Moving for the first time in 21 years. Need some advice.

DrezDrez Registered User regular
edited October 2014 in Help / Advice Forum
So I'm pretty sure I found a short term apartment I like. I need to move by 11/15 but I haven't found the apartment of my dreams yet. Last night I looked at a studio and it's pretty nice, reasonably priced, in a decent area. I'm thinking of taking it.

I have two primary questions:

1) I asked the owner what their lease expectations were. She responded that her and her husband don't sign leases because it makes them uncomfortable. Is this a red flag? I've never gone apartment shopping before. Keep in mind, I MUCH prefer a month to month lease so this seems perfect to me - I just want to make sure I'm not setting myself up for anguish. They seem like a nice family though.

2) I rely on internets for work as I work from home a non-insignificant amount of time. My plan is to leave a deposit to hold the home and officially move in around 11/10 if all goes well. What should I do to minimize downtime? I'll have to call Verizon I guess but should I call them when I put down my deposit or what?

3) I only have a few pieces of furniture (futon, plasma TV, possibly a desk, and a bunch of boxes). I can get my dad to help. I'm moving within the same city. I'm assuming renting a Hertz truck or van would be - better option than getting movers?

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  • noir_bloodnoir_blood Registered User regular
    So would you be signing anything at all?

    If they don't want you to sign a lease, their place might not be legal to rent. Leases are meant to protect both the renter and landlord. Without a lease, what's to stop the landlord from doubling your rent a week after you move in? Or saying 'nope, you never gave me a deposit'.

    Get a lease. No matter how much you like or need the place, you do not want to move there if they're unwilling to give you one.

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  • a5ehrena5ehren AtlantaRegistered User regular
    1) Yeah, that's kind of weird. IANAL, but "giving them money for living space" comes with a lot of implied legal stuff, even if there isn't an actual contract. A real contract is protection for both sides, though.

    2) Most telcos are pretty quick about getting service setup. I haven't done it for awhile, so I forget if there is any proof of residence needed.

    3) If you don't have a ton of furniture, moving yourself isn't too bad. This gets worse as you get older, though.

    bowen
  • RayzeRayze Registered User regular
    edited October 2014
    1) Get as much as you can in writing. You never know if they suddenly decide to screw you over one day or do something stupid to jeopardize your living situation

    2) I say call once you have everything in writing and you're officially bound to a place. We've dealt with Verizon and Comcast and they're good about sending people out quickly for set up

    3) You and your dad can do it if you're both in good health. Depending on the amount of stuff, you can get away with a couple of cars or if you're pretty paranoid, rent a small U-Haul. Movers are expensive and should only be used if you have a lot of stuff or a lot of heavy, delicate stuff that you don't trust yourself/friends/family moving on their own

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  • schussschuss Registered User regular
    Yeah, no lease is a bad thing. You may just want to pull something down from nolopress or similar and see if they'd be amenable to working through it together around the basic stuff like who's responsible for maintenance etc.

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  • KamiroKamiro Registered User regular
    In regards to setting up internet/cable, if the place is already wired for either, you shouldn't need to make an appointment. Just have them send you (or go pick up) the self install kit and you're good to go. The last two places I rented I went with Comcast for one and Verizon for the other and their install kits were super easy. If they need to wire the place for either, then you should call a few weeks in advance in order to schedule the ideal time for you.

  • VeeveeVeevee WisconsinRegistered User regular
    Kamiro wrote: »
    In regards to setting up internet/cable, if the place is already wired for either, you shouldn't need to make an appointment. Just have them send you (or go pick up) the self install kit and you're good to go. The last two places I rented I went with Comcast for one and Verizon for the other and their install kits were super easy. If they need to wire the place for either, then you should call a few weeks in advance in order to schedule the ideal time for you.

    By wire the place I'm assuming you mean the connection to the building itself. If the inside needs to be wired that would have to go through the landlord and I'm going to guess the answer is "No" as it could easily be thousands of dollars to do it.

    And yeah, the lease is kind of required. Without a signed lease there is still the implied lease that is basically everything listed here for New York Also note that many of those refer back to what the rental agreement (The lease) states, such as the parts about utilities, so without the lease those laws are next to useless.

    I have never used a mover, always used personal trucks or Uhaul for really big moves. If you and your dad can lift 50 pounds it'll be no problem, and if you can get an army of friends/family/neighbors to help (Beer and Pizza work wonders for this) it will be even easier. To test, take the heaviest item you have (such as the desk) that will be moved, and try to move it across the room with a helper. If it was hard or impossible, you may want to think about getting a mover.

  • CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    Movers are not needed for just a few things. If you don't want to bother your dad, get a "man with a van" - he'll turn up, drive, possibly help you move the bigger items. In my experience, this was cheaper and less hassle than renting a van from a proper firm. Though possibly a bit shady (if the guy hurts himself while moving your stuff he is probably not insured.)

  • Eat it You Nasty Pig.Eat it You Nasty Pig. tell homeland security 'we are the bomb'Registered User regular
    not having a lease means that you would be a month-to-month tenant; this still entitles you to certain rights depending on your locality, but it also means they can evict you, raise your rent, or otherwise change the terms of your occupancy on relatively short notice. I would not move into a new place without at least a six month commitment in place.

    your best bet for continuous internet service would be to see if you can just continue the current tenants' (are there current tenants?) service plan; it might not be ideal but at least you won't be waiting a week for them to come and do whatever they have to do to get you set up again. If that isn't an option, see if the current landlord will let you schedule the setup now, and hope to have it done before you even move in.

    Movers are expensive and unless you're old/infirm or moving very large/awkward furniture I've never really seen the appeal

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  • kaliyamakaliyama Left to find less-moderated fora Registered User regular
    edited October 2014
    (1) where are you?

    (2) You're not in a world without law if you don't have a lease, but a useful reason to think carefully and negotiate any agreement in writing is that it lets you figure out expectations and what to do with issues before you have a problem.

    Really obvious things:
    (1) who pays utilities?
    (2) What happens if you acquire a significant other and they want to move in?
    (3) pets?
    (4) what happens to your deposit? how long do they have to repay you?
    (5) do you have a right to a walkthrough inspection to clean things up before they start unilaterally doing things to the apartment when you move out? i would think especially an individual owner-lessor would be tempted to do general improvement and claim it's chargeable against your deposit
    (6) who is responsible for fixing general wear and tear and plumbing (hint, it's the landlord, but do they realize this? do they intend to meet their obligations?)


    I get why somebody might be uncomfortable with using boilerplate lease documents - it's hard to parse the gobledegook, even if most of that gobledegook actually helps the landlord. But it shouldn't make someone uncomfortable to sign a lease written in plain english that deals with issues like these.

    That suggests to me that this person would rather resolve disputes "informally", which could mean that they just passively refuse to do things you need or put you in an untenable position and then act aggrieved when you try to resolve the issue, making you sound like the bad guy because you're insisting on getting what you've paid for.

    That kind of behavior is endemic, and most benign, in cultures where informality is the norm - e.g. levantine businessmen, some other asian and mediterranean business cultures, and tight-knit communities where getting a bad reputation carries real economic consequences, such as small and homogenous towns or immigrant communities in large American cities. Those communities have various mechanisms for self-policing, but those mechanisms often fall apart when dealing with somebody who is not part of the defined in-group.

    So i'd be more at ease if you're in one of those scenarios - you should still talk through the issues you think may come up and reduce them to writing, but they really shouldn't have a problem with that once you explain your concerns. If you can't get a signed lease on paper, as a second-best solution you could propose a set of terms and get them to agree to them via e-mail.

    If it's just some random assimilated Americans in a major metropolitan area and they are reluctant to reduce anything to writing, there's a decently high chance they'll hope you'll be too quiet to stand up for yourself when there's not a document you can point to.

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  • Gilbert0Gilbert0 North of SeattleRegistered User regular
    In British Columbia too, you HAVE to sign a tenancy agreement. Don't want to write your own? The gov't has a fairly simple one that really is only 2ish pages to fill out with 4 more pages of the rules/rights of the tenant/landlord. Personally, I think this is a minimum a lease should be.

    http://www.rto.gov.bc.ca/documents/RTB-1.pdf

  • kaliyamakaliyama Left to find less-moderated fora Registered User regular
    Gilbert0 wrote: »
    In British Columbia too, you HAVE to sign a tenancy agreement. Don't want to write your own? The gov't has a fairly simple one that really is only 2ish pages to fill out with 4 more pages of the rules/rights of the tenant/landlord. Personally, I think this is a minimum a lease should be.

    http://www.rto.gov.bc.ca/documents/RTB-1.pdf

    what do you mean "have to"? Presumably, if landlord refuses to go along with the gag or people forget to, the law doesn't punish the tenant by holding the tenancy unenforceable. Quick googling suggests that the default terms apply in the absence of a written agreement, so BC isn't particularly different than any other common law jurisdiction.

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  • Gilbert0Gilbert0 North of SeattleRegistered User regular
    Gilbert0 wrote: »
    In British Columbia too, you HAVE to sign a tenancy agreement.

    Sorry, let me clarify that sentance. A landlord must provide a written tenancy agreement to a tenant. Part 2, section 13 (1) A landlord must prepare in writing every tenancy agreement entered into on or after January 1, 2004.

    @kaliyama is correct though. It doesn't punish the tenant, it would punish the landlord (according to the Offences and Penalties section 95, (a), a fine of up to $5000 to the landlord).

    Getting back on topic a bit, I would feel uneasy about no lease. If they mean no length of rental (ie. a year vs month to month), that sample document I linked to provides for that. There is a month-to-month option. To me, it shows that yes, I live on this person's property, I pay rent of a certain amount and have certain rights. Even if you write something up and they just sign the bottom, it protects you.

    I'm saying this as the guy who's been bit before about deposits/money. You have to get a feel for how they are and what you are comfortable with.

  • DehumanizedDehumanized Registered User regular
    Month-to-month isn't totally the end of the world but I personally would feel very uncomfortable renting from somewhere without a lease unless I was specifically looking for a short-term living situation. Maybe your landlord is above board and doesn't screw you over, but without a lease in place there's a lot of things that they can do that would not be fun for your living situation. They could jack up your rent, they could terminate the month-to-month agreement only giving you just a few weeks to get out, etc. They could hold you liable for damages to the space not caused by you. A lease generally protects you from those sorts of problems.

    Your specific rights will be VERY dependent on where you live, though.

    Platy
  • DrezDrez Registered User regular
    First of all, thank you for the replies.

    To clarify a few things:

    I'm in one of the New York City suburban boroughs. I won't say which one but it rhymes with Flatten Rhymeland. As such, I am governed by New York City landlord and tenant law. The place I live in now and the place I am thinking of moving to are both in this borough that rhymes with Flatten Rhymeland.

    I am explicitly looking for a short term arrangement.

    I have to move out of my current domicile by 11/15.

    I'm a little worried about my job due to various things I won't discuss here and as such I really don't want to sign a long lease for an expensive apartment anyway.

    I'm also a little worried about my credit score which, though I am working on it, is still on the sub-average side (i.e. below 650 credit score).

    So the bottom line is that this place touches all the things I need immediately: Not too expensive, but not suspiciously cheap. Rented by owner, so there's no broker fee or anything and all they want is one month + security. Decent amount of square footage despite being a studio. Neighborhood seems fine. Available immediately and willing to hold it for a smallish deposit while I sort out my move. And month-to-month lease since I absolutely plan on moving again in February/March.

    In other words, it's perfect. I'm literally just worried about the "uncomfortable with signing a lease" comment. It struck me as a red flag.

    That said, my sum total gut instinct about the place is positive. The owners seem legit. It doesn't strike me as an illegal apartment. I googled the location and I saw no negative comments or posts about people being scammed there or anything.

    Everything seems great except that one comment threw me.

    Considering these clarifications, any thoughts? I think I may go for it because, in all honesty, I'm a little desperate right now and even if they are scam artists (which I highly doubt from everything I have seen so far) it's honestly not that much money so it's something of a low risk for me.

    But I really do appreciate the advice and any further thoughts any of you have. In the meanwhile I'm still scouring for another apartment but I'm leaning toward locking this down.

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  • Inquisitor77Inquisitor77 2 x Penny Arcade Fight Club Champion A fixed point in space and timeRegistered User regular
    1) None of the Five Boroughs rhymes with "Flatten Rhymeland". I'm assuming you mean Manhattan (which rhymes with "Pan Batten" or "Lamb Spat In" or, vaguely, "Can Happen") . Not sure why you are being so coy about it...

    2) As most have mentioned, you don't technically need a lease, even in New York. Common law generally protects tenants in these cases, so by default you have certain rights that can't be rescinded simply because you didn't sign a lease. That being said, what is true in the eyes of the law isn't the same thing as what will actually happen to you in the real world. It's entirely possible that a landlord may feel empowered to evict you and change the locks on the spur of the moment - starting a massive escalating chain of ridiculous and litigious events that will ultimately end with you spending inordinate amounts of time trying to get "justice". Not saying that this will happen, but this stuff probably tends to happen with people who can't bother to do something as simple as paperwork and yet expect to deal with something as significant as being a landlord. I'd look at the list @kaliyama provided as a good starting point. You don't necessarily need "A LEASE" so much as documentation of specific responsibilities, so that you don't get screwed with he-said-she-said arguments down the line.

    3) This will probably be the first and last time I will ever see the phrase "levantine businessmen".

  • SixSix Ask me about my butthole Registered User regular
    He's talking about Staten Island.

    I personally wouldn't enter into a contractual agreement with another party about something as important as my home without at least a basic document that we agree on, but that's just me. Standard leases for use in NYC are the simplest thing in the world to draw up (I own and rent out property in the borough that rhymes with "Brooklyn"), and can very easily be signed month to month from the beginning.

    It's up to you, but not signing a lease is something I'd consider generally a poor decision, and any property owner that is willing and eager to have someone living in property they own (which means taking a significant risk with a valuable asset) who doesn't want at least a basic contract in place wouldn't be someone I would trust would be a good landlord if something went wrong.

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  • MichaelLCMichaelLC In what furnace was thy brain? ChicagoRegistered User regular
    Pretty much echoing everyone else, I can see why it sounds good but the risk is high.

    It's like paying cash for a TV off the back of a truck, both parties understand the risks and benefits. This however is your home - and your business - so risk is too high.

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  • DrezDrez Registered User regular
    edited October 2014
    Thanks for all the advice. I agree it's kind of bleh to not have something in writing, even if I'm protected by common law. I really just need 2-4 months to pay down some of my credit cards and my credit score should be good again and look for a better place. I'd rather go for something risky than be homeless in 2 weeks.

    That said, I'm going to try to get something in writing from them. I really do like the place. I'm going to visit it again tonight and talk to the owner.

    Also I'm asking them if personal check is sufficient for the deposit and how they want the rent paid each month. If they ask for cash or something then I think I'll run for the hills.

    To address one thing though:
    1) None of the Five Boroughs rhymes with "Flatten Rhymeland". I'm assuming you mean Manhattan (which rhymes with "Pan Batten" or "Lamb Spat In" or, vaguely, "Can Happen") . Not sure why you are being so coy about it...

    ????? I know Staten Island is the forgotten borough, but come on :(

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  • DevoutlyApatheticDevoutlyApathetic Registered User regular
    I would definitely do a "soft lease" at the very least but you don't have to bring it up like that.

    "So how much is rent? Due on what day? When should I let you know by if I won't re up for the next month?" and so on. Just write down the questions and your notes and then make sure you both have a provable copy. Like, if you write these questions out and fill them in as you talk just scan/photo it and send it to him and yourself by email restating what your expectations are and stuff like "Hey, do I have all this right?". I'd do the same with pre move in photos of the place. I would absolutely pay everything in some sort of traceable method and not cash.

  • DrezDrez Registered User regular
    I would definitely do a "soft lease" at the very least but you don't have to bring it up like that.

    "So how much is rent? Due on what day? When should I let you know by if I won't re up for the next month?" and so on. Just write down the questions and your notes and then make sure you both have a provable copy. Like, if you write these questions out and fill them in as you talk just scan/photo it and send it to him and yourself by email restating what your expectations are and stuff like "Hey, do I have all this right?". I'd do the same with pre move in photos of the place. I would absolutely pay everything in some sort of traceable method and not cash.

    Yeah. I've been communicating with the owner via text so I at least have SOME details in written format at this point.

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  • QuidQuid I don't... what... hnnng Registered User regular
    For moving your stuff I'd recommend checking out a website called thumbtack. I've used it a few times now for moves. You put in a job you want done and businesses put in bids for it. I've usually gotten a deal cheaper than renting a truck myself. Though with the cheapest businesses you run the risk of them not being insured which can be a concern if there's anything particularly valuable getting moved.

  • DrezDrez Registered User regular
    Red flag 2: They are absolutely, thoroughly against the lease and expect to be paid in cash. They said they will provide a receipt but I'm feeling less and less comfortable now.

    They are claiming they've been burned by checks and leases before. I dunno. May be legit, but seems weird.

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  • DaenrisDaenris Registered User regular
    edited October 2014
    In terms of a deal on craigslist, sure, maybe someone gets burned by checks and should only accept cash, because by the time the check clears the buyer is gone.

    That doesn't really make any sense at all for an apartment, because they know where you live if you write them bad checks. If I were you, I'd definitely look for another place.

    Edit: And the way that a landlord gets burned by having a lease is by being a shitty landlord.

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  • Inquisitor77Inquisitor77 2 x Penny Arcade Fight Club Champion A fixed point in space and timeRegistered User regular
    Drez wrote: »
    1) None of the Five Boroughs rhymes with "Flatten Rhymeland". I'm assuming you mean Manhattan (which rhymes with "Pan Batten" or "Lamb Spat In" or, vaguely, "Can Happen") . Not sure why you are being so coy about it...

    ????? I know Staten Island is the forgotten borough, but come on :(

    Yeah, brain fart on my part. =P

    Not having any rental agreement is a huge red flag. Even if they aren't actively trying to screw you over, it just screams about a half-dozen issues on their end, particularly revolving around communication and responsibility. You do not want a landlord who is unwilling to commit anything to writing, or one who won't manage their own liability enough to understand the difference between a lease and a rental agreement.

    Asking for cash is just stupid. At this point I would walk away. If you pay cash you have no third-party record of paying them rent, and they have no record of receiving it. Everyone knows this. That's why landlords accept checks in the first place, because it's just common sense. This raises even more red flags. At the very least they would know enough to ask for a cashier's check instead of just straight cash.

  • mtsmts Dr. Robot King Registered User regular
    they want cash because they don't want to claim rental income on their taxes

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  • DrezDrez Registered User regular
    Hmm.

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  • DrezDrez Registered User regular
    Fuck I just want to move. The studio is perfect otherwise.

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  • DevoutlyApatheticDevoutlyApathetic Registered User regular
    Drez wrote: »
    Red flag 2: They are absolutely, thoroughly against the lease and expect to be paid in cash. They said they will provide a receipt but I'm feeling less and less comfortable now.

    They are claiming they've been burned by checks and leases before. I dunno. May be legit, but seems weird.

    Offer to set up bank transfers/pay pal/google wallet/whatever. If they still balk it's about wanting the income to be under the table.

    firewaterword
  • Inquisitor77Inquisitor77 2 x Penny Arcade Fight Club Champion A fixed point in space and timeRegistered User regular
    mts wrote: »
    they want cash because they don't want to claim rental income on their taxes

    Exactly. It's either sheer laziness or they are trying to do something that's not quite kosher. Either way, it doesn't bode well for their ability to be a good landlord.

    Enc
  • firewaterwordfirewaterword Satchitananda Pais Vasco to San FranciscoRegistered User regular
    To be fair, I someimtes have to hum that bit from that dope Beastie Boys song to remember them all.

    But yeah that's a red flag. If they won't accept automatic checks from your bank, there's something sketch going on. Might not be a huge deal if you're only there for the next three months or whatever, but it would be reasonable to call that a deal-breaker. I'll admit to being inn the "worst that can go wrong will go wrong" camp at times though.

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  • VeeveeVeevee WisconsinRegistered User regular
    edited October 2014
    Everything except for the cash is acceptable in my book, and right before I read that I was going to tell you to take it Drez. The worst that could feasibly happen is you have to move again in a month, but cash only is a deal breaker.

    Sorry to say, but you need to keep looking. Keep this as a backup, and be honest with the guy about it and it shouldn't be a problem (assuming he doesn't rent it out in the mean time) as in the end you do need to have a roof over your head.

    Worst part, the guy probably deposits the money into his bank killing the "bonuses" to cash only.

    Veevee on
  • Eat it You Nasty Pig.Eat it You Nasty Pig. tell homeland security 'we are the bomb'Registered User regular
    yeah, I would run from this

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  • kaliyamakaliyama Left to find less-moderated fora Registered User regular
    edited October 2014
    As long as you don't participate in tax fraud, it really doesn't affect you if landlord is a tax cheat unless the IRS puts them into bankruptcy or creates and establishes a tax lien. Aa long as you get LL to sign a receipt for payments (that you keep) then cash is fine.

    However, is no way a semi responsible landlord gets burned by a lease. Aside from the term and price, everything in a boilerplate residential lease is designed to advantage the landlord to the fullest extent possible under the law, and then some (leases often include clauses that are unenforceable, but landlords hope their tenants will stay ignorant).

    if they got burned by a lease, it means they either want to exploit you or illegally evict you or both. Even if the physical location is good, your living experience will not be good at some point and the stress and anxiety that will cause you is not worth it.

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  • oldsakoldsak Registered User regular
    kaliyama wrote: »
    if they got burned by a lease, it means they either want to exploit you or illegally evict you or both.

    I'm going to second this. New York City tenant law is very favorable to tenants. In particular, it can be very difficult to evict someone from an apartment even for non-payment of rent. Even if you don't have a signed lease, this will be true, but 1) it seems like they think this might not be the case, and 2) it would make it more of a hassle to protect yourself in the event they did do something shady.

    Pacificstar
  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion The Land of Flowers (and Dragons)Registered User regular
    A certified check would be a solution here, 100% backed by the bank and assured to be in good works while also providing you with a transaction history. If they don't like that idea then you shouldn't work with them because clearly they are more concerned with dodging taxes (or other insidious plans) than providing a stable tenancy.

  • Eat it You Nasty Pig.Eat it You Nasty Pig. tell homeland security 'we are the bomb'Registered User regular
    even assuming you trust them and think they're being totally aboveboard (i.e. aren't trying to dodge taxes, aren't trying to screw you, etc.), operating this way suggests that they aren't really prepared to be a responsible landlord. If putting a basic, perfunctory sort of rental agreement in writing is a bridge too far, what's going to happen when you have a dispute over maintenance?

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  • MulysaSemproniusMulysaSempronius but also susie nyRegistered User regular
    Sounds like an illegal apartment to me, probably not up to code.

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  • DevoutlyApatheticDevoutlyApathetic Registered User regular
    Enc wrote: »
    A certified check would be a solution here, 100% backed by the bank and assured to be in good works while also providing you with a transaction history. If they don't like that idea then you shouldn't work with them because clearly they are more concerned with dodging taxes (or other insidious plans) than providing a stable tenancy.

    Forged certified checks are completely a thing. Not super applicable in this case, you'd have to be an enormous idiot to slip a counterfeit check to your landlord, but in general you shouldn't treat certified checks like they're a magic bullet against getting screwed over.

  • PriestPriest Registered User regular
    NYC is a big place man.

    Let this fishhouse go.

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