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Reuters/Lucas Jackson
Renters, beware.
GRADED

There’s now a sign that indicates if a New York City apartment is as good as it looks

By Anne Quito

Searching for a good apartment is one of the most stressful parts about living in New York City. With 70% of the city’s 8.1 million residents jostling for better rentals, apartment-hunters are often forced to make snap decisions—with the reality of leaky pipes, roaches, bed bugs or poor heating emerging after the lease is signed.

This gnawing conundrum birthed Rentlogic, an independent, first-of-its-kind apartment certification service that assigns a letter grade for each of the city’s 1.1 million residential properties based on how well landlords follow the law and take care of their tenants based on official city data. (A property’s fancy amenities or rental price doesn’t factor into the grade.)  Similar to health inspection grades for New York City restaurants, Rentlogic’s newly-redesigned signage gives renters an objective metric at-a-glance.

Courtesy of RentLogic
BMW North America’s head of design Johan Schwind helped Rentlogic create the new signs.

Every registered residential rental property in New York City gets rated on Rentlogic’s website, but not all building owners display the letter grade on their property. Fox learned that part of the issue was the graphic design of Rentlogic’s bright green signage. ”Landlords put a lot of care and money into their buildings and they didn’t like the previous style,” he tells Quartz.

In the hopes of encouraging landlords to better showcase their grade, Fox worked with BMW URBAN-X‘s head of design Johan Schwind to come up with a look that would work well with any building style and décor. ”We went with more classic colors, a bit more modern,” he explains, describing its clean, sans-serif layout.

Building owners can now choose among four variations: standard black type printed on a white background or silver aluminum; white type on a black background for greater legibility; or white type on a glass plaque for more premium properties.

Courtesy of Rentlogic
To suit every decor.

Fox says that landlords are actually willing to display their less-than-stellar rating. Some owners are satisfied with a B-property which factors in on the rental price. One landlord even showcased the F rating on a distressed property he acquired, and later applied for a better grade as improvements were made. ”It’s all about managing expectations,” Fox says.

“Signs work in real estate,” says Fox whose family is in the property business in Toronto. He attests that as much as there are online tools and apps, putting up a physical sign still draws significant foot traffic and inquiries.

And as more signs going up on buildings, Fox eventually hopes to challenge the thorny stereotype of New York’s apartment rental landscape. “Most landlords are doing a good job,” he explains. “Just ten percent of the community are bad apples who are making it bad for everyone.”