If you're renting in a co-op building, your landlord does not actually own the apartment. Instead, he owns shares in a corporation that owns the building. In addition to meeting the landlord's requirements, you'll also have to meet the building's requirements. The chances are, the corporation's board of directors will interview you to make sure that you are a good fit with the other residents.
Before You Begin
All co-op boards have different standards for entry, so you could face a simple formality or an inquisition. Ultimately, the co-op board wants to be sure that you can pay the rent and will not disturb the other residents. While there may be the odd curveball, the questions you face should reflect these primary concerns. Your landlord went through the process when he bought into the building; ask him what to expect. Usual interview rules apply, so cover the basics. Dress well, arrive on time, be polite and stay positive.
Can You Afford the Rent?
The board will check out your financials even though you're renting, not buying. Before you attend the interview, you'll be asked to supply a board package comprising the signed lease and employer references, plus financial data such as pay stubs, tax returns and bank statements. If your pack reveals any problems, the board will likely quiz you about them. You don't have to be squeaky clean, but the board wants to know that you can pay the rent and manage debt. The reason is simple: If your landlord defaults on his part of the mortgage because you haven't paid your rent, the entire co-op is responsible.
What Job Do You Do?
The board wants to know that your job is secure so you will be able to keep up with the rent. They may ask about your level of seniority, how long you've worked with your current employer, and how you like your job. They want to verify that you're not a flighty soul who changes jobs as often as he changes his linens. If you work from home, expect questions about the nature of your business, such as whether you receive clients at home and what business hours you keep. The board need to keep the building peaceful and secure for the other residents.
How Often and How Late Do You Entertain?
Another peace predictor, this question may present in a variety of forms. For example, the board may ask questions designed to elicit information, even indirectly, about the size of your family, the number of children you have, or whether you plan on giving a significant other a key. The board wants to estimate how many visitors will swing through the doors each day. Be prepared to be asked what you do in your spare time. Pick something conservative, solo and quiet.
Why Did You Leave Your Previous Residence?
If your lease ended because your landlord wanted to move in, great. If you left because you didn't get on with the other tenants in the building, you couldn't afford the rent, or you were evicted, you may be out of luck. On the plus side, this question gives you the chance to be complimentary. Turn it into a feel-good moment by explaining how much you like the neighborhood, the apartment and the building.
What They Cannot Ask
The board may seem all-powerful, but it is not immune from federal fair housing law. Co-op boards cannot discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, age, or sexual orientation, or because a partner or children may be residing with the applicant. Questions that touch on these standards are simply not permitted, so if the board asks you which church you attend, whether you're married, or where you were born, politely decline to answer.
Jayne Thompson earned an LLB in Law and Business Administration from the University of Birmingham and an LLM in International Law from the University of East London. She practiced in various “big law” firms before launching a career as a commercial writer specializing in finance and tech. Her work has appeared on numerous financial blogs including Wealth Soup and Synchrony. Find her at www.whiterosecopywriting.com.