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The Complete Guide Of NYC Rental Requirements

March 10, 2024

Qualifying for an apartment in NYC might be more difficult than you think. Follow this guide before you start filling out applications.

As of January 2024, 67.2% of New York City residents are renters. Apartment hunting in New York can be an extremely competitive game. Unlike other cities, apartments become available at a moment’s notice and can be rented within a few hours. The luxury of touring an apartment 6 months in advance (unfortunately) doesn’t exist here. Renters can typically start viewing apartments that will be available in approximately one month. Because this window is so short and can be stressful, the best thing you can for yourself do is prepare. Set yourself up for success by organizing all your documents before you start filling out applications. What are those documents? We’ll break them down for you here. 

This article will be your ultimate guide to prepare for your move to New York City. We’ll outline:

  • What tax documents you’ll need ready
  • Other assets landlords may ask for
  • How applications and fees work
  • Tips for determining your budget
  • NYC apartment touring best practices and tips 

Ready? Happy apartment hunting!

NYC rental requirements

Before you start stalking StreetEasy every day (yes, StreetEasy is going to be your best option), you need to get organized. When you decide you’re going to apply for an apartment you only get a short window to submit everything before other applicants. Read on to learn what you need to put together.

Documents required

Overall, your potential landlord is looking for proof that your annual income is at least 40x your monthly rent. You should have a trail of documents that prove this. Let’s start with all the essential documents:

  • Copies of the last 4- 6 most recent consecutive pay stubs
  • Copies of last year’s W-2 forms 
  • Copies of signed & completed most recent year’s federal and state tax returns
  • A letter of employment, including your job title, salary, and length of employment — signed and on company letterhead
  • Bank statements — the 3 most recent
  • Copies of 2 forms of photo ID

However, if you’re a student or just started a new job you might not be able to prove that you’re going to make 40x your monthly rent. Don’t panic! You can still apply for an apartment, you just need a guarantor. A guarantor is a person who guarantees to pay the rent if for some reason you can’t. This doesn’t mean they pay your rent regularly, but they will be on your lease. When you first move to the city you might need a guarantor and then after a year of paying your own rent, you should be able to move without a guarantor on your new lease. 

Other assets Landlords commonly ask for

Every management company and landlord is different. There are other documents and proof of income that may be required. Here is a list of some:

  • A credit report 
  • Copies of past rent payment confirmations
  • Other financial statements (savings accounts, retirement accounts…etc)
  • Letters of recommendation from past landlords 

Applications and fees

If you’ve made it this far into your research, you probably know that New York can be pricey. However, the most expensive part about renting in New York City is securing the apartment in the first place. Before you start your search to decide how you’re going to tour apartments. Truly, you have 3 options:

  1. Hire a broker
  2. Do it yourself 
  3. Hire a company to tour for you

Let’s break down your options and the pricing involved with each of them.

Hiring a broker

The apartment building will most likely have a broker working for them. This is the person who will host open houses and private viewings. No matter how you find the apartment, you will have to pay this broker. The only time this rule doesn’t apply is when the apartment is listed with “no broker fee”. However, let it be known that typically apartments that exclude a broker fee don’t stay on the market for long, as they save applicants thousands of dollars. 

If you hire your own broker they will search for apartments for you, be in contact with the building’s broker, schedule tours, and send you application information. This is a useful option for those who might be too busy to apartment hunt. However, building brokers are sometimes more hesitant to work with a broker as opposed to working directly with a potential tenant. This is because, if you use your own broker the fee is commonly split between the 2 brokers. 

A broker fee is typically 12-15% of one year’s worth of rent. If you hire your own broker to find apartments for you, contact 

For example, if your rent is $3,000/month, you’ll pay this broker: 

(3,000 rent x 12 months) x 0.15 percent = $5,400

You’ll have to pay this fee on top of any deposit your landlord requires. Although you may be required to give the landlord a security deposit, it’s limited to no more than one month's rent. The one-month limit means that a landlord cannot ask for the last month's rent on top of the security deposit and the first month’s rent. 

Do it yourself

Just like anything else, you could always just do it yourself. This can be accomplished by constantly searching on apartment websites like StreetEasy,, and more. You schedule your own tours, meet with building brokers, and apply online. This process will be most successful if you live in the city and can run to a tour at a moment’s notice. However, doing it yourself will only save you money if you secure an apartment that has no broker fee. 

Hire a company to tour for you

Lastly, you can hire a company, such as Gander, to tour apartments for you. This way, you’re not working with a broker but you don’t have to do it completely on your own. You can find the apartments you want to tour but instead of going yourself, a Gander tour guide can tour them for you. This is a viable option if you have a busy schedule or are moving from out of state. 

The most cost-efficient way to do this is to find an apartment with no broker fee, book a Gander Tour for either $49/tour or $100 for a bundle of 3 tours, and then apply. Gander tour guides complete detailed written reports that outline the building's shape, amenities, and more. 

Overall, an application fee is capped at $20 apiece. This doesn’t necessarily apply to all condos and co-ops, however. The application fees are nonrefundable, however, if you put down a security deposit and are then denied the apartment you will be refunded. Therefore your total fees for your apartment hunt will include:

  • $20 application fee
  • A security deposit equal to one month’s rent
  • First month’s rent
  • (Typically) a broker fee of 15% of one year’s rent 

How to determine your budget 

These expenses are piling up. We get it. It can be overwhelming to decide what you can afford. Use the following information to make this process easier:

  • Your salary needs to be 40x your monthly rent. Period. 
  • Typically, it's recommended to spend no more than 30% of your gross monthly income on rent
  • Consider your other monthly expenses such as utilities, groceries, insurance, and any debt payments
  • Different neighborhoods in New York City have varying rental prices. Research the areas you're interested in and their average rental costs. Make a list of the neighborhoods you can afford.
  • Consider whether utilities such as water, electricity, and internet are included in the rent. This can make a difference.
  • Consider what your emergency fund would have to look like if you needed to afford rent without a job, and how long it would last you.  

It’s important to be realistic about what you can afford to ensure you can comfortably cover your expenses while living in New York City.

NYC apartment tips 

Now that you know what documents you need, which fees you’ll have to pay, and how to decide on a realistic budget, let’s get moving. Here are some tips and best practices to help you navigate the process more effectively:

  • Start early - Begin your search by saving buildings and neighborhoods ahead of your desired move date, maybe 2-3 months out. 
  • Define priorities - Make a list of your must-haves and nice-to-haves in an apartment
  • Do not apply without a viewing - if you can’t see the apartment in person hire someone to view it to avoid scams 
  • Set a realistic budget- Remember to account for additional costs like security deposits and broker fees
  • Be flexible - Keep an open mind and be flexible about your criteria. You may end up liking an apartment or neighborhood more than you thought if you just give it a chance. 
  • Schedule viewings wisely - Arrange viewings for apartments that meet your criteria as soon as possible. Be punctual, respectful, and prepared with questions for the landlord or leasing agent. 
  • Inspect thoroughly: One thing Gander does really well is inspections. They check everything from water pressure to the garbage system. If you’re touring in person make sure to do the same. 
  • Ask questions - Don't hesitate to ask questions about the lease terms, utilities, building amenities, neighborhood amenities, and any potential concerns you may have.
  • Review the lease carefully - Before signing a lease, carefully review all terms and conditions. 
  • Trust your instincts - Unfortunately, we live in a world where people get scammed. If something feels off, trust yourself. 

Don’t worry, you got this! Moving is stressful no matter what city you’re in. But once you find your new home it’ll all be worth it. When all else fails, don’t forget that you can count on Gander to tour an apartment for you if you’re busy. Good luck! 

** Disclaimer: The information provided in this article regarding New York City apartment rental requirements is intended for general informational purposes only. It is not written by a licensed real estate professional and should not be construed as professional advice. The rental market and associated regulations in New York City are subject to change, and it is advisable to consult with a qualified real estate professional or legal advisor for personalized guidance regarding specific rental situations or legal matters.

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