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Some landlords claim one unintended consequence of New York’s rent reforms is that it is now harder for those who don’t meet a landlord’s steep income requirements to get an apartment in the city.
Many landlords require renters to have both a good credit report and an annual salary of 40-45 times the monthly rent. That poses problems for students and foreigners without established credit ratings and jobs. In the past, you might have been able to offer a higher security deposit or additional rent in advance to offset the risks your tenancy posed for a landlord. Now that option is off the table with new laws capping the deposit to one month’s rent.
[Editor's note: An earlier version of this article ran in July 2017. It has been updated with new information for August 2019.]
Adam Frisch, managing principal at Lee & Associates Residential NYC, a company that represents small building owners in Manhattan, says he is now turning away international students looking for rentals. “We essentially did them a favor in the past by taking them at all with extra security and now the risk is so high, it’s better to find someone with U.S. credit and a good job.”
In these situations, a guarantor can be a workaround to the problem. A guarantor is someone who will co-sign your lease and pay the rent if you don'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, residence in the tri-state area (New York, Connecticut, or New Jersey).
Some renters may look first to their parents or other older relatives to serve as guarantors, but if they're retired—and lacking a steady income—this could be a problem. You can ask a friend or employer to guarantee your rental, but given the risks that come along with doing so, you may find that non-relatives are reluctant to shoulder the responsibility.
Here are some other solutions to consider:
Hire a guarantor
In New York City, you can pay someone to do almost anything that needs doing—including co-signing your lease. For about 70 to 85 percent of one month's rent if you have U.S. credit, and 90 to 110 percent of one month's rent if you're foreign with no U.S. credit, Insurent Lease Guaranty (a Brick Underground sponsor) can be your guarantor with far less strict income and employment requirements than most landlords. (To see if your prospective building or landlord accepts Insurent, click here.)
Offer to pay a higher rent
As landlords grapple with the cap on security deposits, it’s possible tenants may find that an advertised rent goes up in response to an applicant’s credit history. Frisch says that it could result in a sliding scale for rents.
“If you have no credit or are new to your job, we are going to say, either you get a guarantor or we raise the rent by $100 or $200,” he says. Offering to pay a higher rent might be difficult to stomach but it may be enough for a landlord to offset the risks of renting to you if you have no credit history.
Opt for a sublet (or become the new roomie)
There are definite pros and cons to 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 qualification gauntlet. There are plenty of places to seek out a sublet set-up, including online forums as well as sites that act as marketplaces for short-term rentals. If it's a roommate set-up you're in search of, there are lots of sites out there that'll help you find a spot.
Don't have a guarantor? The rental experts at Triplemint, 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 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.
The shared housing market is booming in the city and 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, with background checks, and credit and income qualifications, but you may find some are more flexible than others.
One important consideration, however, is the legality of the operation. You don’t want to find your unit abruptly shut down like hundreds of Bedly tenants recently did. It’s illegal to rent a single room in a co-living space. You'll want to do some due diligence on the company to make sure it is legal, as well as make sure all your roommates are on the lease and the unit is properly set up for fire safety.
Shop around for the right landlord
This can be tough in the already-exhausting process of apartment hunting, but especially in the winter months when the market is slower, you'll have a better chance of finding a landlord willing to work with your particular set of circumstances. Be upfront with your broker and the landlords you contact about your situation.
—Earlier versions of this article contained reporting and writing by Virginia K. Smith.
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