Renting garden apartments for a slice of green

This garden apartment is Middle Island is available This garden apartment is Middle Island is available to rent for $1,505 a month. Photo Credit: None/

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The rental housing stock on Long Island might best be described as a hodgepodge - if you search online for "apartment," you'll find all sorts of interpretations of the word, each with its own perks and drawbacks.

There's the mother-daughter of questionable legality; it's probably cheap, but parking's an issue and the neighbors - and possibly the authorities - won't approve. Then, there's that top-floor unit in the oceanfront high-rise; the view's to die for, but if you have to ask how much the rent is, you can't afford it. Maybe you come across a second-story studio above a shop in Riverhead; it's a cool little place, but perhaps a bit more urban than you envisioned.

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And then, there's the garden apartment. This one's different - you know what to expect: The grounds tend to be grassy. You'll fit in, since your neighbors have apartments, too. There's usually parking. And you get the Long Island lifestyle - without the lawn care. "I think people like it as opposed to a high-rise," says David Berger, director of leasing for Fairfield Properties, a Commack-based builder, owner and manager of rental properties. "People like that there's not more than one flight of stairs, generally nice landscaping and more of a suburban feel than a high-rise."

Rentals are becoming more popular, according to a survey by the National Apartment Association: About 76 percent of consumers say renting would be favorable to owning a home in this economic climate, citing maintenance, repairs and the risk of foreclosure as disincentives to home ownership. Read on for a sampling of local garden apartments for rent. 


NORTH BABYLON

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Monthly rent: $1,965

WHAT'S INCLUDED Two bedrooms, one bath, heat, water, gas, grounds care and security

FEES One-month security deposit; broker's fee of one month's rent if renter goes through listing agent; if no broker, there is no fee but a two-month security deposit required

RENTAL PERIOD One-year lease

NOTE Pets up to 50 pounds and smoking are allowed

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CONTACT Bridget Cook, Coldwell Banker Residential, 631-863-9800

Somerset Village, a 350-unit complex in the North Babylon school district, offers 24-hour security, a tennis court and laundry facilities. Most units are 900-square-foot, one-bedroom apartments; this is one of the few two-bedroom units. "A two-bedroom is approximately 1,070 square feet, so it's a good size. It's got plenty of closet space," says listing agent Bridget Cook of Coldwell Banker Residential in Smithtown. There are hardwood floors, an eat-in kitchen and a "fairly updated" bathroom, Cook says. Each unit has its own thermostat and a private entrance. "Because it's family-run, it is just a very well-run, very nice place to live," Cook says. 


MIDDLE ISLAND

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Monthly rent: $1,505

WHAT'S INCLUDED Two bedrooms, 11/2 baths, grounds care, heat and gas; tenants pay for their electricity and water use.

FEES One-month security deposit; listing agent collects no fee; your renting agent will determine broker's fee.

RENTAL PERIOD One-year lease

NOTE $35-a-month fee for a dog (35-pound limit); usually only one dog is allowed; certain breeds prohibited; cats OK; smoking allowed.

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CONTACT Michelle Holmes, Fairfield Realty Services, 631-486-4000, ext. 327

This 262-unit complex in the Longwood school district features a clubhouse with a fitness center and an outdoor swimming pool. The two- story buildings have both one- and two-bedroom units, all of which have central air-conditioning. "They're in move-in condition," says David Berger, leasing director for Fairfield Properties. "We carpet, we paint, we have some new kitchens," he says. This unit has "an updated kitchen, but not brand-new," Berger says. 


LAWRENCE

Monthly rent: $1,600

WHAT'S INCLUDED Two bedrooms, one bath, grounds care, heat and water; tenants pay for gas and electricity.

FEES One-month security deposit, plus one month's rent as broker's fee

RENTAL PERIOD One year, but no lease

NOTE No smoking, no pets

CONTACT Lori Schlesinger, Lori & Associates Realty, 516-791-8300

This first-floor apartment is also for sale, as a co-op, for $179,000. It has an efficiency kitchen that includes a dishwasher. It has a separate dining room, a living room and hardwood floors, Schlesinger says. The complex has underground parking and laundry facilities. This co-op is not a rental community, Schlesinger says.

"There's a different feel to a place that's 90 percent owner-occupied. . . . The benefit of being there is that you're in a building that's much better maintained because it's mostly owner-occupied." In fact, to be approved by the co-op board, renters go through the same application process as owners, she says. 


PORT WASHINGTON

Monthly rent: $1,976

WHAT'S INCLUDED Two bedrooms, one bathroom, heat, grounds care, water. Tenant pays electricity and gas.

FEES One-month security deposit; one-month rent to broker

RENTAL PERIOD One- or two-year lease, with rent stabilized

NOTE Pets welcome without restriction or fee; smoking OK; there is free parking, a designated space is $45 a month, and garage parking is $95.

CONTACT Wendy Sanders, Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate, 516-528-3131

The Dolphin Green complex in the Port Washington school district has two features that Sanders says are unique for rentals in the area: Its shared courtyard has a view of Manhasset Bay, and there is a free shuttle to and from the Long Island Rail Road's Port Washington station during the morning and evening rush hours. This unit has hardwood floors, high ceilings and an eat-in kitchen. "The buildings are well maintained, they've got an on-site super, and there's a 24-hour hotline," Sanders says. 


FARMINGDALE

Monthly rent: $1,700

WHAT'S INCLUDED Two bedrooms, one bath, grounds care; tenants pay for utilities.

FEES Two-month security deposit; broker's fee of one month's rent

RENTAL PERIOD One-year lease

NOTE For ages 62 and over; no smoking, no pets

CONTACT Christopher Simonetti, Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate, 516-551-8276

Tailor-made for the over-62 set, this complex is in a location suitable for nondrivers: It's one block from downtown and a short distance from buses and the Farmingdale railroad station, Simonetti says. "It's also convenient to the Bethpage golf course and local parks and shopping malls," he says. There's landscaping in front and a shared barbecue area in the back of the 12-unit complex. Each apartment has a private door and entry foyer and its own washer and dryer. This unit is on the second floor. "It's a one-level unit. It's got a living room, dining room, eat-in kitchen and a full bath," he says.


TIPS FOR RENTERS

GET A FEEL FOR THE COMPLEX Apartment complexes often have a furnished model apartment to show prospective tenants, but that only tells part of the story. "Walk around the complex," advises Bridget Cook of Coldwell Banker Residential in Smithtown. "Go to the rental office and see how it's run, how friendly they are."

STAND OUT FROM COMPETING TENANTS Carry documentation to prove your stellar qualifications on the spot. "Come prepared with a tax return or pay stubs," says Lori Schlesinger of Lori & Associates Realty in Cedarhurst, adding, "The more well equipped you come, the more likely they'll feel you're better organized, and they'll want to choose you."

PICK BEST TIME TO RENT Look in the spring, when inventory is at its highest. "People purchase houses in the spring, February through May, because they want to be in the school district by summer so they can register their kids," Cook says.

SCORE RENTERS' PERKS Offer to move in mid-month, especially in the fall. "If you're ready to move in in a couple of weeks, as opposed to two months down the road, there might be incentives offered for a quick move," says David Berger, director of leasing for Fairfield Properties, a Commack-based builder, owner and manager of rental properties. "There are times there were rent concessions, a half-month free, an iPod, a TV'' as incentives.

FIND A STABLE COMMUNITY Look into co-ops that traditionally have been owner-occupied. Once hard to find, these are becoming more available due to sluggish real estate sales. "In the past, you hardly ever saw something come up for a rental," Schlesinger says. "Only recently, it's difficult to sell co-ops, so people are starting to rent."

REAP REWARDS FOR GOOD CREDIT You may be able to use your good credit to negotiate a lower security deposit, Berger says. "Our standard is one month's security, but we've offered as low as $99 for people with excellent credit," he says. - KRISTIN TAVEIRA

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