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Thread: Apartment Hunting NYC - paperwork?

  1. #1

    Question Apartment Hunting NYC - paperwork?

    Hi all,

    Quick background: I'm a British citizen joining my American fiance in NYC in early January to network, job hunt, and find a studio or one bedroom apartment to start setting up our life together there. (He's currently living with his folks kind of near Buffalo, I'm in the UK). The problem with this plan is we're in our mid-twenties, and have spent most of our 'working years' at university (both have BAs and MAs in the arts) and then travelling the world together. Doing these things allowed us to be in the same countries as each other and make sure we were ready for the big marriage step - which we're taking in the summer if all goes well with my currently-processing fiancee visa. However, all the travelling apparently hasn't left us in the best position for renting in New York (eek!)

    When I look at websites and see the following paperwork requirements listed for potential tenants in NYC, our position seems pretty hopeless:

    "When you’ve found the right apartment, you don’t have time to lose. Have the following in hand: the first two pages of your tax returns from the previous two years; a completed financial statement detailing your assets, liabilities, and income; references from previous landlords and possibly your employer; and certified checks in increments of $500. In New York City's nutty real estate market, dream apartments have been snatched away before!"

    We don't have tax returns (just some tax documents from Australia), don't have a rental history (have had live-in jobs), no previous US employers to give references... And apparently landlords also like to do a credit check - but neither of us have ever had credit cards...

    We're lucky in that we have a decent cushion of money we earnt in Australia (could afford to pay rent and bills of about $2000 for a year without working - but obviously we want to work as soon as we can, although I can't till visa and marriage is sorted). We're also presentable, friendly people and are looking for somewhere fee-free in the Upper East Side, or further uptown; also going to check out certain parts of Queens and Brooklyn - Sunnyside, Prospect Heights etc. Is it really naive to hope that a landlord would waive some of these paperwork requirements if we can show bank statements with the money we have at our disposal, have guarantors from the tri-state area, and come across as decent, conscientious people who will look after their apartment?! Huge thanks for any advice


  2. #2
    Crabby airline hostess - stache's Avatar
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    Jun 2004
    Nairobi Hilton


    While you don't want to use a broker, it might be in your best interest to get advice from one, or from a real estate lawyer.

  3. #3


    It really depends on how you go about it. When I moved into Manhattan I had varying degrees of frustration and progress with both broker and owner controlled rental properties....finally settling on a great one bed through Manhattan Apts. You say "fee free" but there is no two ways about it, using a broker is the expensive way to go but they have the widest and best selection of places to choose from.

    What you need in terms of paperwork will then vary on the owner they are representing. Some of the places I looked at wanted everything; tax returns, bank statements, referrals etc. The place I ended up in happened to only need the deposit and employment verification.

    Offering to pay several months in advance is often a great "wheel greaser" in these situations. Don't be discouraged, you'll find somewhere that will work with you.

  4. #4


    If you have guarantors from the tri-state area that make 80x the rent you should be fine. Otherwise you'll probably end up having to pay upfront (either in rent or in security). Use this first year to get established, build credit, employment history, etc. Then next time you need to move you'll have everything ready.

  5. #5


    Thanks so much to you all for the responses - you've put my mind at rest that our case isn't completely hopeless! Still going to try and avoid using brokers - craigslist, streeteasy and some other sites seem to have quite a good fees-free selection. Have also read online about approaching the management of buildings in areas you like to ask if they have anything available - don't know if that works?

    Also, in terms of guarantors - my fiance's parents live in the tri-state area but are retired, but have more than 80x rent in savings (they also don't have rent or a mortgage to be paying off). Is that good enough? Or does is really need to be a steady income of that much?

    Guessing we might have to offer to pay several months in advance... If that's the case, do we have to get something written into the contract about it? Is there a deposit protection scheme in the US like there is in the UK? What's to stop us being abused by a landlord - paying in advance and then him trying to ask for more or kick us out or something? Sorry if that's a really silly question - just trying to teach myself the system over there just using the internet!

    Thanks again

  6. #6


    Landlords want to see income. Savings is only good if you want to put down rent upfront, which is sounds like you will have to do.

    All those ideas you have to avoid a broker work (though question everything you read on craigslist, it's full of scammers). But whoever you talk to about an apartment BE UPFRONT about your situation and your intent to pay upfront. Some landlords don't work this way and it will save you a huge headache if you see something you want only to discover last min that they won't take you. This is why people use brokers, they know which landlords to take you to. At least the good ones will.

    As for paying upfront there should be something in the lease that says what you are paying, usually in the first section. Usually it's 1st month and 1 month security but this will most likely be different in your situation. All security deposits are held in escrow and you will sign a W2 at lease signing for it (if you DON'T sign a W2 this is a red flag).

    The NYC lease can be very intimidating for the uninitiated. Keep in mind that the laws are on your side. Most leases in NYC are the same boiler plate lease that was put together 20 years ago and almost every landlord uses. Just read it through and don't hesitate to ask any questions.

  7. #7


    Is paying $2,500pm for a one-bed apartment in Hudson Street good value?

  8. #8


    Quote Originally Posted by Wobert Wedford View Post
    Is paying $2,500pm for a one-bed apartment in Hudson Street good value?
    These days, $2500 hundred is decent value for a one bed anywhere in Manhattan.

  9. #9


    ..oh yeah, a pretty good one, considering the present situation...


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