Rent

Who's allowed to be your guarantor besides your parents?

You have options beyond mom and dad. 

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In a city where the median rental price for a studio is $2,600, it's not surprising that many renters need a little help to qualify for their apartments. Traditionally, if a renter doesn't make at least 40 times the monthly rent (or their income isn't consistent, say in the case of a freelancer), landlords will require that they have a guarantor, who makes 80 times the monthly rent, and is legally bound to pay the rent in case the renter themselves default.

Usually the first person a renter will look to for a guarantor is a parent, but what if your parents can't do it, either because they don't make enough money, are retired, have a credit score under 700, or live out of the tri-state area (the traditionally preferred geographical limitations), or even the country?

[Editor's note: An earlier version of this post was published in 2016 and has been updated with new information in June 2018.]

"Parents are the first people that landlords look for when it comes to guarantors," says Mirador Real Estate's leasing director Daniel Itingen. "Then it goes down the list to grandparents, uncles, aunts and siblings, etc. "The most common relationship outside a blood relative is an employer," he says. 

That holds especially true for someone who's moving to New York for a job. "Sometimes employers will offer that as a perk. But keep in mind that typically the landlord wants the individual boss to be a guarantor, and not an LLC."

Sherry Mazzocchi, a broker with Citi Habitats, has had clients who used their boss as a guarantor. "That was kind of delicate, but I explained that I wouldn't share the boss' income or other personal info with the applicant. It all worked out really well. Everyone was all smiles at the lease signing," she says.

But it doesn't always work that way, she says. She had another experience when a landlord refused to accept the tenant's boss as a guarantor, possibly because the boss lived out of state, she says.

In that case, Mazzocchi's clients went with Insurent Lease Guaranty (FYI: a Brick Underground sponsor), which looks for renters to pay a fee of anywhere from 60 to 110 percent of a month's rent (depending on their qualifications). In the event that renters don't make 27.5 times the monthly rent (a requirement for Insurent to guaranty your rent), a responsible party can back them up.

In that case, the responsible party just needs to make 50 times the monthly rent, rather than 80 times, as landlords require, or have 80 times the monthly rent in bank, savings or stock market accounts; they can be anyone the renter wants—no relation required, says Charles Schoenau, managing director of Insurent.

As for non-blood relatives as guarantors, it's more common than you think, and familial relation is often not the top criteria for landlords when evaluating a guarantor. Citi Habitats broker Natalia Padilla says she's worked with clients who have used a boss, a boyfriend, and the mother of a roommate (in the case of a share) as a guarantor and that it's the location of the guarantor that is more often an issue—specifically, that they reside in the greater tri-state area.

"Because if the guarantor needs to be sued [for a tenant's non-payment], the landlord needs to go to the state that they are in to do that," she says, pointing out that traveling to New Jersey, Connecticut, or even Massachusetts for court is far more realistic than crossing the country to California for a lawsuit. (Padilla estimates that in all her deals involving guarantors, about half are parents of tenants, and half are not, with other relatives, friends, employers, and institutional guarantors like Insurent representing the latter.)

Sometimes it doesn't even have to be a friend at all, says Molly Franklin, a broker with Citi Habitats. "Years ago after splitting with a boyfriend, his mother actually acted as my guarantor for my new apartment. She either really loved me, or was so happy we had split that she was willing to potentially finance my exit."