Moving to a different place can be pretty scary and it takes both guts and determination. If you’re heading to a city as big as New York, you may feel a lot of emotions all at once, from excitement to anxiety. And to top it off, if you don’t plan on buying a house, you’ll have to find an apartment to rent. The good news is, there’s no shortage of rental accommodation in NYC, with over 65% of its residents currently renting.

However, it’s not always easy to find an apartment for rent in NYC that meets your needs and budget. You may even come across some dead ends in the beginning. But don’t worry! If you don’t know where to start or you’re struggling to find what you’re after, Roomi’s got you covered.

If this is your first time renting in NYC, this comprehensive guide will tell you everything you need to know. From navigating the renting process to avoiding scams, we’ll help you find the apartment of your dreams in the Big Apple. Buckle up, it’s going to be one hell of a ride!

Preparing to Rent an Apartment in NYC

Your success with apartment hunting in New York City depends a lot on how well you plan. You’ll need to do a ton of research to familiarize yourself with the process beforehand and avoid any potential pitfalls.

Finding affordable rooms in NYC isn’t easy. Most of the time, it depends on when you decide to move. If you try apartment searching during peak periods like summertime, then you may face several challenges. Demand for apartments is at an all-time high at this time of year, and it will increase the prices of available rooms.

Moving during off-season months like February – April, and September – November, will do you a world of good when renting in NYC. So, plan your search around winter, when things have simmered down and the cost is considerably lower. During this time, you’ll have a better chance of successfully negotiating rent, saving you money throughout the year.

Also, depending on the type of neighborhood you plan to live in, you may need to find a roommate. This way, you won’t have to fork out so much money for rent, and you’ll be making a new friend in the process. But we’ll talk more about roommates later.

Either way, thorough planning will make things much easier for you when you’re apartment hunting in New York. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of the key things to consider when preparing for your move. Let’s see what they are…

Calculating the Average Rent Because New York is Expensive

NYC is filled with a whole host of different neighborhoods, each as diverse and unique as the next. You’ll likely have heard of some of the most popular neighborhoods located in NYC, and one may have even caught your eye. But, if you’re renting in NYC, you should know though that rent prices in each neighborhood vary greatly.

The cost of renting in NYC depends a lot on the area you choose and the kind of apartment you desire. And obviously, you’ll need to choose one that meets your needs and falls in line with your budget. The good news is, there are a good number of cheap neighborhoods in NYC to choose from.

Now, you’ll need to consider whether you have enough money before moving. Do you have enough funds to cover the costs needed to find a good apartment? The cost of living in NYC is pretty high, but there are tons of affordable apartments in NYC for you to discover!

Budgeting Your Apartment in NYC

Budgeting in New York for an apartment is very important, and it will help you work out how to handle your funds. If you’re making a moving budget for NYC, then you should consider the 40x rent rule.

In some cities like NYC, the 40x rent rule means you’re expected to have an annual salary of 40 times the rent. Sounds scary, right? Well, don’t panic right away. You can still get your dream apartment, even if it means you can’t stick to the 40x rule in your budget. Here’s how:

  • With a superb credit score, you can prove to your potential landlord that you’re reliable.
  • A guarantor is another option for helping you secure your dream NYC apartment. This involves getting someone with the necessary funds to back you up, in case you can’t pay.
  • Surety bond devices provided by companies like Insurent, LeapEasy and more, can help you co-sign your lease, in exchange for a one-time fee.

There are other ways around this of course, but these are the most popular options if you can’t adhere to the 40x rent rule.

On the flip side, what happens when you’re still a student or if you’re a freelancer whose monthly income varies? The answer is this: it’s not a dead end. If you’re in either of these categories, finding affordable apartments in NYC may be a little harder, but it’s certainly not impossible.

Get All Your Documents in Place

This part of the guide may be a little tricky, but don’t worry – there’s no need to be anxious. As already mentioned, tenting in NYC is not a simple process, but once you’re prepared, everything else will be much easier.

That being said, you’ll need to provide some rental application documents for verification to a potential landlord. One thing that may stand in the way of you securing your dream apartment is not having complete documents. Here are the documents you’ll need for renting in NYC:

  • Reference letter(s) from previous landlords that show that you are a stellar tenant
  • Copies of your photo ID – either your driver’s license or passport is fine
  • Your three most recent paychecks
  • Your most recent bank statements (two months’ worth)
  • An employment verification letter that includes your job, salary, and length of employment, on your company’s letterhead
  • Application fee (where applicable)
  • Proof of past rent payments through receipts
  • Copy of social security number
  • Tax returns from the past two years

Once you have these rental application documents, you’ll be good to go!

Watch Out for Rental Scams

Most people who want to find apartments fast scour room-finding portals to help speed up the process. For example, Craigslist is a very popular website for apartment searches, but there have been numerous reported cases of scam activities. With that in mind, while renting in NYC, you need to watch out for deals that are too good to be true. To avoid rental scams, you’ll have to watch out for things like :

  • Signing a lease without reading through it
  • Not researching apartments around the area
  • Using apartment search websites without verified listings, etc.

If you want to avoid apartment scams in NYC, then Roomi is the perfect choice for you. Roomi is a trusted platform with rigorous safety measures in place to prevent New York renters from being scammed. So, if you want to find your ideal apartment without any hiccups, give the Roomi app a go!

You Might Need a Roommate in NYC

You may need a roommate for several reasons. Since renting in NYC is expensive, many people have gotten a roommate in order to share rent payments.

If you want to find a roommate in NYC, then you’ll probably want people who are trustworthy and reliable. You’ll also need to find someone that you’re comfortable living with. This is why you need a good roommate finder to help you find roommates in NYC that are suitable for you.

At Roomi, our website is full of top-notch features that will help you find roommates in NYC. You can browse roommates on Roomi using filters ranging from age, region, budget, gender, last active date, and more. Plus, each user must verify their identity and also complete a background check, to prevent any case of false identity.

For more tips and tricks on preparing to rent, explore our first-time renters’ guide.

Renting in NYC

We’re at the second stage, and this is where things get a bit more serious. While renting in NYC, you’ll need to check for affordable neighborhoods in NYC. You should also consider the amenities you want nearby such as public transport or grocery stores. Plus, if you plan on getting around on foot, you’ll want to choose one of the most walkable neighborhoods in NYC. In this section, we’ll be covering more things you should know about renting in NYC.

Types of Apartment

We can’t all have Barbie’s dreamhouse, but we do have other options. In NYC, there is a range of rental properties to choose from, in all different models and varieties. Let’s take a look at the different types of apartments you can find in NYC.

  1. No-Fee Apartments: As you go about your apartment search, you may come across the phrase, ‘broker fee’. Some people use brokers to find apartments or connect them to potential landlords. However, there are fees they’ll be obligated to pay, which are usually about 12-15% of the annual rent. If you don’t want to pay a brokers fee in NYC, you can opt for a no-fee apartment instead. There are plenty of websites to find this type of rental, and Roomi is one of them. Unlike some websites which require you to pay a broker fee for their service, Roomi allows you to search and apply for apartments for free!
  2. Rent-stabilized apartments: When renting in NYC, you need to be familiar with the terms, ‘rent-controlled and ‘rent-stabilized. A rent-controlled apartment means that the landlord can’t raise the rent past a certain limit. This may seem enticing, but you may face outdated or decrepit amenities in these apartments since landlords can’t raise as much money from rent. A rent-stabilized apartment, on the other hand, is often a better option. In a rent-stabilized apartment, the given cost of rent for a property only increases by a small amount each year. Living in a rent-controlled apartment is more affordable for most NYC residents, and landlords can’t evict tenants on a whim.
  3. Micro Unit Apartments: Despite what you may see in pictures, NYC doesn’t just have high-rise buildings. There are also small apartments available, known as micro-unit apartments. These apartments are much cheaper than the larger ones, so they’re ideal if you’re just starting out and want to keep costs down.
  4. Loft apartments: A loft apartment is essentially a property that’s been converted from commercial to residential use. You can find lofts in NYC in popular neighborhoods like Manhattan and Brooklyn. Loft apartment rental prices are generally expensive because they are larger and have more maintenance costs.
  5. Efficiency apartments: These are very similar to studio apartments in that they are mostly small in size, and serve as a multifunctional living space. The ease of maintenance of these apartments makes them very popular and attractive to some NYC residents. There are other kinds of apartments available in NYC, such as multiple-bedroom apartments, and you can make your pick depending on your budget.

Winning Your Potential Landlord’s Trust

Having a good relationship with your landlord is sometimes determined by the first impression you give. Renting in NYC is no joke, and once you’ve found an apartment you like, you should do everything you can to hold on to it.

As there may be other people vying for the apartment too, you need to stand out. To impress a potential landlord, attend meetings with them on time, show your enthusiasm and always be polite.

You should also have all the right documents in place, including a recommendation letter from a previous landlord if possible. A great credit score is also key, so work on this before applying for apartments.

Offering something extra is another great way to stand out. Offer to prepay rent, have renters’ insurance, or have a larger security deposit than required. Just don’t make any promises you can’t keep as that will only end badly!

Doing all of this will make this aspect of renting in NYC easier for you, and help to improve your landlord-tenant relationship.

Signing a Lease

A lease signing is the actual formal contract where you officially agree to rent an apartment. This is where you and your landlord sign the deal after your apartment application has been approved.

A lease sets the terms for the renting period, with information such as:

  • Rent for each month
  • The due date for rent for each month
  • Building rules, such as if pets are allowed
  • The terms of your lease
  • Your landlord’s contact information
  • Utilities covered by rent (when applicable)

You may be a little anxious about signing a lease in NYC, and rightly so. You’ll need to be sharp, and ask the right questions. After all, you don’t want to get into a situation you regret. If in doubt, here’s what you need to know about the lease signing process in NYC:

  • You may be asked to sign the lease physically or remotely, through an electronic format.
  • Certain laws apply to people who are renting rent-stabilized homes.

You’ll also need to bring the correct paperwork to your lease signing:

  • Driver’s License or State ID
  • Social Security Card
  • Lease Signing Payments such as the first month’s rent and security deposit, or broker fees where applicable
  • Information about your vehicle (where applicable)

In summary, make sure to clarify the terms of your lease before signing. You may also have to fill out extras like emergency contact forms, a lead paint form, a window guard form, a W-9 tax form, and more. So don’t be overwhelmed if there’s a lot to go over!

Getting a Guarantor

In simple terms, a guarantor is a person who guarantees payment on the lease in a situation where the tenant can’t come up with cash.

A guarantor typically needs to meet specific financial criteria – they have to make 80 times the rent. Your guarantor should be someone you trust, like a relative. However, you can also use companies that provide legit guarantors in NYC, such as TheGuarantors.

People use guarantors for different reasons. Students with a limited income who cannot meet the 40x rent rule would have to opt for a guarantor to co-sign their lease. People also need guarantors when they have a very low credit score, or when they don’t have a social security number.

Even if you don’t fall into those specific categories, it may be a good idea to find a guarantor in certain cases (e.g. your income varies).

When You’ve Found Your Rental in NYC

Congratulations, you’ve reached the final stage of renting in NYC! It’s been a long ride, and we’re going to cap it off with tips that will make moving in easier for you.

Make a Checklist of Things You Need

After getting your first apartment, the next step is to create a moving-in checklist. This is extremely important for renters, as the checklist enables you to record the condition of the apartment when you first move in. That way, you can refer back to it if any issues come up in the future.

A move-in checklist can also be called a rental walkthrough checklist, an apartment checklist, or a final inspection. It should include sections for:

  • Every room in the apartment
  • Appliances and furniture
  • Doors and windows
  • Electrical outlets and fixtures
  • Walls, floors, ceiling
  • Air conditioning system, fans, HVAC
  • Smoke detectors
  • The exterior, including the balcony, patio, doorbell, etc
  • Garage and driveway

As a new renter, you’ll need a move-in checklist to note if there is any existing damage to walls, carpets, and furnishings within the apartment. It will also help you to note the condition of your home so you know how you’re expected to leave it if you move out.

Renters Rights That Every Tenant in NYC Must Know

It feels good to finally settle down in the apartment of your dreams, right? Well, it shouldn’t end there. You should have a good knowledge of your rights as a tenant. Renters’ insurance in NYC is, for example, one of the most important rights you have to hold on to during the renting process.

In NYC, the law mandates that residents should have the right to a safe, decent, and sanitary living space. If that’s not the case, report it immediately. Contact your landlord or managing agent when repairs are needed in the apartment.

Here are some other things you can do to sustain your rights as a renter:

  • Call 311 to report the damaged condition of appliances in your apartment.
  • Withhold rent if you’ve alerted your landlord of the repairs, but nothing has been done about them.
  • Request that a city agent such as the Health Department makes the repairs in emergencies.

You can read up more about renters’ rights in NYC on our blog.

Part of your renters’ right in NYC is having amenities that make living easier. Envision your dream apartment in your mind for a second. What are the things you imagine there? While apartment amenities are not essentially mandatory, they certainly increase the standard of living. Remember to keep an eye out for these amenities in your apartment search:

  • Dishwasher
  • Patio or Balcony
  • Air conditioning
  • In-unit laundry
  • Pet-Friendly environment
  • Good parking space, for movers with cars
  • Community amenities such as recreational centers, transportation, etc.

It may be hard trying to find apartments that have all of these amenities, but it’s not impossible. With a good apartment-finding website, you can find your ideal rental in NYC that has everything you need. There are tons of these types of websites on the market, but Roomi is an all-in-one room finder with the best filters to help you search for rooms for rent.

At Roomi, our free mobile platform helps you find affordable apartments across New York. Moreover, you can easily find rooms for rent, and even roommates to share with, through our roommate matching algorithm.

You can also filter rooms according to house rules, pet-friendliness, and more. In fact, Roomi makes renting in NYC easier, allowing you to browse available rooms that meet your exact requirements.

So, there you have it! The NYC apartment hunting process may be long, but it’ll be worth it in the end. Best of luck as you embark on your big move!

Roomi is your one-stop option to list or find rooms, find roommates to settle into a new city easily. Download the app and sign up today!