When you find an apartment that you want, you need to be prepared to jump on it fast or it will be snapped up by someone else. That means if you like the place you need to say “yes” on the spot and fill out an application immediately.
Of course, to do that, you need to have all your documents to support your application ready to go before you even show up to see the apartment.
Your letter of employment might not seem like a big deal—especially when you’re already providing your pay stubs, but it is crucial. Ideally your supervisor will include some language that indicates your job is stable and that you will be employed for the long-term.
Even though it is optional, it is a good idea if you’ve rented before to have a letter of recommendation from your previous landlord saying that you’re a good tenant who paid the rent on time and kept the apartment in good condition.
Another tip: If you have a pet, include a letter in your application package from your vet showing they are up to date on vaccinations. Include a cute photo too—you won’t go wrong there.
Your supporting documents will include:
- Last two pay stubs
- 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.)
- Previous landlord reference letter if applicable; and contact information for prior landlords
- Personal or business reference letters (sometimes required by co-ops and a bonus if you apply for a rental)
- Most of the above is needed from your guarantor if you will be using one
You'll need to pay an application and credit check fee. Under New York State's 2019 landmark rent reform laws, landlords can charge a maximum of $20 per prospective tenant. If you supply a copy of your own credit report pulled within the last 30 days, your landlord may waive the fee.
If you're approved, you'll need to hand over the first month’s rent, security deposit (capped at one month's rent by New York's 2019 rent reform—landlords can no longer ask for the first and last month’s rent in addition to a security deposit), and a broker’s fee by certified check from a New York bank
When it comes to your intiail funds, including the application fee, first month’s rent, broker’s fee, and security deposit, you will need hard funds in the way of a certified check, money order, or possibly an online credit card payment. No personal checks.
After your application is approved, the landlord will expect you to sign the lease 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?
- 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 there 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? Do you know what the gross rent amount is (the amount you’ll actually need to pay each month)?
Ready, set, search!
Congratulations: You've made it all the way through Brick Underground's renter's guide, which means you have a basic understanding of what to expect as you navigate your way through the rental jungle of New York City.
Depending on the complexities of your search, your budget, or the speediness with which you need to find a place, you may want a good real estate agent by your side, one who can, for instance, find pet-friendly buildings, or roommate-friendly ones that will let you subdivide your space with a temporary wall, or landlords who may be flexible with guarantors, full-time students, international renters with no U.S. credit history, recent grads with a good job but no work history, or retirees with money but no job. The rental experts at Brick Underground partner Triplemint—a technology-enabled brokerage founded by a pair of Yale grads in response to the frustrating rental experiences of their classmates and colleagues—will do just that. Bonus: If you sign up here, you can take advantage of Triplemint's corporate relocation rate of 10 percent of a year's rent on open listings versus the typical 12-15 percent.