Rentals: Guide to Renting in New York City

Determine your budget

It is a key point to figure out what you can afford to spend a month on rent. Keep in mind other monthly expenses such as telephone/electric, food/dining out, furnishings for the apartment, clothing/dry cleaning, entertainment, etc. Most people spend 25% to 35% of their monthly gross (before tax) paycheck on rent. Most landlords prefer tenants who earn 40-50 times the amount of their monthly rent to meet their strict financial eligibility requirements, with the annual salary of a guarantor equal at least 80-100 times the monthly rent.

For example: 50 x $2,000.00 (monthly rent) = $100,000.00 (annual salary)

Organize & prepare the necessary information

Must have:

  • Letter of employment and salary verification
  • Your letter of employment must be typed on original company letterhead, stating position, salary and length of employment. The original copy must be provided.
  • Please note that a signed offer and acceptance letter is not sufficient.
  • If applicant/guarantor is self-employed we will also require: Original copy of letter from Certified Public Accountant or attorney on company letterhead verifying nature of business and income amount for the last two years.
  • Bank account numbers (checking and savings), credit card numbers
  • Expected Bonus-verified by employer
  • Additional sources of income with verification
  • Personal identification with photograph
  • Tax returns (most recent 1st page & signature page)
  • Two most recent bank statements
  • Pay stubs (2 most recent)
  • Credit report - Credit reports should be clean with prompt payment history. If applicant/Guarantor has any collection accounts, liens, or judgments against them, some landlords will require an official letter of satisfaction. If unsatisfied, the landlord may at his or her discretion require extra security deposit, a guarantor, or reject the application.

Whenever possible:

  • Names, addresses and phone numbers of previous landlords

*Certain landlords are more demanding than others in terms of information needed to secure an apartment.

Find the apartment

After determining the desired NYC neighborhood, view every possibility with your rental agent. You may be looking at rental buildings, condominiums, or cooperatives. If you see an apartment you like, be prepared to make a commitment quickly.

The pace of the rental market is totally different from that of the sales market. Characteristically, a renter is operating on a deadline that requires a keen sense of timing and quick decisions. Begin the rental search 30-45 days before the move in date. Typically, monthly rents are non-negotiable in a sellers' market, and only slightly negotiable in a buyers' market.

Submit an application

Most landlords require an application to be submitted so credit checks can be made. (Cooperative buildings can be particularly demanding-potential coop renters follow the same steps as a purchaser.) This application usually requires the name, address, phone number of:

  • the applicant
  • applicant's employer (a letter of employment on company letterhead, signed by supervisor stating salary, guaranteed bonus, title, start date and housing allowance)
  • bankers
  • accountants
  • last landlords
  • and/or guarantor

If financial conditions are not met, a landlord may require a lease cosigner, or guarantor. Landlords prefer guarantors to be family members who live and own property in the Tri-State area.

Sign a lease & money issues

Be prepared to write out certified checks, money orders, or set-up a wire transfer from a New York area bank. When the lessee signs the lease, the following fees are paid on separate checks:

  • the first month's rent
  • the security deposit (usually 1 or 2 months rent)
  • the real estate fee: 15% of the first annual rent for a lease of one year or more, or, one month rent for a short term lease of 3-6 months

To sign the lease, you will need some form of personal identification, preferably a driver's license or a passport. Usual application fees for Rental Buildings are $50 and up, for Condos or Co-ops, $150 and up.

Applicants should be prepared to pay the following upon lease signing:

  • 1st months rent
  • 1 month security (in some cases more than one month)
  • Broker commission

Move in!

The landlord may require advanced notice to schedule the move in or out of your personal belongings. Check with the managing agent or the superintendent for details.

The process of securing an apartment can take just a few days, or a few months, depending on variables such as co-op approval, landlords time constraints, etc.

Helpful Tips for International Transfers

If you are not a U.S. citizen, pay taxes outside of the U.S. or do not have any credit history in the U.S., you may be required to pay additional security at the time of lease signing. This can be as much as two to twelve months rent in advance, depending on how hot the market is and how strict the landlord.

Here's what you will need

Must have:

  • Statement of income, bonus structure, title, length of time with company, all written on company letterhead. Also, if you have any housing allowance from your employer, please make sure to include this in your letter as well. For new employees, a copy of your employment contract or letter of employment is helpful.
  • Letter from your bank stating your average monthly balance. (In English)

Whenever possible:

  • Letter from your landlord in departure city indicating prompt payment of rent. (In English)
  • 3 months credit card statements showing ability and willingness to pay debts in a timely manner. (In English)

Tips on preparing the necessary funds before coming New York:

  • Try to establish a New York bank account before you begin your search. Or if not possible, talk to your bank about setting up a wire transfer. Or bring enough travelers checks to cover the costs of two months rent (which must be converted into certified checks). This comprises the first month's rent and one month's security.
  • Bring funds to cover the broker's fee if your company is not paying the fee. In New York City, you, the tenant, pay brokerage fees. These fees are due upon signing of the lease.
  • Bring funds to cover a Credit Check: $60 to $75.
  • Bring funds to cover possible move-in/move-out fees from $250 and up. (Refundable if there is no damage)

Being prepared is vital to making the process of finding a new apartment in NYC smoother. And now that you know how to get prepared, start your search for a great new apartment today.