As you probably know, finding a room in the city that never sleeps doesn’t come cheap or easy. There are many factors to consider when looking for a room on your own and things that must be done to ensure that you get the best room possible for the best price.
The first thing you are probably considering is the cost of living. Now, living inNew York Cityis definitely fairly expensive, especially when you are young. The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the Village is over $3,100. This is important to keep in mind, as many people are utterly shocked at this and lack perspective on housing inNew York City. Of course, there are cheaper places to be found in other neighborhoods. For example, there are apartments in places such asHarlem,WashingtonHeights andMorningsideHeightsthat hover around $2,000. Apartments can go for cheaper than this in the Lowe East Side, north of Midtown and in theEastVillage.
I will discuss the different ways to find housing inNew York, as well as what you should expect when looking into your options.
How to Find Housing
Apartment Guides. These are generally magazines that you can find in the newspaper nearby convenience stands and the like. Guides are useful for providing general housing information in New York City.
Room Hunting. Here, you simply walk around the areas that you’re interested in living in in New York and see if there are any apartments that have rooms available for rent (or houses, depending on the neighborhood).
Classified Ads. You can find ads in the newspaper such as the New York Times, the Daily News or on Craigslist where people looking to rent out space place classified ads that generally talk about the payment expected and provide information about the room. Of course, it’s a safer option to consider more strongly ads that have pictures as opposed to those that do not.
Friends/Family. If you have relatives or friends who live inNew York, they might have an idea of good places to room in, or provide general recommendations. Maybe they might have seen a “For Rent” sign somewhere that looks promising. If not, you could also look into the possibility of staying with the person(s) you know, provided that both of you are mutually comfortable doing so.
Brokers. Using a real estate broker is a very common way to find a place in New York. Find a broker that is experienced in the particular neighborhoods that you’re interested in living in. A broker may also have a website with places looking to rent out. Although brokers are paid a commission, a large advantage is that they are familiar with the area and save a lot of hassle provided you know what you’re looking for.
Referral service. Referral services work by providing you with a list of rentals when they are available. If you are looking for a roommate, you can often post up an ad or look at potential roommates in order to cut the cost of living.
Housing Office. If you’re in New York City because of a position or as a student, look into the housing office at school or your organization. They’ll be familiar with housing in New York (as the name says) and will be happy to answer questions and help you out.
What Happens Next?
Meeting the Landlord/Landlady
After looking through these various sources, then you should be prepared to impress and also know your rights. Firstly, when you meet your potential landlord or landlady, s/he will want to know about your finances to see if you can provide the necessary payments and if you would be a suitable tenant. You should bring the following documents when meeting with him/her:
- Bank Statements
- Proof of Income
- Credit Report
- If working, the letter of employment with salary, date of employment and position
- At least one reference letter (one from a previous landlord/lady would be suitable)
Next, you should find out how much upfront payment there is. Such fees may include a nonrefundable application fee, first and last month’s rent and a security deposit. The amount can vary depending on each individual situation, but can range from $5,000 to $10,000 (which you should have prepared). If using a broker, the broker will typically demand 15% of the annual rent as payment.
It’s important to ask for a fee to know your rights and protections. If you do not have a lease, the landlord/landlady can evict you 30 days after notice for any reasons s/he wishes. If the situation is temporary, you may not want to get a lease. When looking at the lease, ensure that the lease has the following: all the correct information (names, address), everything agreed upon orally is placed on paper, dates of payment and charges, utilities, rules and regulations of the building and end of lease term agreements (automatic or reapplication of rent). Check also to know if you are able to sublet the room and consequences if you were to break the lease.
Check if your room/unit is rent-stabilized. If so, then you should ask for the rent stabilization rider. This document discusses the rights and obligations of tenants and owners. Also, check to see if the building is operated under the 421-a or J-51 tax incentive programs. If there are tax exemptions on the building, the rent of your room is regulated during the period of exemption. Find out if you are the first tenant or not in a previously rent-controlled apartment as well. If so, the owner should have negotiated the rent with you first. From the first day of receipt of notice (this is the RR-1 form), you have 90 days to file a “Fair Market Rent Appeal” to negotiate the new rent.
When you look to rent from a landlord/landlady, you’ll want to know how private is your room from him/her. Speak about privacy issues with him/her and make sure that what is verbally agreed upon is placed in writing in the lease. Normally, a landlord/landlady is not allowed to enter your space unless given your permission or during emergencies.
Also, if your landlord/landlady no longer owns the unit that you are renting, s/he must notify you by mail and provide you with information regarding the new owner, including name and address. If the building is foreclosed, this does not affect your lease.
Finding a room to live in New York City can be tricky and confusing for a newcomer. However, if you perform the necessary due diligence in looking at prices and different rooms, as well as checking your budget, you should become much more comfortable and knowledgeable about finding the place that best suits your needs.