No co-signer for your rental? No problem—try these 6 guarantor work-arounds
- No relative or friend to serve as a co-signer? Hire a third-party guarantor for a one-time fee
- Some sublets may not have the usual credit and income requirements; same for certain co-living spaces
- Rent guarantee insurance is available in case you lose your job and is usually rolled into your monthly rent
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To rent an apartment in New York City, you need to demonstrate that you can reliably pay your rent, usually with a combination of good credit and an annual salary of 40-45 times the monthly rent. That can be an impossible hurdle to clear, given today's sky-high rents. In that case, you'll need to find a co-signer—someone who will be on the lease with you and therefore fully liable for any unpaid rent—or a guarantor who agrees to pay the rent if you don't.
In NYC, co-signers and guarantors are generally required to have a credit score of at least 700, an annual income of 75-80 times the monthly rent, and often must reside in the tri-state area (New York, Connecticut, or New Jersey) to be within easy suing distance if something goes wrong. Some landlords will only accept guarantors who are NY residents for the same reason.
[Editor's note: An earlier version of this article ran in June 2022. It has been updated with new information for June 2023.]
Many renters look first to their parents or other older relatives to serve as guarantors. If they're retired or lacking a steady income, they likely won't be acceptable to a landlord. While friends or employers can also guarantee a rental, non-relatives are frequently reluctant to shoulder the financial liability if you or a roommate defaults.
In lieu of a guarantor, it used to be possible to pay several months of rent in advance, which was helpful for those with shaky credit or lower incomes who had money in the bank. However, this option was taken off the table a few years ago with the passage of major tenant protection laws aimed at reducing the upfront costs of securing an apartment in New York. It’s now illegal for a landlord to take prepaid rent and/or additional security on top of the typical one-month security
Don't despair: Here are six options to explore if you can't find a guarantor or co-signer:
1. Hire a third-party guarantor
If you don’t have a family member or friend who can act as a guarantor or co-signer, you can pay a third-party guarantor to take on that role. These institutional guarantors have income requirements that are significantly less strict than landlords' 40-times rent rule and are accepted by thousands of buildings across the city—a trend that accelerated during the pandemic.
For example, the Insurent Lease Guaranty (FYI, a Brick Underground sponsor) can be your guarantor with far less strict income and employment requirements than landlords. The company charges an average of 65 to 85 percent of one month's rent if you have U.S. credit and 90 to 110 percent of one month's rent for non-U.S. persons without U.S. credit. Insurent is accepted in over 9,000 rental buildings representing over 800,000 rental units. (To see if your prospective building or landlord accepts Insurent, click here.)
According to Jeffrey Geller, vice president and CEO, Insurent assists college and professional graduates entering the workforce who don’t meet NYC landlords’ annual income requirement of 40 times the monthly rent, as well as foreign executives relocating to the U.S. who have no U.S. credit history, self-employed persons, non-employed U.S. and foreign renters with significant cash liquid assets, and international and U.S. students. The income criteria is a minimum annual income of 27.5 times the monthly rent and decent or no credit or cash/marketable securities of a minimum of 50 times the monthly rent and decent or no credit.
"We're seeing an increase in third-party guarantors to levels we've never seen before," says Adam Frisch, managing principal at Mantus Real Estate, a brokerage firm. "It’s a change that’s here to stay," Frisch says.
2. Offer to pay a higher rent
Paying a higher rent might be difficult to stomach, but it may encourage a landlord concerned about the risks of renting to you if you have no credit history.
It is not unheard of for renters to offer to pay a higher rent in order to secure an apartment; in fact, bidding wars for apartments are happening in the current red-hot rental market, despite record rents.
It’s also possible renters may find that an advertised rent goes up in response to an applicant’s credit score.
Frisch says this is something renters will likely see more of in the future. “If someone just graduated and doesn’t want to—or can’t—use their parents as guarantors, we will let them take the apartment for an extra $100 in rent."
3. Opt for a sublet (or become the new roomie)
There are definite pros and cons of living in a place where your name is not on the lease, but one major "pro" is you might not have to go through the income qualification gauntlet. Heads up, however: If you are subletting in a co-op or condo, expect a board interview.
Plenty of places let you seek out a sublet set-up, including online forums as well as sites that act as marketplaces for short-term rentals. Lots of sites will also help you find a roommate arrangement, too.
Don't have a guarantor? The rental experts at The Agency, a Brick Underground partner, can help you navigate the market and find a great apartment to rent without one. Sign up here to take advantage of The Agency'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 The Agency are a delight to deal with.
4. Go with a co-living company
Co-living companies—like Cohabs, Common, and Outpost Club—offer the convenience of a furnished apartment with a stocked kitchen and ready-made roommates—all for one monthly payment. Many companies vet tenants the same way traditional landlords do, with background checks and credit/income qualifications, but you may find some are more less strict than others. Some (such as Roomrs) feature flexible lease terms, too, which are very much in demand.
One important consideration, however, is the legality of the operation. You don’t want to find your unit abruptly shut down, as happened to hundreds of tenants a few years ago. You should know it’s illegal to rent a single room in a co-living space—all roommates need to be on a lease for the entire apartment. You'll also want to do some due diligence on the company to make sure it is legit, and the unit is properly set up for fire safety. What's more, basement and windowless apartments are not legal—or safe.
5. Get insurance that guarantees your rent
A relatively new kind of insurance will pay your rent if you lose your job. It's called rent guarantee, and it is considered job-loss protection for which you pay a monthly fee. Rent guarantee insurance is typically obtained by landlords, so you may start to see it mentioned in listings. Landlords can roll it into the monthly rent, and if you're asked to pay for it, the amount needs to be spelled out in the lease.
Keep in mind that by guaranteeing your rent, you lose your ability to withhold rent if a landlord isn’t fixing things, which is important leverage over a negligent owner.
6. Shop around for the right landlord
This can be tough in the already exhausting process of apartment hunting, but you'll stand a better chance of finding a landlord who is willing to work with your particular set of circumstances—especially if you can swing moving in during the slower winter months. Be upfront with your broker and any landlords you contact about your situation.
—Earlier versions of this article contained reporting and writing by Virginia K. Smith.
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