How to Rent an Apartment in New York City in 2018!

How to Rent Apartment in New York City in 2018?


Renting in New York City can be very overwhelming for first-timers and veterans alike, therefore we have put together a punch-list guide to teach you how to rent like a pro in NYC!

Before we teach you how to rent an apartment, we have to tell you that every apartment and every landlord is different, therefore they may request different documents.  In addition, they may also have different workflows and/or processes.

Please see below for detailed steps in each section


Understand your Budget & Needs


Make sure you understand the typical requirements when it comes to renting apartments.  New York City landlords typically require tenants’ incomes to be 40x the Rent and good credit score.  For instance,  to rent a $3,000 a month apartment, the applicant needs to have $120,000 annual income and preferably above 700 credit score.

If you do not meet the income requirement, the landlord may request one or combination of the following: extra deposit security or rent upfront (typically 1 year upfront for no proof of income).

Another alternative is to have a a guarantor  who makes 80x the rent or through expensive paid services.  Fortunately, Obligo is looking to resolve that issue for tenants as well.  In the near future, Obligo will be able to provide services to tenants who may be financially strong but lack the proof of income to rent apartments without so many hurdles.


Define your desired location, apartment type, size, and condition.


Deciding where to rent and what to rent in New York City is difficult.  One of the most important factors for most people is the commute.  As a general rule of thumb, it’s always easier to commute vertically than horizontally.  It is tougher to travel East and West bound than North and South bound.

(It’s always good to double check with Google Map.)

In addition, I’ve also attached a subway efficiency map for your consideration!

The Definitive Ranking Of New York City Subway Trains – Buzzfeed


Prepare Your Documents & Material


While different landlord may request different documents, these are almost always be asked:

1. Paystubs (Last 2-3 months)

2. Tax Returns (First 2 Pages, Last 2 Years)

3. Employment Letter or Offer Letter Bank Statement or Proof of Saving (Last 2-3 Months)

4. Government Issued Photo ID (Driver’s license, passport, state ID, etc.)

5. Social Security Number Credit Score (Landlord will conduct their own credit check)

6. References (Some will request references from professional, personal and/or previous landlords)

Visit apartments through Listing Platforms or trusted real estate agents

There are several listing platforms available for tenants in New York City now.  Alternatively you can also find apartments with the help of trusted real estate agents.

Rental Apartments move very quickly in New York City, once you see something you like, you should act on it.  Median Days on Market for NYC is less than 3 weeks.

Below are a few of the main stream listing platforms:

Streeteasy – The biggest and most used listing platform in NYC

Nakedaparments, Hotpads, Zumper, Zillow – Other listing platforms

Roomi – An App that help roommate matching and housing

Craigslist – Not recommended but if you do, please always think about safety


Ask how much the application fees are


Ask for a list of ALL the fees! Every building is different.  The fees vary from building to building and the range can go from $250 to $2500.  From my personal experience, I’ve seen a $750 credit check fee!!!  That is over 30x the credit check fee of some of the other buildings!


Ask if they accept Obligo


Obligo is a startup that allows tenants to rent without putting down security deposit.  Instead the tenant gives billing preauthorization to the landlord in the event of loss or damages.




If you want to negotiate, this is the best time to do so.  New York City housing market is very robust, but you can still get away with some discount during off-peak seasons.  Normally, the peak seasons are from April to September.  Things you may want to negotiate are: rent, lease date, option to Renew (see below for more info)


Screening & Submit Application


Landlords in New York are strict because the cost of default or eviction is very high.  Therefore, every applicant will have to go through credit and background check.  International students and foreign nationals do not have credit but would still need to run it anyway.  In addition to income, credit score is also used as an index to determine the amount of security deposit to give.  Some landlords also request a non-refundable “holder fee” to hold the apartment (could range from $150 to 1 month’s worth of rent).

Usually landlords request cash or Cashier’s Checks or Money Order.  HOWEVER, you can actually wire the fees through your phone and save about $20 on Cashier’s Checks if the landlord accepts Obligo.

Cashier’s check is a check guaranteed by a bank.  It is only issued at the bank and the buyer/customer’s fund is drawn at the time of draft.  It is treated like cash and if lost requires multiple steps to retrieve the fund.

If renting in Condo/Co-op: Prepare and Submit “Board package” to the Management and wait for approval.  Usually the application approval process takes about 20-30 days.


Application Approved/ Move-in Process


Request COI Template from management or agent.  COI or Certificate of Insurance is a proof of insurance mover companies needs to provide before you are allowed to move in.  If you are not using a mover, you need to ask the management for necessary deposit/fee/documents to move in as some buildings will request additional security deposit.

Inspect and document all the damages and blemishes on the day of move-in

Email the management/agent/landlord and save the documentation for future references




1. Always ask for option to renew, negotiate the next year’s rent ahead of time and lock it in the lease

This should be done during the negotiation not after.  If you do so after you submit the application, it’s already too late!  It’s always nice to reserve the right.  If the landlord refuses, you should be wary that the landlord is looking to raise the rent drastically next year.

2. Inquire about the Obligo Service!

Obligo allows tenants to rent without paying security deposit.  It’s always nice to free up cash, especially at an extremely low cost

If landlord does not have Obligo, feel free to request it and connect the landlord with the Obligo Team!

3. Negotiate Negotiate Negotiate!

There are things that are negotiable and things that aren’t.

Negotiable: lease starting date, rent, broker fee(if there is)

Non-negotiable: application fee, credit check fee, move in fee, move in deposit, move out fee, move out deposit.