Before you begin your search for NYC apartments for rent, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the market. Seeking the help of an experienced rental agent can give you keen insights into the many different neighborhoods New York City has to offer. A rental agent can help narrow down your search for rental apartments that are within your budget and are the best fit for your lifestyle. Or you can choose to go the No-Fee route.
New York City is the cultural, business and social crossroads of the world, and each of its neighborhoods claim unique offerings regarding schools, restaurants, shopping, and recreation, amongst much other quality of life factors.
Table of Contents
- How to Rent an Apartment in NYC
- Timing is Everything When Renting
- Renting an Apartment for the First-Time
- Must-Ask Questions
- Steps to Searching for Rentals
- Rental agent versus doing it alone
- Hiring a rental agent
- Determine your budget and how to qualify
- Choosing a neighborhood(s)
- Decide on the size of the NYC apartment for rent you need
- Pick the essential amenities to you
- Research the rental market
- Organize and schedule viewings
- Be prepared when viewing
- Choose the right apartment for your needs
- Bring the following information when viewing apartments
- Application process and requirements
- Special Rental Situations
- Tenant Rights and Resources
- Rental Building Types
How to Rent an Apartment in NYC
Finding a rental apartment doesn’t have to be a headache, as long as you are prepared for the hunt. With all the borough and price options out there, doing a little research ahead of time can save you a lot of legwork in the long run. When it comes to searching for the perfect Big Apple apartment, here are five things you should consider.
Get Your Bearings Straight
The first step in finding the ideal rental is deciding which part of New York City you want to live in. Before your start borough hopping, you need to get your bearings straight, so you know how each location relates to the next regarding distance and access to the things you want in and around your neighborhood. Whether you choose the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, the progressive culture of Brooklyn, the diversity of The Bronx and Queens, or the suburban feel of Staten Island, exploring the boroughs by foot is a great way to get to know them. Make sure you’re equipped with a map app.
Figure Out Your Budget Ahead of Time
If you’re already on the apartment hunt, but you haven’t figured out your budget yet, then you are wasting your time. With rental prices in NYC from insanely expensive to surprisingly affordable, having a well-thought-out budget in mind is half the battle. With that said, it’s important to stick to your budget once you do come up with one.
Again, there is a range of rental prices in New York City, so don’t feel pressured to rent an apartment that is not within budget. Although there is significant competition when searching for a rental, more and more rentals pop up every day.
Let a Rental Agent Help
Finding an NYC apartment for rent without the help of a rental agent is like going on a cross-country journey without a compass. Whether you are a rental veteran or a first-time renter, rental agents have access to thousands of resources in the city. Rental agents can help you through every step of the process, and they charge reasonable fees for their services. Average brokerage fees range from 1 month to 15 percent of the first year’s rent. There are also no-fee rentals, depending on the area. Keep in mind that no-fee apartments will probably come at a higher cost than rentals with fees.
Have One or Two or Three Backups
As mentioned before, the rental market in the five boroughs is a competitive one, so it’s important to be proactive in your search. Don’t put all your rental eggs in one basket because you might lose to another renter. Instead, submit as many applications as possible, so you always have an apartment or two to fall back on.
Read the Lease Thoroughly
Once the hunt is over and you’re ready to sign a lease, make sure you thoroughly read the lease agreement, so there is no confusion on the move-in or move-out day. From the lease terms and dates to the renter’s responsibilities, knowing your lease is all part of the renting experience. By keeping in mind the rental pointers above, your move-in day will be a hassle-free one
Timing is Everything When Renting
Timing is everything when looking for an NYC apartment to rent. During the winter, most people are content to stay put, while the summertime is historically the busiest rental season, as students and recent grads descend upon the city creating a severe upswing in demand, and with it, prices.
Therefore, we recommend if you can put off your search, the best time to look for a rental apartment is in the late fall and winter months. During the slow season, prices less expensive and you face less competition. Of course, seasonal fluctuations also depend on apartment size, neighborhood and how the overall economy is doing.
To get the best deal, we recommend following the market close by reviewing rental market reports and news, and by studying the online apartment listings daily.
Most prospective renters do not have the luxury of choosing exactly when they will need to rent an apartment; thus it is best you start looking one month to 45 days before you need to move in. Landlords usually select move-in dates for vacant apartments on the 1st or 15th day of the upcoming month, so prospective renters should plan accordingly.
Below is a comprehensive step-by-step guide to help you prepare and answer any questions you might have about, income requirements, documentation required, broker’s fee, no-fee, pets, apartment, and building types and more.
Renting an Apartment for the First-Time
Finding an NYC apartment for rent has its challenges, but if you keep an open mind, this task won’t be as daunting. Before you start your apartment search, you should keep in mind that New York City’s real estate market plays by its’ own rules. Typically, apartments are only listed 30-60 days in advance. You should also expect to spend anywhere from three days up to four weeks on your search.
Leading up to your impending hunt, you can check online listings to get a feel for what’s out there, look at different neighborhoods to find one that fits your needs, and review market data, so you can be ready and confident when your search begins.
Preparedness is vital when apartment hunting in New York City. While there are a variety of factors you should consider when entering the rental market; the most important is managing your expectations.
The newer the apartment and appliances, along with the nearness to conveniences, all determine how much rent will be. Also, the neighborhood and buildings with an elevator and doorman all increase the monthly rent. Remaining open, and knowing your apartment must-haves, will help in your search.
When searching for the right apartment, you need to make sure you ask questions. Here is a list of items to ask.
- How much is rent?
- Is there a Broker’s Fee and how much?
- What is included in the monthly rent?
- Is there a security deposit?
- Are pets allowed? – If so is there a weight restriction for dogs?
- How far are the nearest conveniences such as a subway station, drug store, grocery store, etc.?
- Does the building have a doorman or buzzing service for guests and mail deliveries?
- Is there a building maintenance staff, i.e., super?
- If an appliance stops working who would I call?
Steps to Searching for Rentals
The first thing you need to do before renting is determining your criteria for an apartment. Here are some factors we suggest you consider when thinking about a rental.
Rental agent versus doing it alone
Before the advent of the Internet, searching for an NYC apartment for rent on your own was a complicated and challenging task. Now that the online world has bloomed, that is no longer the case. It is possible to do all the research you need to do online through various websites, no–fee rental sites and public real estate databases.
However, you should know that if you go it alone, the process of finding an NYC apartment for rent can be extremely time-consuming.
If you decide to search for an NYC apartment for rent on your own, you will be forced to spend countless hours pouring over online rental listings and arranging for apartment viewings at times that are often inconvenient for you.
Further, you may waste your time checking out 15 NYC apartments for rent, only to find that none of them are suitable and that you have missed out on “the one.” Also, you’ll have to contend with everything from irresponsible landlords who don’t return your calls to outright scams.
In short, searching for am NYC apartment for rent on your own can make you want to scream.
Hiring a rental agent
If you decide to go with a rental agent to help you find an NYC apartment for rent, you will likely need to pay a broker’s fee. Broker’s fees range from 1 Month to 15% of the first year rent. However, the broker if experienced will spare what can seem like unrelenting aggravation. Experienced rental agents will save you time because they know exactly what is available, what apartments are worth and whether or not they meet your criteria.
Agents will be able to select the most suitable apartments for you, help you avoid scams, help you prepare your application package, and negotiate a deal with the landlord. In a city where time is such a valuable commodity, such assistance can be invaluable.
Another benefit of having an experienced agent is the connections they have with other local professionals and landlords. Also, they will be able to provide you with recommendations for services like movers and decorators — which can be especially helpful if you are new to New York City.
Determine your budget and how to qualify
By far the most constraining factor in your search for an apartment is your budget. Before even starting your search, you need to get a clear picture of the minimum you want to pay and the maximum you can afford to pay per month.
Once you have calculated your monthly expenses with rent figured in, you can get a much better idea of what apartments are in your price range.
To qualify for a New York City rental most brokerages and landlords require that you make 40-50 times the monthly rent in annual income.
Choosing a neighborhood(s)
Regarding areas, no other city offers the choices that New York City does. From the chic and trendy to the upscale and sophisticated. Depending on such criterion as accessibility and food shopping, the vibe may even be different from block to block within a particular neighborhood.
When it comes to Manhattan neighborhoods, no two are the same. From Chelsea to the Upper West Side, each community has unique qualities. Rental agents will introduce you to the many enclaves that comprise New York City, ensure that you know how to navigate around them and help you pick the location that is best suited for you.
If looking to spend less money for more space, you might want to consider Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.
You can visit online guides for more details on specific neighborhoods. However, it is recommended you go for a walk around the area in person to get a feel for its atmosphere. By actually going to a neighborhood, you can discover firsthand the flavor and character by talking to residents, visiting stores, schools, restaurants and other local haunts.
New Yorkers may have a reputation for being gruff, but they still love to talk about themselves and where they reside. By asking a simple question like, “Do you like living here?” you can get a wealth of information that you cannot get online or by talking to an agent.
Decide on the size of the NYC apartment for rent you need
Space is a costly commodity in the Manhattan real estate market, so it is essential that you be realistic about your needs. Ask yourself such questions as how many people will I be living with? Am I amenable to sharing a bathroom or bedroom? The more people sharing the rent, the less costly the apartment will be, but that comes at a sacrifice of privacy. Know your limits, but above all, keep an open mind and be ready for compromise.
Pick the essential amenities to you
Regarding facilities, New York City apartments offer an array of choices. Some luxury buildings feature such things as laundry service, on-site gyms, and electronic rent payment. Walk-up rentals have fewer amenities and can be more affordable. Consider compromising on things that are non-essential to you, but that you keep your safety uppermost in your mind as your security should be non-negotiable.
Research the rental market
If you are considering a range of options, like renting a studio by yourself or sharing a two–bedroom with a roommate, remember to set up searches for all of these options. Even if you can’t afford a studio in your favorite neighborhood, you might be able to rent in that area if you split the cost of a more significant place with friends.
Further, look to your friends and their real estate choices for market information and renting advice. Those who already live in a particular neighborhood are the best sources of information about it. Then, once you narrow down your search to specific properties, you will get a better idea of the types of apartments and features that mesh with your budget.
Organize and schedule viewings
Once you’ve selected a broker, you can put them to work scheduling viewings for you. All you have to do is tell your rental agent the dates and times that you are available, and we will do the rest. You probably have a full-time job that makes mid-week viewings difficult, but keep in mind that the faster you see an apartment, the quicker you can snap it up.
To save time, schedule back-to-back viewings of some apartments in the same neighborhood (allowing yourself between thirty minutes and an hour to see each apartment). Make sure, however, that you are thorough when you evaluate the property because your first viewing could potentially be your last before you sign the lease and move in.
Keeping tabs on your appointments is vital, and can be accomplished by using a spreadsheet that contains the time, date, location and contact information for each apartment. Agents will also keep track of your appointments in such a manner. It is also essential that you be on time for your viewings to show prospective landlords and your agent that you are reliable and serious about renting.
Above all, it is vital that you visit each apartment that you are investigating in person. Advertisements can be deceiving, and what looks great on the Web, can turn out to be a disaster when you visit the place and that dream pad turns out to be a five-floor walk-up with the smells of the restaurant below wafting through the door.
Be prepared when viewing
We highly recommend when you see an apartment, you come prepared with all the information necessary to apply to rent it. Since NYC apartments for rent move quickly, you will then be able to submit your application on the spot to stop someone stealing the apartment out from under you. Plus, the landlord will see that you are someone responsible and savvy.
Required documents can vary depending on the landlord. However, most will need the list of items below to proceed with a rental application.- Letter from employer stating position, length of employment as well as salary.
Choose the right apartment for your needs
After you’ve seen the various NYC apartments for rent available, you can decide on one. Many people only have to look at an apartment once to conclude it is the perfect place for them. Others will have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of multiple apartment rentals carefully. If you are doing this, you have to consider which property is at the best location regarding such things as commuting, weekend entertainment, and traveling outside of the area.
Further, you should think whether any repairs are necessary, whether the apartment unit itself is laid out functionally and has space for all your belongings and whether it has ample natural light. Above all else, you must ascertain whether you can comfortably afford the rent and the cost of utilities.
Bring the following information when viewing apartments
Required documents can vary depending on the landlord. However, most will need the list of items below to proceed with a rental application.- Letter from employer stating position, length of employment as well as salary.
- Tax returns from the last two years – Last two pay stubs.
- Guarantor (If salary does not qualify for 40x monthly rent).
- Verification of assets such as equities, real estate, etc.
- Bank statements form the last two months.
- Name, address and phone number of the previous landlord.
- Two business reference letters.
- Two personal reference letters.
- Photo identification ( passport or driver’s license).
It is a good idea to have a tape measure along to make sure that your furniture will fit into an apartment. Be sure to come prepared with the measurements of this furniture.
Application process and requirements
When renting an NYC apartment, landlords usually require you to fill out an application. Applicants will be selected on the strength and balance of income, credit, assets, and guarantor. Below are just some details that will help you prepare for renting an apartment.
Most landlords require tenants to earn 40 to 50 times the monthly rent of the apartment as their annual income. This refers to guaranteed income and does not include bonuses. (i.e., If the property is $3000.00 a month, you must earn $120,000.00 to $150,000.00 a year to qualify to rent the apartment.)
If an applicant does not meet the financial requirements, the landlord may require a Lease Guarantor. This is the person who pays the rent if the tenant fails to do so. They are expected to navigate the same application process as the tenant and earn 80 to 100 times the monthly rent. Also, most landlords favor tri-state guarantors (people who reside in New Jersey, New York or Connecticut).
Application / Credit Check
This is a single document that will provide a landlord with all of an applicant’s required financial, professional and personal background information. (Credit checks are only applicable to US residents).
Application fees are typically required when you submit your application and range in price from $50–$100 (per application) for a rental building and anywhere from $250–$1,000 for a co-op or condo building.
One month’s rent and one month’s security is due when you sign your lease. Landlords require this payment in the form of two separate certified checks or money orders. These checks can be obtained at a New York City bank for $10–$15.
Landlords do not accept personal checks or cash, but some will allow the tenant to pay with a credit card (often with surcharges of 2-3% added to the rent and security payments). If you lack a US credit history or have bad credit, landlords will many times ask for additional security.
Employer Verification Letter
This letter must be written on company letterhead and be signed by your supervisor. It should state your position, starting date, salary and, if applicable, guaranteed bonus. It should also detail whether or not you are entitled to a housing allowance and if so, how much.
When trying to rent an NYC apartment, a glowing reference from your current landlord is a great asset. Indeed, this information is often requested during the process. If you were unable to get a letter, be certain you can pass on your landlord’s name, address, and telephone number. Without a reference, a landlord might want to do his check into your history as a tenant.
Every landlord doesn’t require references, but it is better to be prepared for that request. In addition to a landlord’s letter, a reference from an accountant or attorney reflects favorably on you. Decide on your references and have up-to-date contact information for them.
You should come prepared for at least the last two months worth of statements.
In some cases, you may be asked to provide tax returns, so it is essential to bring the last two years of tax returns with you.
It will be necessary to show a driver’s license, passport, or some other form of government-issued photo ID.
Many buildings and landlords are pet-friendly but can require an additional month of deposit for pets – in case of any damage or other problems.
Since tenants pay the broker’s fee in New York City, it is customary to be asked to sign a fee agreement when enlisting the help of an agent. This agreement only states that you agree to pay a fee to the broker if they help you to obtain a lease on a particular apartment. You do not have to pay a broker’s fee if you are unable to secure a lease agreement through the specific broker.
The broker’s fee in New York City can be up to 15% of the annual rent. This is usually required when you sign your lease. You are only responsible for this fee if you secure an NYC apartment for rent through that broker. Fees should always be made payable to the brokerage firm and not a specific agent.
If an apartment listing says NO FEE, there should not be a broker’s fee charged at any stage.
Owner Paid Fees
In certain instances, a landlord may pay a portion of a fee to a broker. Under New York State law, the broker must notify the person responsible for paying the fee, whether that is a tenant or sponsoring corporation. Elika’s Renters Representation will help you prepare your application, double checking all requirements and following up with the leasing organization quickly to ensure that nothing slips through the cracks, particularly in extraordinary circumstances. (See Appendix C for more details.)
Negotiating and Signing the Lease
In times when the market is soft, there is an opportunity in the Manhattan rental market to negotiate more favorable lease terms. Elika’s Renters Representation can offer you expert advice and guidance as to whether negotiation is possible and how to go about it. Bear in mind, however, that even in a soft market, a landlord will walk away from a deal if it does not make financial sense.
Once you have agreed on the terms, the lease will need to be signed by all parties, including the landlord, renter, and if applicable, guarantors. All of the necessary documents need to be signed before you can move ahead, so if you are enlisting a guarantor from outside the area, you need to be prepared to ship documents quickly. Once the lease is signed, it’s time to make a toast—the apartment has become yours officially.
Special Rental Situations
When searching for NYC apartments for rent, there are some special situations that you may need to be prepared to address. These include the following:
Usually, landlords will not accept more than two names on a lease. Roommates are held jointly responsible for rent and broker fees. Also, roommates are held accountable for any other roommate’s unpaid rent. Elika’s Renters Representation therefore strongly suggests that roommates sign is written agreements which bind each of them to the rental fee and terms of the lease.
Regarding the financial requirements for renting
Landlords will often consider the combined income of the roommates. However, this can vary from landlord to landlord, and you should tell your broker ahead of time if this is how you plan to qualify for an NYC apartment for rent. Also be aware that landlords may require a guarantor even if your combined income meets the financial requirements, so that is why you also need to notify your broker of this circumstance.
If you pay taxes outside of the United States, or if you have a housing allowance from your job, your qualifications are assessed differently. If this is the case, you can consult with Elika about the financial resources you will need to become eligible to rent. Without a U.S. rental history, many of those relocating from abroad are required to pay additional security.
Some landlords may even require six months to one year of rent to be pre-paid depending on your particular circumstances.
Your four-legged canine friend can sometimes prove to be your worst enemy when it comes to obtaining an NYC apartment for rent. Most landlords in New York City do not accept dogs over twenty pounds, and in many cases even frown upon smaller dogs, cats, and other small domestic animals. If you have a pet or plan on getting one, your choice of apartments may be limited, so you should alert your broker to this situation.
Since it’s often difficult to find affordable two-bedroom apartments, many prospective tenants look for one-bedrooms that can be converted into two by the installation of a temporary wall. Several reputable businesses will deliver and install a wall for a fee. However, many landlords do not allow these shares, so you should advise your broker if you plan on going this route. Be aware that you are responsible for removing the wall at the end of your lease.
Tenant Rights and Resources
Once you sign your lease, you can breathe easy. If an issue were to arise, you could refer to the New York City Rent Guidelines Board Tenants’ Rights Guide.
As you enter the New York City rental market, you can now feel confident in your search. Follow the tips above, and you’re sure to have a much easier time renting your first NYC apartment.
Rental Building Types
In Manhattan, there are three different ways buildings are owned, and they each vary about the approval process you need to go through to live in them, as well as other related requirements. The most comfortable building to move into is a rental, followed by a condominium, which has greater restrictions, and then a co-operative building, where the requirements for moving into the apartment can be stringent.
A single landlord owns the whole property, which can be rent stabilized or non-rent stabilized depending on the real estate laws. Landlords typically require the standard paperwork (discussed above) and a credit check, as well as one month’s rent and one month’s security deposit, for you to be approved to move in. The approval process can take anywhere from one day to one week, but usually no longer.
Each unit is individually owned and can be used either as a personal residence or rented out to somebody else as an investment property. The board sets regulations for moving into a condo– a governing body for the building made up of individual owners. As long as owners follow the board’s rules, they can set their rental price and lease length.
Owners will typically require you to provide the standard paperwork, plus whatever additional information they feel necessary for approval. Also; applicants may be asked to supply extra paperwork that is deemed necessary by the board, but generally, the board does not have the right to turn down an applicant that an owner is willing to rent to. Tenants are required to pay application and board and move–in fees, as well as additional security if needed. With a condo, the approval process can take anywhere from one week to one month.
These buildings are similar to condos being privately owned; individuals own shares in the building based on their apartment’s size and value, and not the deed to the unit itself. Co-ops tend to have stringent rules on renting. In addition to the standard paperwork, the co-op board always requires financial and personal information.
Prospective renters must attend an extensive interview with the building’s co-op board, and once approved are usually required to pay large application, board, and move–in fees, as well as extra security. If you are from abroad or do not have an extensive credit history, it can be challenging to get the board’s approval. The approval process can take a month or more.