Unlike in some European cities, the average landlord in New York City is a corporate landlord. You will, of course, come across an individual landlord, especially if you are looking for an apartment in a townhouse. However, the majority of rental high-rises are owned by corporations. It is common that a corporation hires a management company to manage their rental properties. These management companies are responsible for selecting potential tenants, handling leases, collecting rental payments and providing property management. Some individual landlords own and manage their property themselves. Such landlords often occupy an apartment in a multiple family townhouse or own a property in a coop or a condo building. Unlike a large corporate landlord, an individual landlord will know you by name and will be more attentive and also more concerned about how you are using his or her property.
New York City law is designed to protect the rights of tenants. It takes a lot of time and legal fees for a landlord to evict a tenant in default. Therefore, it is only logical that New York landlords are very careful in selecting the most responsible, credit reliable and financially capable tenants for their properties. Please see our section on credit rating for more information. Usually each management company determines which specific documents a potential tenant must present or additional requirements he or she should fulfill to qualify for approval. Different management companies have different policies. However these policies are usually accurately followed and are not easily negotiated.
Smaller landlords or management companies may sometimes be easier to negotiate with. Having fewer properties to manage, these smaller companies are more likely to look at each case individually and consider a tenant with a non-conventional background or nonstandard financial information. Individual landlords will make their own decision on whom to accept as a tenant. Their preferences may vary, and they may consider more factors than just your credit rating. You may be able to arrange a meeting with an individual landlord and present your application in person.
If the apartment of your choice is located in a Condo or Coop building, in most cases your application will have to be approved, not only by your future landlord, but also by the Coop or Condo Board. Boards usually have different requirements for tenants. However, Board approvals take the longest amount of time are the hardest to get.
The common requirement is for your gross annual earnings to be at least 40-50 times your monthly rent. For instance, if your rent is $2,000, you will be required to prove that you earn at least $80,000 dollars. If you share the apartment with a partner, spouse or roommate, your earnings can be combined to meet the financial requirement. The financial standing can be reinforced with verification of your savings, stocks or real estate in possession.
After you have chosen an apartment, you have to submit an application. Information required for the application may vary, but usually you will need to provide the following information:
Current and previous addresses
Social Security Number (SSN)
Your personal and financial information will have to be verified by supporting documents. The amount of paperwork and complexity of the application depend on the type of apartment building your new apartment is in, your financial position and rental history. Your Evans consultant will help you decide which supporting documents will help you prove that you are a reliable tenant. The following documents are generally required for the application:
Copies of two most recent pay-stubs
Official employment verification letter
Bank statements from the last 2-3 months
Verification of other assets (Mutual funds, stock, real estate, etc.)
Tax returns and W-2s from the last 2 years
References from previous landlords
Contact information of past landlords, employer, guarantors (if any).
Additionally, you will have to authorize the landlord or his agent to run your credit check. They will check your credit report to make sure that you are financially stable, reliable, and can afford the rent.
Even if your circumstances do not match the typical New York City qualified tenant’s profile, you still have options that well enable you to rent. You have come to the right real estate agent! Evans’ specialty is helping people like you relocate to New York from all over the world, and we have experience in dealing with foreign tenants and buyers. This is where an experienced broker can be very helpful – we will study your situation and advise you on how to make the best case to your potential landlord. An Evans consultant will work with you to understand how your foreign experience can be “translated” and presented to the landlord in order to convince him or her that you are a suitable renter. One of your friends or colleagues in New York can act as a guarantor of the lease. Financial issues can also be resolved by offering a larger security deposit and/or a prepayment of several months rent.
A guarantor is somebody who can guarantee to the landlord that the rent will be paid in full and on time in case you are experiencing financial difficulty. If you do not meet the credit or financial requirements, the landlord might agree to have your guarantor co-sign the lease. A preferred guarantor is usually a family member or a close friend who lives in the tri-state area (New York, New Jersey or Connecticut), and can can provide documentation that he or she has an annual income of 80-100 times of the rent. However, please make sure your guarantor understands and agrees that he or she will have to go through the entire application process with you, and will be required to present his or her credit report, employment and income verification and submit a lot of other personal information, including W2 forms and tax returns.
Usually there is a fee associated with processing your application. The fees vary for different buildings and management companies. For a rental building, an application fee is usually $100-$150. For a Co-op apartment, this fee may be higher. The credit check fee is $30-$100 per applicant. These fees are usually non-refundable. Moreover, in order to start the application procedure and take the apartment off the market, an agent may also require a refundable “good-faith” deposit. The amount may vary from $300 dollars up to one month’s rent. Should your application be turned down by the landlord, this deposit will be refunded to you. In the case that the application is successful, the deposit will be counted towards the rent.
Standard lease terms require an upfront payment consisting of the following:
First month’s rent
One month’s security deposit (refundable at the end of the lease term)
Broker’s commission (this is usually 15% of the annual rent)
In some instances, if your financial information and credit rating raise some concern with your landlord, you may be asked to increase the amount of your security deposit or prepay more rent.
Acceptable forms of payments are: certified checks, money orders, bank checks, travelers’ checks, or a wire transfer. Some landlords accept only certified checks. Your Evans consultant will advise you on the exact amount you’ll have to pay upon signing your lease, and the preferable method of payment.
The standard security deposit is one month’s rent. Unfortunately, you do not get any interest on the security deposit. Sometimes, if your rent goes up the next year, you will have to add an increased amount to the deposit to compensate the difference between the first and second year!
Of course, nothing is ever set in stone and often rents can be negotiated. Moreover, it is a good idea to inquire how long an apartment has been on the market and whether there is room for negotiation. Another thing to check is whether or not a landlord offers any rental concessions, such as one month free of rent or a gym membership. However, given the current market conditions with its limited (and diminishing) supply of rental properties and constantly growing demand for Manhattan apartments, Landlords have little motivation to negotiate rental prices.
Usually landlords use standard lease form prepared by the Real Estate Board of New York (available here in pdf). However, landlords often make additions or amendments to this lease in a form of riders. That is why, we always advise our clients to consult with their lawyer to make sure that their interests are represented and protected to the fullest extent possible.
New Yorkers love and often have pets regardless of the size of their apartment; however, unfortunately not all landlords allow pets in their buildings. Different landlords and buildings have a stated policy on pets. Some buildings allow all pets, others just some pets (cats, for instance). Please let your agent know that you have pets and your agent will pre-select the properties, which are pet-friendly.
Most landlords will offer you a lease for one year. If you wish to sign a longer lease, in case of growing rental rates, the landlord will mostly likely raise the rental price for every year of the lease. This is done to compensate for a potential market rent increase that the landlord will forego by guaranteeing you a fixed price for a longer period. Leases longer than two years are very rare in New York City!
Usually it is very easy to extend a lease. Most landlords will send you a letter, in which they will give you the option of extending your lease and put in new rental price for the next year. If you wish to continue renting the apartment, you can negotiate these new terms with the landlord, sign the extension documents and simply send it back to the landlord.
While it is easy to prolong a lease, leases in New York City are usually hard to terminate before the leasing period is finished. In most cases, you will be liable for making rental payments under the lease even if you do not need the apartment. However, in some cases you may assign your lease to somebody else with the permission of your landlord.
The rent-controlled program applies to about 50,000 apartments in New York City. These apartments are located in buildings constructed before 1947 and have been occupied by the tenant or their legal successor continuously since before July, 1971. When a rent-controlled apartment becomes vacant, it either becomes rent-stabilized, or is removed from rent-regulation completely. Rent-stabilized apartments are generally found in buildings of six or more units constructed between 1947 and 1974, as well as in some other types of properties. There are over one million units covered by this program, and in your search you are likely to come across some of these apartments.
Of course, rent-stabilized apartments are very desirable, especially if you intend to stay there for several years. Your landlord will be allowed to increase your rent by a small percentage only from year to year, irrespective of the current market rate.
Luxury high-rises usually have a maintenance man or someone who is on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This varies from building to building. Most mid-sized and large buildings have a superintendent “super,” who often lives in the building. Other management companies do not have on-site management, especially in the case of smaller buildings, which may just offer maintenance by request. In this case, you have to call the management company during normal business hours and schedule an appointment. If your landlord manages the building personally, you will have to contact your landlord directly to get assistance. If you building doesn’t have a super and you need some help, Evans will be glad to provide you with the information of a certified handyman in your neighborhood.
When renting an apartment, the brokerage fee is paid by the tenant upon the signing of the lease. It usually constitutes 15% of the yearly rent. So, if the rent is $2,000 per month, the commission will be the following: $2,000 x 12 x 15% = $3,600. At Evans, the brokerage fee includes all the services of property search, arranging viewings, help with the application, landlord negotiations, and arranging for a lease signing.
Most importantly, your Evans agent will act as your representative, protecting your interests during the negotiation of the conditions of the lease. We will prepare the necessary paperwork and perform a property analysis to make sure that there are no hidden problems. We will arrange the structure and procedure of the closure to guarantee that everything goes smoothly and that you do not take financial risks, overpay in fees, and receive your apartment on time and in good condition. Unlike your experience with many other real estate companies, our relationship with you does not have to end when we receive our commission. We will be happy to resolve any issues you might encounter at your new place: from contacting your super about a leaky faucet to resolving more complex issues and conflicts.