In NYC, landlords and management companies aren’t the only ones renting out units. Owners are jumping in on the market too. But hiring a broker to list the unit can be costly. So, they might consider going it alone and listing the apartment as “For Rent By Owner,” which is often referred to as FRBO. While seasoned landlords will often go this route, individuals can also work directly with renters. While the cost savings and control might be alluring, it’s important to know everything about the process before jumping into it without a pro to help.

How Does For Rent By Owner (FRBO) work? 

The process of listing your unit for rent by owner is pretty straightforward. But it doesn’t mean it’s simple to execute. Here’s how it works.

  • Prep Your Unit: When listing your unit as FRBO, you will need to be sure it’s not only presentable (i.e., a fresh coat of paint) but that it legally meets the warranty of habitability requirements. Basically, you must provide tenants with a safe, sanitary, and livable home as determined by law.
  • List The Unit: You will need to write up a listing description, take high-quality photos, add a floor plan, take videos, and post the listing on various real estate sites (some could come with a fee).
  • Vet Renters: It’s part of a broker’s job to make sure renters are qualified. With FRBO, you will have to handle the vetting process and ultimately, choose your tenant.  
  • Draw Up The Lease: Once you decide on a tenant, you must draw up and sign a lease. This is a serious legal process that protects both you and the renter. This is when you need to enlist the help of a professional to ensure the necessary language is in the rental agreement.

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How Do You Vet Renters? 

If you’re planning to rent out your home, you want to be sure whoever lives there will treat it with respect. Paying rent on time is also of paramount importance. This is why vetting prospective tenants is a vital part of an owner’s FRBO process. 

So, how do you do that? You’ll want to follow the same steps as other landlords and property managers in the city. That means you should request all the paperwork needed to rent an apartment in NYC, like employment verification, pay stubs, bank statements, ID, etc. Plus, you’ll want to run a credit check and ask for a recommendation letter from a prior landlord.

“It’s imperative to meet the prospective tenant and complete measures such as a credit check-up, follow up on previous job references, and meet in person to have a general understanding of their personality and needs before committing,” said Nada Rizk

licensed associate real estate broker of Brown Harris Stevens.

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Who Should Write Up the Lease?

Yes, if you’re going to list your apartment as for rent by owner, you’ll be in charge of drafting the lease too. When it comes to what to expect when signing a lease, you’ll want to be sure it has things like the term of the lease (i.e., the rental period), rent due date, what’s covered under the rent, etc. Other elements to address include any fees, insurance, and terms of lease renewals.  Keep in mind that the  Housing Stability, and Tenant Protection Act of 2019 ushered in some new laws for leases in New York. Long story short: Drafting a lease is probably not something you want to do on your own. Hiring a lawyer to draft one protects both you and the tenant. 

“It’s best to get a ‘pro’ to write up a lease, to make sure that both parties are covered in the beginning and that expectations are set to avoid problems after the transaction is complete,” said Rizk.

What Are the Benefits of FRBO?

There are really two key benefits of listing your unit as for sale by owner. First, you have the opportunity to interact personally with prospective renters and minimize costs without a broker being involved. While those might be enough to sell you on the FRBO idea, just remember you’re also  taking on much of the legwork of finding a tenant as well. 

What Are the Potential Pitfalls of FRBO ? 

Although there is potential to save some money with a for rent by owner listing, there are also some downsides to consider. 

As discussed above, you take on all of the work of a broker with a FRBO. Advertising the apartment, meeting with prospective tenants, finding a lawyer, and reviewing a lease is not only effort, it’s a lot of time. And while your process may go very smoothly, with no issues or hiccups, it’s probably wise to plan on some form of  unexpected delay or problem.  

Additionally, as Brown Harris Stevens broker Joanne Greene points out, if you’re renting out an apartment on your own, you will also likely be managing it, which can bring a separate set of challenges. 

“You don’t have the professionalism, accessibility, and advocacy of a broker that can help deal with day-to-day responsibilities and home improvement efforts that might be intimidating to go directly to a landlord about,” she says.