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Expert Tips: Renting Apartments in NYC

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Finding and securing a rental apartment in New York City can be a challenging process. Being prepared and familiarizing yourself with New York City’s unique rental process will give you the best chance of getting an apartment.


The first step is to make sure you know what documents will be required. You should begin your apartment search approximately 30-40 days before you wish to move in. Once you’ve found the apartment you want, it is best to be able to act immediately, so be sure to gather the proper documentation ahead of time.

Whether applying for an apartment in a rental, co-op or condo building, you will most likely need the following documentation in English:

  1. Letter of Employment – on letterhead stating position, salary and length of employment (or start date if you have not yet started), and any information regarding bonus, guaranteed or otherwise. Internationals will also want to include the number of years they worked for their current employer.
  2. Letter from Current Landlord – should reference the length of tenancy and history of paying rent on time. If you cannot get a letter, bring the previous landlord’s name, address and phone number. If you owned your last home you can submit a letter from the management company if there was one, otherwise for board packages submit an explanation that you didn’t have a landlord.
  3. Last two pay stubs
  4. Last two years’ tax returns
  5. Last two months’ bank statements
  6. Two personal reference letters – Condo and co-op boards like to know a little about the people who wish to move in, and most will ask you  to have reference letters written by people who know you professionally and personally. Ask your agent or the author for examples.
  7. Two business reference letters
  8. Verification of other assets such as real estate, securities, etc.
  9. Photo identification (driver’s license, passport, etc.)

Be sure to prepare your funds ahead of time as rent, security and any brokerage fees are due at lease signing. Landlords will usually not accept personal out-of-state checks; bring traveler’s checks, certified bank checks, or wire the funds. Bear in mind that internationally wired funds can take up to one week before they are accessible in the United States.

Though much of the research can be done remotely, you will need to be present in NYC in order to rent an apartment, co-op, or condo. Most landlords want to meet their future tenants before agreeing to rent, and the signing of the lease must be done in person. 



While some apartments can be rented without a real estate agent, it is not advisable, especially if you are new to the country. A real estate agent can help you with a wealth of information and assist you in making an informed decision. He or she is a valuable resource who can answer questions about neighborhoods, building types, public transportation access, or anything else that might be of interest to you.It is very important to be open about your credit history, pet situation, and full financial situation with your agent, this way they can guide you to rental apartments where the landlords will accept your situation. It will save you a lot of time and the pain of getting rejected. Your real estate agent can also help with applications, board packages and the signing of the lease and define anything that is not clear to you.

When using a real estate agent for your apartment search, the tenant usually pays the brokerage fees. On rare occasions, the landlord will pay an equivalent of one month’s rent towards the fee. Many brokerage firms in NYC charge 15% of the first annual rent on a lease of one year or more, or one month’s rent for a short term lease of 3-6 months. All brokerage firms who are REBNY members share their listings, meaning that one agent can show you everything. They also share their commissions, meaning the agent representing the landlord will receive 7.5% and the agent representing the tenant will receive 7.5%. 


Most landlords require that your guaranteed income is 40 to 50 times the rent. For example, if the monthly rent is $3,000 per month, you will need to show a guaranteed income of at least $120,000 per year ($3,000 x 40 = $120,000). Bonuses might be considered if a history of bonuses can be documented. There are other factors that might make a lease possible if your yearly income falls below the landlord’s requirements: Income from other sources, housing allowance, guaranteed rent payments from your company, or the use of a guarantor or co-signer.

Good Credit

In the application process, a landlord will want to conduct a credit check. If your credit is not in good standing or you have no U.S. credit history, the landlord may require a guarantor, co-signer or extra security upfront.

Guarantor or co-signer

If the applicant does not meet the financial requirements or credit test, a landlord might accept a guarantor or co-signer on the lease. Most landlords prefer a guarantor from the Tri-State area which includes New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Landlords usually require that guarantors make between 80 to 100 times the monthly rent in annual income. This means that for a $3,000 apartment a guarantor must show a guaranteed income of at least $240,000 ($3,000 X 80 = $240,000). The landlord might require a credit report from the guarantor showing no delinquencies, defaults, judgments, or bankruptcies and the co-signer or guarantor might be asked to submit tax returns, net-worth statements, bank, and brokerage statements.

Landlords might require Non-U.S. citizens, who have no credit history and no rental history in the United Sates to pay a significant additional security or/and prepayment of rent that can range from 6 to 12 months of rent.

If the applicant does not have a guarantor or co-signer in the Tri-State area and also can not pay 12 months rent upfront, some landlords will accept a Qualification Certificate from Insurent® Lease Guaranty to satisfy the financial requirements.




The ownership of a Condominium apartment is similar to the ownership of real property. A purchaser of a Condo takes title by deed for not only the apartment but also a percentage of the building’s common areas. The landlords in condo building are usually smaller investors or the previous owner & resident of the apartment. The landlord is allowed to accept 6-12 months of rent upfront. 

The application process can take 10-30 days and approval from the board will be necessary; application fees range from $300 – $1,500.


Cooperatives, or co-ops, comprise approximately 75-80% of New York City’s real estate market. When purchasing a cooperative apartment, one purchases shares of stock in a corporation that owns the building and possibly the land beneath. A stock certificate representing the purchased shares and a proprietary lease giving the right to occupy the apartment are conveyed at closing.  Most co-ops require shareholders to occupy their apartments as primary residences, however normally an allowance is made for one or two years of subletting. This means it is usually hard to be able to lease an apartment longer than 2-3 years in a co-op. The landlord is not always allowed to accept 6-12 months upfront. 

The application process can take 30-60 days and an approval from the board with an interview will be necessary; application fees range from $300 – $1,500

Rental buildings

The application process can take 1-10 days; application fees range from $25 – $100 


Once you find a home that suits you, you must fill out an application, submit documentation, and pay an application fee. The application process is as varied as the landlords themselves. Most frequently, you will be asked to complete an application and submit the documentation listed at the beginning of this article. At this point, a credit check will be done and your agent can help you negotiate agreeable terms of the lease. Cooperative or condominium buildings can be particularly demanding, potential renters are usually asked to follow the same steps as a purchaser.

Signing of the lease

Be sure to read the lease carefully. There are many kinds of New York City apartment leases such as rent stabilized, short-term, standard or self-extending. Your real estate agent can help define anything that is not clear to you.

Your new landlord will decide how your copy of the lease and keys will be relayed to you. You should speak to your agent or superintendent regarding the move-in policies of your building. Routinely, an appointment is required.

Finally, and most importantly, you can celebrate!!!


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