How to Find For Rent By Owner Apartments in NYC

The PropertyClub Team
Jul 26th 2020
If you’re interested in finding “FRBO” properties in NYC, you’re not alone. This guide will show you how to snag amazing rental deals on for rent by owner apartments in New York City and how to avoid getting scammed.

New York City is known for having hundreds of apartments for rent at any given moment, but that doesn’t mean that everyone will want to have apartments rented out by large corporations. There are plenty of reasons why renters often prefer to work with apartments that are rented out directly by their owners. Unfortunately, finding them can be kind of hard. 

Why Choose A “For Rent By Owner” Apartment?

FRBO, also known as “for rent by owner” properties are a hot ticket item in New York City, and to a point, it’s easy to see why. Along with having a friendlier, more human relationship with your landlord, renting a FRBO apartment tends to have other perks. These include:

  • Cheaper Rent- This is the big pull for most renters. Since you’re usually dealing with a single landlord, you don’t have to worry about rent, including overhead for an entire staff of people. This leads to lower rents.
  • More Negotiation Room- When you have a regular person as a landlord, there’s a good chance that you will be able to negotiate with them if things become an issue. For example, a single landlord may be more open to letting you pay rent a day late than a company would be. 
  • More Relaxed Renting Standards- Though this isn’t always true, you do have a higher chance of finding a landlord who’s understanding and will be more flexible with rental requirements in the FRBO world.
  • No Rental Fees- People who are offering up FRBO will not charge “finder fees” or require you to pay a month’s fee for a real estate agent. In a city like the Big Apple, that’s an automatic discount.

Are FRBO Rentals Legal In New York City?

Yes, they are. If you own an apartment, condo, or house, you absolutely have the right to rent it out to whoever you choose to. So, if you see an ad saying that it’s for rent by the owner, then it’s safe to say it could be a legal issue. 

Why Do Some People Avoid Apartments For Rent By Their Owners?

There’s a good side and a bad side to almost every apartment situation, and that holds true for FRBOs as well. The biggest drawback is that they are more prone to scams and that many landlord horror stories have occurred in FRBO properties. 

The problem that many people have is that these types of apartment rental arrangements are genuinely a “mixed bag” situation. Some are amazing, but those that are awful are truly awful. If you do choose to do a rental through this route, you will have to vet your rental before you move in. It’s in your best interest to do so!

How To Find FRBO Apartments In New York City

Finding apartments for rent in New York City isn’t hard. It’s finding apartments for rent by the individual people who own them that’s the issue. Since they’re being rented out by owners, you’re not going to be dealing with real estate companies, nor will you be working with typical real estate listings. 

So, if you can’t reach out to a realtor, where do you go? It’s actually not that bad. If you’re wondering where these apartments are, here’s the scoop:

  • You can usually find them on rental listing sites like StreetEasy. Though listings on these sites might be on the pricier side of things, it’s possible to find apartments for rent by owner on these websites. For better deals, you can try more niche sites like LeaseBreak or Flip
  • Craigslist is a surprisingly good tool for finding them too. While it may have a stigma, this online posting board does have a lot of hidden gems among the faux ads. If you are using Craigslist, make sure that the ad you’re replying to shows a real home and has a poster who will give you an in-person tour.
  • Facebook often has advertisements for apartments that fit the FRBO bill as well. Much like Craigslist, Facebook’s marketplace tends to be a little dodgy compared to actual listing sites, but they still are one of the better places to find low-key apartments.
  • It’s important to remember that word of mouth is a common form of advertising when it comes to FRBOs. The best way to find a great apartment is to ask around since many of the best deals are not overtly advertised. It may take a little networking effort, but it’s an effort that usually pays off. 

What Should You Expect When Applying For A For Rent By Owner Apartment?

FRBO apartments are still held to the same standard as all other legal apartments in New York City. So, this means that you will still have tenant rights once you move in, that you have a right to a safe environment, and that the most a security deposit can be is 1.5 times your rent. 

How To Make Sure That The Apartment Offer Is Legit

The harder part with FRBO rentals is knowing whether or not you can trust your future landlord. These tips below can help:

  • Never pay cash for a rent deposit. Cash is not safe for transactions. If you pay cash and get fleeced, you can’t trace it back to anyone, and it’ll be gone for good. A better choice would be a check or money order addressed to the landlord. 
  • Ask to see the landlord’s ID before you hand over a check. You want to be able to identify the landlord to make sure that they are who they claim to be. This also helps them be more traceable with police, too.
  • Search up the landlord online to see if they actually live there. If you can’t find any record of the landlord living there or owning the property, it could potentially be a scam. To find out who owns a home in NYC, you can use the ACRIS system. On a similar note, search up the address to see if it’s even a property that can be legally rented.
  • Avoid renting from any landlord who is desperate to get you to put down a deposit the moment you see the apartment. Did the landlord suddenly drop the price when they realized you weren’t sure about it? Did they offer to let you move in tomorrow if you put down the deposit today, or just waive a deposit altogether? Run. This is not the behavior of a legitimate landlord.
  • Always visit an apartment before you rent it. You want to be able to visit the apartment and walk around inside. If you can’t visit it and get a tour, it’s not legitimate. (Oh, and no, the landlord really isn’t traveling abroad.) 
  • If it appears too good to be true, it probably is. Though some apartment deals are amazing in the Big Apple, the truth is that this place is never a true renter’s market. So, if it seems too amazing to pass up, you need to ask what is wrong here.
  • Ask for references. References can help you learn more about the renting experience in a place, as well as about the landlord. Not all landlords will be able to furnish them, but it’s a good sign if they’re open to it.

Is Getting A FRBO Apartment Always Worth It?

Here’s the thing that renters need to realize about New York’s real estate market: there is no way to ever generalize what’s worth it and what isn’t. This is a statement that rings true about FRBO apartments, corporate-run apartments, co-ops, and condos, too. 

There are tons of co-ops that are worth every penny, but there are plenty that are remarkably overpriced. The same can be said about For Rent By Owner properties, as well as their landlords. Doing your homework is the only way to ensure that you’ll get the bang you want for your proverbial buck. 

Our Final Take

When it comes to finding an apartment for rent, for rent by owner apartments are definitely in high demand. Since they tend to be cheaper and smaller in scale, it’s easy to see why. It usually means you’ll get a more intimate experience at a lower price. 

Finding rentals that fit the FRBO bill can prove to be hard, which is why it’s often best to look on social media sites, casual apartment listing platforms, or to go through your own personal network. That being said, you shouldn’t jump at the first apartment that you see. 

Due to the high risk of scamming that apartments rented out by owners have, it’s better to do your homework and learn about the apartment before you drop money on a deposit. As long as you do some due diligence and seek out the right apartment landlords, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to find a FRBO that works for you.