The main thing to know about the US is that you require a credit rating/score to pretty much do anything. To find out more about that, click here to go to my banking information page.
For that reason, many new visitors to the US will sublet an apartment, meaning that you normally just get a single room and you normally have shorter term sub-leases that constantly renew (e.g. month on month). This is fine, but know that you still have rights and it is still a formal agreement between you, the head leaseholder, and the landlord.
Friend of America Josh, Hannah Collins, wrote a great piece some things to expect and be prepared for when you’re renting in New York City.
One thing to note that is really important too is that if you move address and you’re on a visa, not only do you have to notify the DMV but you also have to notify USCIS. It’s VERY IMPORTANT for your staying in this country legally!
Finding a place
You’ll start to discover quickly that renting is really competitive. You’re not only competing against other New York transplants, but you’re also competing against New Yorkers, visitors, and travelers.
There are some great Facebook groups to start your search, on our Communities page as these groups are regularly exchanging offers of rooms available for rent all over the place.
Other apps that may help you out include:
- Craigslist (e.g. New York Sublets);
- Nooklyn – A wonderful service for those new to the city (thanks Andrea K);
- Listings Project – Great for creatives
It sucks that I have to write this but it is really important. Scams, especially in real estate, are everywhere in New York City. They’ll come in different forms, and sound almost completely legitimate but will pivot around you sending money first and asking questions later.
A few things to think keep in mind:
- Never send money without having some form of ability to check into the person and the location. In many cases, the location won’t exist or the person won’t, or both.
- Never trust a check repayment. If the deal somehow involves receiving a check back, you’re in for trouble (even cashier checks). In many cases, you’ll bank it perfectly, then two weeks later it will be deducted from your account.
Obviously this makes things difficult, but if you can find someone on the ground that you trust, or if you can use a third party, you should be ok.
Know your budget
Prices in the US are generally listed per month and in many cases include utilities like heat, electricity, gas, and possibly internet access.
In New York, you should come in knowing that if you want to live in Manhattan, you’re going to be lucky to get a (very small) room for less than $1,400/month. If you are happy to live a bit further abroad (e.g. Brooklyn) then that number will come down the further away you go. It is good to do your research well in advance to know what you should be paying for what. In general, l with sublets, you do not hold any negotiating power, so prices that you see are going to be quite accurate and with the competition you will be expected to jump on it immediately.
Know what you can afford, know what terms you require, and say “Yes” on the spot if it fits.
Know your rights
In New York, and in many US states, you have a lot of rights as a tenant. Be sure to search for an official website so that you know what you can request and expect. These include things like:
- Defining the exact amount of notice required before a visit from the landlord;
- A definitive list of what is (and is not) included in your lease;
- If and when you are required to have heating (or cooling) as legally required in your apartment.
This is a great document regarding Tenant’s Rights written by the NY Attorney General. I don’t know exactly when it was written but I’m pretty confident most of it is still good!
Preparing an Agreement
Before you get into a lease, Brian Truong of advo has written a fantastic article “Signing a new lease without getting SWINDLED. — A checklist guide to signing your first apartment.“. It’s well worth the read with information detailing what questions to ask and some do’s and don’ts about signing a new lease!
In many sub-lease arrangements, there won’t be an official agreement in writing between you and your “landlord”. That being said, most won’t mind if you prepare something for them to sign.
Most importantly your sub-lease agreement should include:
- Your full name;
- The rental address (Number, Street Name, Apt Number)
- The full name of the landlord;
- The landlord’s address;
- The landlord’s phone number (in many cases, they will be called to confirm you actually live there).
I generated one using a form generating website, Law Depot, but any will work.
What’s expected of you?
In addition to being a great tenant and not putting holes in the walls, did you know that you’re supposed to tip the doorman of your building (and your super, and anyone else involved) every year?
There are some awesome places around New York where you can immediately go to live when you land, and even for an extended period of time if you’d like!
Ones I’ve heard of: