A Guide to Getting a Portable Washing Machine in NYC

The PropertyClub Team
Feb 21st 2020
Ever wish you had an in-unit washer and dryer in your apartment? We'll let you know everything there is to know about getting a portable washing machine or dryer, from what you can expect to pay to what to look for in your lease to NYC Department of Building requirements.

One of the most convenient amenities of any New York City rental building is having onsite laundry in the building. However, no matter how convenient it is to have laundry in your building, nothing beats having a washer and dryer installed right within your apartment. While most landlords do not offer in-unit washer and dryers, it's relatively common in larger New York City buildings to find least of a couple of tenants that have installed washer and dryers, including portable ones (with and without) their landlord's permission. In any event, before you jump up and install a portable one or install a regular washer and dryer, be sure you understand whether or not your building even allows them in the first place.

Why Buy a Portable Washing Machine in NYC?

If you live in an apartment that doesn't have washer/dryer hookups or the apartment can't accommodate installing a regular washer and dryer, you may want to consider installing a portable machine. Their compact style makes them ideal for apartments and small spaces.

Additionally, portable washing machines are typically less than half the capacity of a full-size washing machine, which means you can save money on utilities. A portable washing machine can be a smart investment if you have a newborn baby who uses washable cloth diapers etc.

Lastly, if you are a frequent mover like many younger NYC residents, you could use a portable washer because they are easy to move and even easier to set up as you move from apartment to apartment.

First, What does your lease say?

Because there have been times where tenants have installed a washing machine, your landlord may have already prohibited sale within your apartment.

Check with your board or building

A significant number of New York buildings (i.e., rentals, co-ops, and condos) do not allow washer/dryers in their units, and this includes portable ones. While a limited number of condos and coops will allow them to be installed, it is usually on a case-by-case basis. If management or the board doesn't allow the installation of washers/dryers, there is usually a good reason for that.

Landlords are often concerned with overflows. Specifically, if the washing machine malfunctions, backups, or floods, it could potentially damage the apartments below, which is a liability to the landlord and will cost them money.

Additionally, bother portable and regular full-size washers make noise and vibrate. As such, the noise could possibly become a nuisance to your neighbors, especially in buildings with poor insulation.

Depending on the capacity of your building's water heater, the loss of hot or cold water can also occur if you are using a portable washer or have installed a washer and dryer, which is yet another nuisance for your neighbors. Further, sometimes the pipes in older buildings are unable to handle the extra water created by washing machines. This becomes a problem because apartment units typically share drainage pipes with adjacent units.

To combat these issues, many buildings require that a containment pan be installed under the washer together with a shut-off valve or an overflow sensor.

While there is no dispute that washers are convenient for tenants, it does increase water usage and utility costs. As such, if your landlord is responsible for paying the utilities. Specifically, the water bill, or less commonly the electricity, the landlord will not appreciate the extra cost associated with a washing machine.

Permanent Washer and Dryers must Comply with NYC DOB Requirements

The New York City Department of Buildings requires that building owners hire a master plumber to obtain a permit to install permanent washers in each unit.

If you decide to install a gas dryer, you'll need to tap into an existing legal gas line and ensure that it has adequate ventilation, which is why they are typically put in a windowed bathroom or kitchen. The DOB allows the washer and dryer to be installed in the closet, provided that the code requirements are met. If the washer and dryer are installed in the closet, regardless if it's a gas or electric dryer, it must have a sprinkler head in a building that requires sprinkler systems.

Wet-over-dry restrictions in NYC Apartments.

Most landlords will require that your washer and dryer be installed in or near what is called a wet space. Generally, that means that the appliances must be installed close to a waste and supply pipe. Installing a washer and dryer in a closet may be possible unless the building has a "wet-over-dry rule." Specifically, this rule prohibits owners, shareholders, or tenants from installing new wet areas, (i.e., kitchens and bathrooms) directly above dry areas such as a bedroom or living room. There are various reasons that landlords don't allow to create new wet over dry areas.

Gas vs. Electric Dryers in NYC Apartments.

When deciding between a gas or electric dryer, the chances are that your dryer will be electric. Specifically, while gas dryers are more efficient than electric ones, gas dryer requires an existing legal gas line to be used for installation, which many apartments won't allow.

Electrical outlets carry different voltage in accordance with the applicable local building codes. You could get a 220-volt electric dryer, which will dry clothes faster when compared with a 110-volt dryer. However, keep in mind that every unit and building is incapable of supporting a 220-volt dryer. Further, dryers need to use dedicated outlets in your apartment that will meet the power requirements to avoid overload, as some dryers could use around 3000 watts per hour. If you erroneously plug a washer or dryer into the wrong outlet, that is a violation of your local building codes and fire safety codes.

How Much Will you Spend on a Washer and Dryer in NYC?

Installing a washer and dryer in your apartment can cost up to $6000. Of course, these installation costs include the expenses associated with installing new plumbing lines and in the electrical upgrades that may be required. Typically, if you can take advantage of any existing lines within the apartment, you can expect to pay half of that amount to install a washer and dryer as far as the cost of actually purchasing a washer and dryer, be prepared to pay anywhere from $1,500 to $2000 for a stackable apartment size washer and dryer. Portable machines run under $500. However, you can expect to pay up to $3000 For a higher-end washer and dryer. Overall, the best advice is to purchase the highest quality washing dryer that fits your budget as this is a long term investment that you will probably be able to take with you.