Renting in New York City is unlike anywhere else. With millions of renters in the city, and many more moving each year, it’s important to go into your apartment hunt armed with the right information.
Here are 5 things every new New Yorker should know before renting an apartment.
1. Scams are everywhere. Be careful.
Scammers prey on newcomers when it comes to apartment hunting. They’ll post listings that seem too good to be true and have a low price point. They may pressure you into making a deposit in order to see or apply to the apartment. They may say you can’t see the apartment because the current tenant is still living there. These are strong indications that it could be a scam. All real estate agents have to have a license with the State - if you’re feeling uneasy about the correspondence with an agent, you can look them up here and confirm they have a valid real-estate license. If you’re dealing with an owner - confirm they are actually the owner of the property. Put the address in openigloo and you can see who the listed buildings owners are. A good rule of thumb is to never pay anything without seeing the space. If you’re not in the city, find someone to see it for you. Dealing only with verified and licensed agents and/or owners is also a good practice.
2. Most landlords require that you make 40x the rent and have a 700+ credit score.
Requirements to rent an apartment in NYC are strict. 40x the rent is standard. That means if you are looking at an apartment that is $2000 a month, your household income needs to be $80,000 a year to qualify ($2000 x 40 = $80,000). A 700 credit score is also typical. For example, if you’re a new grad moving to New York and you haven’t started working yet, getting approved is going to be tough without a guarantor. It doesn’t matter if you have a strong offer letter outlining your upcoming salary. If you’re moving to New York to look for jobs, you’ll also have a hard time. If you don’t meet the income or credit requirements, you’ll need an American guarantor (preferably in the tri-state area) who makes 80x the rent and has a credit score of at least 800. If you don’t know anyone who can guarantee a lease, you can look into third-party guarantor providers.
3. You may have to pay a broker fee.
Broker fees cause a lot of confusion for renters. In New York, renters are responsible for paying the broker when they sign a lease. In many states, landlords pay this fee (but not in New York). However, there are no fee apartments in NYC - this is when the landlord has agreed to pay the fee to the broker or they are renting it themselves so there is no fee. In any case, a 15% fee is normal. If the rent is $2000 a month, the fee to the broker would be $3600 which is equivalent to 15% of the annual rent ($2000x 12 months x 15% fee = $3600). Some brokers may charge just 1 month’s rent as the fee. When you sign a lease, expect to pay first month’s rent, security deposit equal to one month’s rent, and a broker fee. Broker fees are negotiable, so don’t be afraid to try and get the fee lower. If you want to avoid a broker fee, search for no fee listings on openigloo.
4. Research the building and landlord before you move in.
Lots of apartments in New York show really well. New appliances, clean hardwood floors, pre-war charm. But you never really know what it’s like to live in a space until you’re already there. On openigloo, you can read reviews from other tenants, access city data on the property (open violations, bedbug reports, litigation history), and figure out who owns the building. Avoid apartments with hidden issues - pests, faulty heat, or thin walls are things that could sour your rental experience.
5. New York has tenant laws to protect you. Get familiar with them!
New York has dozens of laws to help protect renters. For example, landlords can only charge a maximum of $20 as an application fee. Landlords must return security deposits within 14 days of move-out. Landlords must give notice if they want to raise your rent by more than 5%. And the list goes on. You can read more about NYC Housing Laws here.
Renting in New York City is tough, but it’s important to go into your apartment hunt armed with the right information. Reach out to the openigloo team anytime with any questions or concerns. We’re here to help renters find a great place to live.
Once you’re settled into a new place, submit an anonymous review about your building on the openigloo app, and help a future renter with their apartment search.