chinese ladies hunched over sewing machines. My roommate/landlord was Nestan, a woman from Georgia (not the one with the Peaches and fondness for sweet tea. The other Georgia), and the other tenants were Manel, a Catalan filmmaker and Jason, who worked at Kim's Video. The apartment was huge and extremely rustic. That's because it was an illegal living space in the whole floor of a building designed for commercial purposes.
When I was in my "room" and the phone rang at the other end of the apartment, I would literally have to sprint in order to get there before it went to voicemail. Nestan was dating a crack dealer and they would sometimes cook crack on the stove in the apartment. Her boyfriend was very scary looking and whenever he was in the apartment, the rest of us would retreat to our rooms. My room was so small it physically could not contain a mattress, so I had to buy a futon mattress and a big part of it rode up the wall in order to fit. There was no A/C and it was extremely hot in the apartment. And there was almost no furniture. Just vast hot emptiness. Nestan once told me a story of walking in on Jason in an intimate moment. Here's how she told it: "Ken, I am thinking that Jason is homosexual." "Why do you say that, Nestan?" "Well, one day I am coming in to the house early and I am finding him having sex with other man." One day, Nestan and Jason got in a big fight and were screaming at each other and she started throwing his stuff down the stairs. It was great."
So: can you top that?