Article originally sourced by NY.Curbed
A version of this article first appeared in March 2013; it has since been updated.
"Finding an apartment in New York City is hard—so hard, in fact, you might jump at the first available place you visit, even though there's trash in the hallways and the elevator isn't working and the whole places smells like bleach but the landlord is just so reassuring and he has said, "It will be perfect when you move in!" so many times that you're starting to believe him.
But consider this: That bleach may be hiding a mold problem; the elevator might be a chronic issue; and those trash bags could be filled with stuff you don’t even want to know about. So how do you separate the good apartments from the bad? No need to hire a private detective; a few free online resources can address all these concerns—and save you from moving into a grody place in the process.
It may seem like common sense, but the first thing you should do is Google search your address, landlord name, and/or the building management company. Any major news stories (someone was murdered there) or serious infractions (the landlord ran a drug den) will likely show up in the results.
Tap into the Department of Buildings.
Easily the most thorough resource for learning about a building is the DOB's Building Information System, which allows you to see any complaints that have been filed against your building, plus all DOB violations and Environmental Control Board violations. What's that mean? Complaints are things that were likely called in via 311: "My building elevator has been out for five days!" "Crap is falling off this building!" "They are demolishing my office while people are working!"
Complaints often lead to an inspection by the Department of Buildings and/or violations. There are two types of violations: the procedural kind that don't need to be issued by a visiting inspector, and ECB violations, which are more severe and are issued during site visits. These include mold, rodent infestations, no hot water, and other generally shitty things that can make a place uninhabitable.
Here's a step-by-step guide to using the BIS. You can also download the DOB's new BIS smartphone app, which has access to the whole system.
1) Go to the Building Information System website
2) In the "Search by Property" section, use option #1. Select your borough, type in your building number, and street name, and hit go.
3) This brings you to your building profile. Scroll to the bottom of the page, and you'll see a box with links for Complaints, Violations—DOB, and Violations—ECB with numbers showing how many filings each has. Clicking on these links takes you to a list of recorded infractions. For complaints and ECB violations, you can click on the item number to see a detailed description, but unfortunately, you can't do this for standard DOB violations.
Let other city agencies help, too.
The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development is another resource for searching for building complaints, though its online database only shows complaints from the past year. However, you can see myriad types of complaints that have been levied against a building, from whether or not it has a vermin problem to illegal wiring or other work.