The Search

NYC landlords want tenants who earn 40 times the monthly rent. Here are 7 workarounds

  • If you don't make that much you can get a personal or institutional guarantor
  • Small landlords are often more flexible than buildings run by large companies
By Jennifer White Karp  |
May 10, 2024 - 9:30AM
apartment buildings in NYC

If you (and any roommates) want to rent an apartment for $3,000, most landlords would require that you earn a salary north of $120,000 to successfully qualify for the apartment. 


With the median rent in New York City hovering at stratospheric levels, it's harder than ever for many New Yorkers to meet the steep income requirements usually demanded by landlords here—on top of the typical upfront fees you'll need to fork over.

Landlords want renters who earn an annual salary of 40 times the monthly rent and have good credit. For example, if you (and any roommates) want to rent an apartment for $3,000, you would need to earn north of $120,000 to successfully qualify. 

Renters with shaky credit or borderline incomes lost one workaround to assuage a landlord's concerns: putting down additional funds as part of the security deposit. That's because changes to the rent laws in 2019 capped the security deposit at one month's rent. The law was intended to reduce the amount of money landlords could ask for upfront but it complicated things for renters who don't meet a landlord's income requirements.

However, another recent shift favors renters: More buildings accept institutional guarantors (described in detail below). According to Adam Frisch, senior managing director at Mantus Real Estate, this development is a lasting impact of the pandemic. "We're seeing an increase in third-party guarantors to levels we've never seen before," he said. "It's a change that's here to stay."

It's one of several options to consider when you are looking for a rental but don't have the kind of salary that landlords want to see. For more details, read on.

[Editor’s note: A previous version of the article ran in May 2023. We are presenting it again with updated information for May 2024.]

1. Find a personal or institutional guarantor

A personal guarantor is someone who will co-sign your lease and pay the rent if you can't. They are generally required to have a credit score of at least 700, an annual income of 80 times the monthly rent, and if the landlord is extra cautious, reside in the tristate area (New York, Connecticut, or New Jersey)—or only in New York state.

Eric Hamm, senior managing director at Corcoran, said there's an increasing use of guarantors now that landlords and leasing agents can only take one month's rent as a security deposit. A guarantor can be a friend or relative or you can use an institutional guarantor like Insurent and TheGuarantors, which will guarantee the entire lease. 

In the past, Hamm said landlords were often reluctant to take third-party guarantors, but that has changed. In addition, he reports seeing situations with an institutional guarantor covering a number of months of rent rather than the entire lease. "It's less coverage for the owner but it's a lower premium for the tenant," he said. 

Frisch said third-party guarantors are less likely to be approved at small, mom-and-pop-owned buildings and more likely to be acceptable at larger buildings in areas with high vacancy rates—for example, in outer-borough neighborhoods that have yet to recover from the pandemic.

If you know you will need a guarantor, you can search for landlords on Insurent's website. TheGuarantors requires you to add a Chrome extension that will allow you to find a partner building. 

2. Improve your credit score

Each landlord or owner has its own credit score criteria, but most are looking for a number around 700, Hamm said. Even still, landlords may be willing to look beyond the score if they need to fill apartments.

"At some point, they have to decide: Do they have their line in the sand and have some of their portfolio vacant, or are they going to look a bit deeper? They need to balance that risk and reward," Hamm said. 

If you have a poor credit score because you lack a credit history, the answer is to open some credit cards and begin making regular, on-time payments. If there are errors on your credit report, make sure they are corrected and get letters of explanation for any major issues like a lien or bankruptcy. One obvious way to improve your score is to begin paying off your debts, especially if they exceed 15 to 30 percent of your available credit.

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3. Find a more flexible landlord

Searching for an apartment being rented out by a small mom-and-pop-type landlord or a condo owner (instead of a large leasing company) may provide an opportunity for some negotiation. 

For example, the owner of a one bedroom in Bed-Stuy tells Brick Underground that a renter with good credit is more important to him than someone with a certain income. Another tip: Many apartment listing sites allow you to adjust your search criteria to units that are rented out by the owner, or to those that accept guarantors, both of which will be helpful if you do not earn 40 times the rent and want to avoid more stringent leasing management companies.

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How to get around a NYC landlord's 40X rent rule
Find a guarantor
  • A personal guarantor, usually a friend or relative, is someone who will co-sign your lease and pay the rent if you can't.
  • Or you can use an institutional guarantor, which guarantees the entire lease.
  • Landlords are more willing to accept third-party guarantors now that they can only take one month's rent as a security deposit.
Find a roommate
  • Splitting the rent with one or more roommates is a common solution—often, three or four people share a two-bedroom apartment. 
  • Sometimes the renters with the best financials will be the official leaseholders.
  • In this situation, a roommate agreement is recommended toclearly define each person's financial role.
Other tactics
  • Improve your credit score; most landlords want a minimum of 700.
  • Search for apartments in the slow period between October and March.
  • Explore legal co-living companies—or play the long game and enter the affordable housing lottery. 

4. Leverage the seasonal advantage

Traditionally, the winter is slower for rentals, so if you search for an apartment from October through March, you may find a landlord who is more open to renting to you if you are just below the financial threshold.

"As we get closer to the holidays, there is less volume of people looking [for rentals] and an apartment that would be on the market for a few days in the summer can turn into a few weeks or a few months in the winter," Hamm said. If you are on the edge of the income requirements, apartment shopping in the winter might give you a seasonal edge.

5. Get a roommate (or two)

Sharing the burden of the rent with roommates is an obvious solution. Hamm said that depending on the apartment layout, he often sees three or four people looking to rent a two-bedroom apartment. In situations where two out of the four renters have the best financials, he said they will be the leaseholders and enter into a roommate agreement with the other tenants. 

"We recommend having a roommate agreement because everyone on the lease is jointly and severally responsible for the payments but the lease doesn't state who pays how much, so a roommate agreement clearly defines that," Hamm said. 

6. Explore co-living alternatives

Co-living companies offer the convenience of a furnished apartment with staples in the pantry and ready-made roommates—all for one monthly payment. Many companies vet tenants the same way traditional landlords do but you can find more flexibility as you shop around. At Common, one of the more established co-living companies, tenants still need to earn 40 times their individual portion of the rent. 

An important consideration with co-living companies is the legality of the operation. Make sure you confirm the company is operating legally—you don’t want to find your building abruptly shut down, which is possible if renters do not have leases in accordance with NYC housing law or if the place has fire or other safety issues. 

7. Enter the affordable housing lottery

Affordable apartments are available through a lottery system on NYC Housing Connect. You'll have to play the long game here: After you fill out an application it can take years to get a spot, but there are success stories—like Victoria, a medical student who won a Long Island City studio in a luxury building for $908 a month; Katherine, a single mom finishing her studies in the Bronx who won a two-bedroom apartment for $655 in a new building; and Lcee, a U.S. Navy veteran, who won an Upper West Side studio for $444. 

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Jennifer White Karp

Managing Editor

Jennifer steers Brick Underground’s editorial coverage of New York City residential real estate and writes articles on market trends and strategies for buyers, sellers, and renters. Jennifer’s 15-year career in New York City real estate journalism includes stints as a writer and editor at The Real Deal and its spinoff publication, Luxury Listings NYC.

Brick Underground articles occasionally include the expertise of, or information about, advertising partners when relevant to the story. We will never promote an advertiser's product without making the relationship clear to our readers.