2007_02_spystuy.jpgWhen you shell out $5.4 billion for thousands of apartments in Manhattan, some of them rent-regulated, clearly the next course of action is to oot out the illegal subletters. The NY Sun reports that private detective Fred Knapp has been hired by Tishman-Speyer to find out if tenants are violating rent stabilization rules.

The Real Estate Board of New York says this is exactly what landlords should be doing, but housing advocates point out that there's simply a lack of affordable housing in the city. NY ACORN's Bertha Lewis says she's worried that Berkshire, purchaser of Starrett City, will use private investigators to find illegal subletters. And City Councilman Daniel Garodnick who lives in Stuy Town is worried that innocent tenants will be targeted.

Knapp, according to a 1988 NY Times article, does not wear a trench coat and mainly looks at public records in "damp basements and dusty side rooms of county courthouses." He's been able to find violations by dog licenses, lawsuits, voter registration records, marriage records, DMV info, and forwarding addresses at post offices. And Knapp has created a scoring system to figure out which tenants might need more scrutiny. Here's the 1988 version:

An apartment renting for more than $200 below the market rate gets 2 points under Mr. Knapp's system, while a unit renting for less than $200 below the market rate gets 1. (The more points, the more suspect the apartment.) Studios rate a 2, while one-bedroom units get 1 point and two-bedrooms get none. (Single people are more mobile than families.) Male tenants receive 1 point, and female tenants none. If a tenant is 25 to 35 years old, the apartment gets 2 points; if he or she is 45 to 65 years old, the unit earns no points.

A tenant who is a professional merits 2 points. Other occupations earn 1 point, except for government jobs, which get none. (''Most people in government don't move,'' Mr. Knapp said.) The work is hardly grist for Dashiell Hammett. Most inquiries take just a few weeks and involve searching commonplace sources. There are no late-night adventures in search of an errant spouse or a stolen piece of Oriental sculpture.

Per a Times article last month about the growing demand for private investigators sniffing out illegal subletters, if you're illegally subletting your place, don't fall for the "We want to ship you a case of wine" trick!