So you’ve just received your acceptance letter at your dream university in New York. But before you pop the champagne, you better start acquainting yourself with the practical details. Mainly, where are you going to live? Finding an apartment in NYC is far more complicated than most international students realize.
There will be credit and background checks, employer verification, and a whole lot else. International students are in something of a bind here as they won’t have a U.S. credit history. No need to worry, though, as there is a way to get around that. Here’s everything an international student needs to know about renting in New York City.
Everyone living in the U.S., whether they’re a citizen, green card holder, or here on a visa, is protected by the Fair Housing Act. This prohibits discrimination based on national origin, ethnicity, religion, gender, disability, or family status. A landlord is required to treat you like any other potential renter, so the vetting process is still the same. To make the process as smooth as possible, make sure you have the following documents in order.
Passport or state-issued identificationPassport or state-issued identification
You’ll need to prove you are who you say you are. Since you’re new to the U.S., it’s unlikely you’ll have a driver’s license or a state-issued photo I.D., so your passport is the next best option.
Proof of employmentProof of employment
A landlord will want to know you have a steady income source, so you’ll need proof of employment. A letter from your boss on company stationery should suffice. If you are not working while attending university, you will need to secure a guarantor. Be prepared as not all landlords will take a guarantor, and when they do accept, they may require the guarantor to be a New York state resident that makes 90 times the monthly rent in annual income.
Bank statement or financial informationBank statement or financial information
Most landlords require that you earn a steady income of at least 40 times the monthly rent. Along with that, you’ll also need a credit score of around 700 or higher. Since you’ll be a student, you probably won’t earn a full-time income, nor will you have any credit history. Therefore, you’ll most certainly need a guarantor (more on that below).
An I-20 VisaAn I-20 Visa
Your visa will need to be active for the entirety of the lease.
Social security numberSocial security number
If you’re authorized to work in the U.S., your social security number will need to be provided. If you haven’t applied for it yet or aren’t eligible, then the landlord will move on by using your proof of employment or financial support.
Contact Information from previous landlordsContact Information from previous landlords
A landlord will want to know what your previous rental history has been like, mainly, do you look after the property and pay your rent on time? Have all your previous landlords’ names and contact information available.
Find a Guarantor or Co-signerFind a Guarantor or Co-signer
As you won’t have a credit history, you’ll need a guarantor/co-signer for your lease. This is someone who agrees to pay the rent if you can’t. Typically need to have an income of 90 times the monthly rent, a credit score of at least 700, and, more often than not, residence in the tri-state area. If you don’t have anyone who fits that bill, don’t worry because there are workarounds.
One way is to offer more cash upfront. A large security deposit, generally four to six times the monthly rent, may be enough. Or, if at all possible, pay the first-year rental payments in full. The other option is Insurent. A service that will act as a guarantor when you don’t have any traditional means. To qualify, your parents will need to provide evidence of a combined income of more than 50 times the monthly rent. Or show that they have 80 times the monthly rent in bank or brokerage accounts.
Explore Housing Options for International StudentsExplore Housing Options for International Students
While it’s possible to rent an apartment as an international student without a real estate agent, it is not advisable, especially if you’re new to the city. A real estate agent will provide you with invaluable information to help you make an informed decision. Agents can also know the individual or smaller landlords that might be more amenable and flexible in their terms versus larger management companies. Ensure to ask them about the neighborhood, transport options, buildings types, and anything else of concern to you. An agent will also guide you through applications, board packages, and signing the lease.
Once you have an agent, the next step is to decide between a co-op, condo rental building. Your financial situation will most likely determine which option you pursue. Try to arrive at least two weeks before school starts and have a detailed plan to see several apartments that your agent has found once you’ve arrived.
Sign A LeaseSign A Lease
Make sure to read the lease carefully before you sign it. Read through all its terms and run it by your agent and possibly an attorney. There are many leases in New York, such as rent-stabilized, short-term, standard, or self-extending. Once the lease is signed, you should be all set to go. Just keep in mind that most apartments change hands at the start of the month, so depending on when you find a place, you might not be able to move in right away.