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How can a grad student qualify for a rental?

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I'm starting grad school, and will be living off student loans. Can I qualify for a rental on my own? Do I need a guarantor?


While it is potentially possible to find a landlord willing to work with your particular financial situation, it's very likely that you'll need a guarantor in order to lock down a rental, say our experts.

"Most landlords would not feel comfortable renting an apartment to someone who is only living off student loans," says Maxim Mitnik of FirstService Realty. "In order to qualify for the apartment on their own, a tenant would likely have to offer to pay additional security (typically six months) or the full year upfront. If that is not an option, then using a guarantor would be necessary." (The typical requirement from NYC landlords is that tenant has an income of at least 40 times the annual rent.)

"It goes without saying that every landlord is different, but standard, larger management companies tend to be pretty stringent," says Eydie Saleh of Mirador Real Estate. And even though you'll have monthly cash from your loans, landlords aren't going to consider that income, especially because it will become debt once you're out of school. But on a case by case basis, it's possible that some might consider a stipend or grant money as income, since it's not money you'll eventually have to pay back.

"We could consider stipends, grants, and housing allowances as income, as they are not loans," explains Charles Schoneau, Managing Director of Insurent Lease Guaranty (FYI, a Brick sponsor). "Any money that is loaned, though, cannot qualify as income."

But if you don't have a parent who is able to act as a guarantor, can't hire an institutional guarantor like Insurent, and don't have the liquid cash to pay months of rent up front (admittedly, a tall financial order for most grad students), that doesn't mean you're out of options.

First, consult your school's housing department for recommendations of apartments that are typically friendly to students in your situation. "Your graduate program will tell you about buildings that are accepting of graduate students," says Saleh. "And some landlords are more understanding of graduate students than of a recent grad who's moved to the city and doesn't have a job yet." A landlord who's used to renting to students and sees that you're responsible and on a career track may well be willing to soften income restrictions.

You can also look into other options that don't require you to sign onto a lease, such as a sublet. "You might be able to pursue a less conventional route of renting a room below market value in exchange for housesitting, dog walking, or some 'sweat equity'," adds Gordon Roberts, a broker with Sotheby's International Realty. "Talk to brokers, who often know a goodly number of elderly city dwellers living in large apartments they don't want to sell because of tax consequences, for instance."

Bottom line: You may have to do some extra searching, but there's no reason you shouldn't be able to find a rental to ride out your remaining years as a student.

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