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I want to leave my college dorm to rent my own apartment next semester. I’ve been saving and have a trust from a family member, which will total $100,000-$150,000 by the time I’m ready to move. As I’m a student without a steady income, especially not the standard 40 times the monthly rent that landlords require, will I have trouble getting through the application process?
When it comes to rental problems, there are lots of New Yorkers who would certainly envy this dilemma. Most landlords want to see that you are earning 40 times the monthly rent and even though your rental application won’t be a typical one, a six-figure lump sum in your bank account puts you in a pretty good position.
Landlords may approach your situation in different ways, but finding a guarantor is probably your best bet to making them feel comfortable about a lack of income.
[Editor’s note: Realty Bites tackles your NYC rental questions. Have a query for our experts? Drop us an email. An earlier version of this post was published in April 2020 and has been updated with new information for April 2021.]
One important detail to know is that landlords cannot take more than one month's rent as a security deposit on a rental. This is the result of changes to the rent laws in 2019 and it prevents renters from being asked to pay several months rent in advance if a landlord sees you don’t have a steady income or one that meets their requirements.
Without that salary coming in, the best bet is to find a guarantor, usually a parent or relative who lives in the tri-state area, who can co-sign the lease with you. They must earn at least 80 times your monthly rent—or have that much in their bank, savings, or stock market accounts if they’re retired—so they can cover you and their own expenses, if you run into financial trouble.
If you don't have anyone to act as a guarantor, you can use an institutional lender, which offers the service and guarantees the lease for the landlord
Need help finding a landlord with flexible requirements? The rental experts at Triplemint, a Brick Underground partner, know exactly where to look. If you sign up here, you can also take advantage of Triplemint's corporate relocation rate—where you'll pay a broker's fee of 10 percent of a year's rent on open listings instead of the usual 12 to 15 percent. Bonus: The agents at Triplemint are a delight to deal with.
Insurent Lease Guaranty (a Brick Underground sponsor) will qualify renters if their annual income is a minimum of 27.5 times the monthly rent. The company also guarantees renters whose cash assets or marketable securities are a minimum of 45 to 50 times the monthly rent.
“If renters don’t meet either of these tests, Insurent will qualify renters with parents that have a minimum of 50 times the monthly rent in annual income or a minimum of 80 times the monthly rent in cash assets or marketable securities,” says Jeffrey Geller, Insurent’s chief operating officer.
“In this case, the one-time fee for Insurent for a 12-14 month lease could be as low as 75 percent of a month’s rent,” Geller says.
Guaranty fees are generally between 65 percent and 90 percent of a month's rent for U.S. renters, 90 percent to 110 percent for non-U.S. employed renters without U.S. credit history, and 98.4 percent of one month’s rent for international students.
Another option you may want to consider is looking for an apartment in a building that’s run by a mom-and-pop landlord, as opposed to a larger-scale management company. These small landlords are sometimes more willing to work with your unique situation.
Long story short: You might have to shop around a bit more than usual but you shouldn't have any trouble landing an apartment.
Keep in mind, however, with that kind of money in the bank, low interest rates, and NYC’s real estate market currently favoring buyers, it might serve you better to use that cash for a down payment (and mortgage payments) on a starter apartment instead of expensive rent, especially if you still think you are going to be living in New York City five years from now.
—Earlier versions of this article contained reporting and writing by Virginia K. Smith and Nikki Mascali.
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