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How to Rent

A New York City Apartment

STEP 3: Closing the Deal

How to fill out a rental application, and questions to ask about your lease before you sign it

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You need to move quickly once you find what you like.  That means you should be prepared to submit an application and your supporting documents on the day you see the apartment that you would like to move forward with.

Your supporting documents will include:

  • Last two paystubs
  • Photo ID
  • Last three months of bank statements
  • Last two years of tax returns
  • Letter of employment on employer letterhead stating job title, length of employment, salary and expected bonus;  or if self employed, a letter from your CPA
  • Proof of any other funds (e.g. stocks, bonds, etc.)
  • Landlord reference letter if possible saying you pay on time and that you're quiet and nice;  and contact information for all prior landlords
  • Personal or business reference letters (sometimes required by co-ops, and a bonus for rentals)
  • Most of the above for your guarantor if you will be using one.
  • Some landlords may ask for a letter of recommendation from your prior landlord.  Most important: That you paid rent on time all the time. Second most important: You're quiet and clean.

You'll need to pay an application fee and credit check authorization fee, which typically total $50-$200 per person in a rental building, but could go as high as 8-10 times that in a co-op or condo building. The application fee is refundable but the credit ceck is not.

You may be asked for a deposit of anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a month's rent if the apartment is taken off the market while your application is reviewed. If you're approved, you'll need to hand over first month’s rent, security deposit  (typically one month, sometimes two, or more if you are addressing a bad credit issue), and broker’s fee by certified check from a New York bank.

Ask whether the landlord will take the apartment off the market while reviewing your application or if they will continue to show it.  You may be able to make a deposit to “hold” the apartment.  The deposit amount often ranges from $500 to $1,000 and it’s only refundable if the landlord rejects your application. 

After your application is approved the landlord, will expect you to sign leases and deliver the certified checks within a short time (e.g. 48 hours).

Things to look for in your lease

  • Does your lease have an option to renew? If so, how far in advance do you have to claim your option to renew?  How will rent increases be figured--by a fixed dollar amount, a percentage of the first year's rent, or cost of living increases?
  • Are any utilities included in the rent?
  • Are pets allowed?
  • Is there a restriction on the number of air conditioning units you may have?
  • Is use of outdoor space specifically mentioned in the lease? If not, you won't be titled to a rent abatement if the space becomes unusable for any reason
  • What is the sublet policy?
  • Does your landlord have to return your security deposit in a certain amount of time? If not, try to add language specifying a time limit.
  • What does the lease say about the landlord's right to show the apartment to tenants--how many days before the end of the lease can the landlord start showing it, are tehre any restrictions on time or days of week, who will be allowed to access and show the apartment, and whether you'll have to make the apartment available for open houses.
  • If you are getting a free month or two rent as a rental concession, is the free month at the beginning or end of your lease? What happens if you need to break your lease?


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