Renters Starter Guide
What You Need To Know To Rent In NYC

A Renter Starter Guide

This is a guide that Rodolfo Delgado the CEO of Replay Listings, created to help you find an awesome home to make your own.

Replay Listings was the first company in the United States to focus on apartment rentals through unedited video-tours. It was born to bring more transparency to the real estate industry (it really needs it).

Who is this for?

If you’re looking to rent an apartment in New York, this guide can be of help to you. It’s that simple.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve lived here before or not, as we’ll explain everything just in case. You’re welcome ;)

All we’re here to do is guide you through this tedious process and hopefully make it a little more simple and fun.

First things first

If you’re reading this book, chances are you’re looking to move to New York City. Congratulations on your first move towards living in the best city in the world - you’re awesome.

This guide explains the complexities of renting an apartment in a big city like New York. We explain what “convertible” means, how broker fees work, and give you a couple of tips on how to save your money whenever possible.

There are several questions you should ask yourself before your arrival. Doing so will save you a lot of time and money.

When it comes to reading this guide, it doesn’t matter if it’s the first time you’ll be living in the Big Apple or if you already live here and are looking to make a more informed decision when moving places.

We’ll cover every topic you need. Let’s start with a couple of questions.

  • Where are you staying while you look for an apartment?
    Hotels can be very expensive (especially near the areas you're likely to know best, like Times Square). So, knowing where to stay is key to avoid paying thousands of unnecessary dollars.
  • What are you coming to the city for?
    If you're coming to New York for work or for school the requirements you will have to meet to rent an apartment might vary. I have created this guide with the most common requirements that you'll come across.
  • Pro Tip

    Do you know anybody in the city who can guide you at first?
    Having a friendly face in the city is always good. Asking them if you could crash their couch for a couple of nights can save you valuable money and might help you bond with someone who can teach you the way through the city, best spots, restaurants, etc.


When I initially arrived in New York, I stayed at a hotel near Times Square and had to pay hundreds of dollars a night while looking for an apartment. I had no idea where to start!

So what about an AirBnB?

Airbnb can be a good idea, as it helps you save money. However, there are a couple of things to take into account when booking an Airbnb that most people fail to mention. For Airbnb to be legal, the owner or representative of the apartment has to be living there during your stay. For example, if the owner lists their 2 bedroom apartment on Airbnb and he or she is living in one room while you rent the other, that is completely fine. If you chose to stay there for over 30 days that's fine too- even if they are not there.

However, if they profit from renting their entire apartment to you while they are not there, this may not be legally allowed.

Laws vary between states - which is why we recommend asking the representative before committing to anything.

    Suggestion: Ask them point blank: “Is it legal for me to stay there during that period of time?


    Choose your apartment based on where you would like to spend most of your time (not necessarily school or work.) Is it close to friends? Close to nightclubs? Close to an area or district?
    In which area of the city you would like to spend most of your time? That's where you should live.

Airbnb offers great services. It is convenient for short terms hospitality and, from what we've heard, they do an incredible job to guarantee that the information listed on their app is accurate and well represented.

Just make sure that your transaction is legal, as there have been many cases in which the tenant is thrown out during their stay because the representative was caught bending the rules.

Important Note: Laws in regards to this subject get updated frequently. We might not have the most accurate or recent information. We strongly encourage you to look for more information on Airbnb laws to solidify your opinion.

If you're a representative from Airbnb and would like to add, delete, or correct information stated above, please contact us at to make the necessary changes - our objective is to provide the most accurate information

Why is Renting an Apartment so Difficult?

Renting an apartment in New York is more difficult than almost any other place in the world - but there's a reason why.

Once you have taken possession of the apartment and have started living in it, there are many many laws that protect "the little guys" from "big landlords" who own many buildings.

Landlords may take 60 days, or sometimes years to be able to evict a tenant, even if the tenant hasn't paid their rent.

Because of this, landlords are generally more scared of you than you are of them.

They absolutely need to make sure you'll be nice and take care of their property and your rent, which is why the renting process in New York is so thorough.

Documents you’ll need to apply for an apartment:

  1. Visa + Passport + Photo I.D

    Every type of I.D possible that validates that you are in the United States legally will be necessary. Bring everything with you.

    If you are a Student, you might want to print your acceptance letter and bring it with you as well.

    1. Visa + Passport + Photo I.D
    2. Student I.D or Employment Letter
    3. Bank Statements (from a U.S. Bank)
    4. Guarantor's Documents
    5. Credit Score*
  2. Student I.D or Employment Letter

    Any landlord who is trusting you with their property wants to know your story to feel safe knowing that their property is in good hands.

    • Students:

      If you're a student, go to your university as soon as possible and ask for your Student I.D card. They should give you one right away.

      If they don't, print your acceptance letter and a screenshot of your classes this semester - this will help you during your application process.

    • Employees:

      Every landlord will want to know who you're working for, how long have you been working there, what is your current position, and what is your current salary. They want to understand your story to make sure you'll be able to afford to pay the rent and that your place of business in the U.S is legitimate and valid.

    • Pro Tip

      Ask for your employment letter in advance. Many companies take a couple of business days to get you a requested employment letter with the date, your current position, and your salary. Ask for the letter in advance to avoid obstacles to getting your dream apartment. Landlords usually accept employment letters up to 30 days old.

Documents by Type of Employment

Every situation is different. Maybe you’re employed, self-employed, or a new hire. Depending on each circumstance, the required documents will vary. So let’s get specific with what you’ll need:

If You’re Employed
  • 2 most recent pay stubs
  • Letter of employment. It needs to be on company letterhead, signed by Manager or HR with their contact info, stating length of employment, position and base annual salary. It cannot be dated more than 30 days prior to the application date.
If You’re a New Hire (Meaning you haven’t started working in that position yet)
  • Signed offer letter (all pages)
  • Forward a recent confirmation email from the company after acceptance.
If You’re Self-employed
  • First 2 pages of the last two years 1040 tax returns. If extended, then provide the extension page.
  • CPA letter confirming gross income from 1040’s. If income is joint, the CPA will need to describe how much of the joint income was produced by the applicant.
If You’re a Student
  • Proof of school enrollment. (Student ID Preferred)
  • Screenshot of your current term schedule

Requirements vary between each Landlord/Building. If the building you’re interested in is a Condominium Building or a Co-op, the documentation needed and the costs associated may greatly change, so please contact their representative to learn more. These general guidelines apply mostly to Rental Buildings in Manhattan.

Recommendation: Open An American Bank Account

To rent an apartment in New York and put the lease under your name, you are likely to need an American Bank Account. The first thing I recommend you do after you land in NYC and check in your hotel is to go to a Bank of America or Chase bank and open your bank account. If you don't have a credit history, it is highly likely you won't be eligible for a credit card, but you can open a debit card with as low as $500. When you open your first bank account, they'll ask for your passport, visa, and photo I.D. Having a copy of each and bringing the originals with you might help. Be prepared ;)

From our experience, Chase is one of the toughest banks when it comes to applying for a new account. You might want to start with Bank of America, Wells Fargo, or others - your choice.


Get Ready for Certified Checks

It is also highly likely that when you apply for an apartment, there will be fees involved that will need to be paid in the form of a "Certified Check" made payable to a company (never a broker!). Because of this, make sure your Bank account has the money you are likely to need. If you have about three month's rent's worth, you should be fine.

Example: if you're looking for a $2000 a month apartment, you (or everyone involved in the rent of the apartment combined) should have around $6000. why? Because when you rent an apartment, they might ask you for the first month's rent + one month security deposit + last month's rent. there of course might be other fees involved, so always ask the apartment representative: Please email me every single fee involved in the process of renting this unit.


Bring Bank Statements from Back Home

If you’re coming from abroad, it is recommended to bring with you the latest three bank statements form back home. You’re unlikely to need them, but there are circumstances in which they might help strengthen your application.

At the end of the day, your objective is to tell a story with your documents that shows the landlord that you have the financial ability to sustain the quality of life expected from someone living in that space.

Guaranteeing the Apartment

If you're making 40 times the monthly rent (Example: if the apartment you want to apply for is $2,000 a month, and you make over $80,000 a year) chances are you will not need a guarantor. Most landlords ask that the renter make 40 times the rent. Some landlords might ask for 45 or even 50 times the rent.

If you need a guarantor:​ Think about it from the Landlord's perspective: if you're going to rent your apartment to somebody you've never met, you have to make sure that if they don't pay, somebody does!

This is why Landlords ask that renters have a guarantor, or a person who will claim the liability should you stop paying rent.

Ah! But being international sometimes means not having anyone in the United States to act as a guarantor for you. This is a topic that varies greatly between each landlord. Most landlords require the guarantors to be paying their taxes within the United States (Although there might be a few exceptions who might accept international guarantors).

Options When You Don’t Have a Guarantor

  1. Paying an insurance company to act as your guarantor

    Yes, there are companies whose sole existence is to act as guarantors. One of the ones I'm used to working with the most is named "INSURENT" and they will charge you around one month's rent per year in order to guarantee your apartment. If you have enough capital to pay extra security deposits or the year up front, I would recommend doing that, if not, Insurent might be a great option.There are other companies like “The Guarantors” or “Rhino” who work similarly. I’d recommend Googling them.

    1. Paying an insurance company to act
    2. Paying a year up-front
    3. Paying extra security deposit
    4. Finding another building
    5. Getting a roommate who signs the lease*
  2. Pro Tips

    Keep in mind that if you decide to use a guarantor, the landlord will highly likely ask for him or her to make 80 times the monthly rent a year. Example: if the apartment you want to apply for is $2,000USD a year, the guarantor (or combined guarantors in a case in which the landlord allows this) will have to earn over $160,000 a year to act as your guarantor.

  3. Paying a year up-front

    Some landlords allow this, some don't. And there's a reason for it as well - I won't go into much detail but sometimes landlords have "rent controlled" apartments (Google it) and are by law prohibited from receiving payments of rent in advance.

  4. Suggestion

    If this is your favorite option, vocalize this to your Real Estate Agent from the beginning so they can concentrate on showing you apartments in buildings in which landlords allow such a thing - it might save you a lot of time and energy.

  5. Paying extra security deposit

    Some landlords might ask for 2, 3, 6 or even a whole year as a security deposit to guarantee you'll pay your rent in time. Every case will vary and I've seen many of each, so they are all relatively common.

    IMPORTANT UPDATE: New laws in NYC prevent landlords from being able to collect more than one month as a security deposit as of year 2020, so ask your real estate agent or the apartment representative if this is still a viable option for you.

  6. Finding another building

    Some landlords have partnered with startups like “Rhino,” which offer to act as your guarantor for a small monthly payment. Looking for an apartment in buildings which accept such services might be of help if you don’t have a guarantor. In such cases, we recommend finding a good real estate agent and explaining your situation - an experienced agent should know which buildings are more prone to working with your circumstances.

  7. Pro Tips

    Download our Replay Listings mobile app on the Apple Store or visit us online at

    Replay Listings is a company that was built to bring more transparency to the real estate industry. They do so by showing you available rental apartments in New York through unedited videos, floorplans, tenant reviews, and building scores. - all data that’s difficult to manipulate.

    While browsing for rental apartments in New York, ask any agent/broker/apartment representative for unedited videos to avoid scams.

  8. Getting a roommate who signs the lease

    If you run out of options in terms of being able to guarantee the apartment, it may be time to consider getting a roommate who has no such problem and is willing to be the one on the lease.

    If you’re a student, you may also consider student housing. Ask a university representative for options regarding housing.

Fair Housing: Know Your Rights

No real estate agent should ever tell you that a neighborhood is predominantly "young" or "gay" or "rich" or "poor" or "white" or "black" or anything of the sort. That is called "steering" and is prohibited and illegal as it promotes segmentation.

Fair Housing laws prevent agents and brokers from steering people away from or towards certain neighborhoods because of age, sex, sexual orientation, color, marital status veteran status, amongst others.

In New York, we are extremely proud of our diversity and we're happy and proud of coexisting with members of different backgrounds, cultures, sexual orientation, marital status, veteran status, financial status, etc. Teams and communities with diverse backgrounds who collaborate tend to offer different experiences, cultures and perspectives and build the best results.


Look for the “Equal Housing Opportunity” logo

If this is your favorite option, vocalize this to your Real Estate Agent from the beginning so they can concentrate on showing you apartments in buildings in which landlords allow such a thing - it might save you a lot of time and energy.

Getting to know Neighborhoods in New York City

If you'd like to know more about the neighborhoods you're interested in, there are some things that might help you know a little bit more about the general energy in there. For example: Areas near universities will tend to have students living nearby. If you want to know more about crime rates in a certain neighborhood, you can ask the police or Google them. Do you want to know if a certain area is more or less "family friendly"? look around and search for strollers or schools on the streets.

Pro Tip

Veteran real estate agent James Marcolin created some wonderful youtube videos in which he explores each neighborhood in New York. Watch those videos if you’d like to learn more about each neighborhood!

Broker Fees

  1. How much are Broker fees?

    The standard brokerage fee in New York is 15% of the first year’s rent and is paid by the tenant unless the landlord is paying the Broker.

    Example: on a $2000 p/month rental apartment, the broker fee would be expexted to be $3,600. The easiest way to calculate it is by multiplying the monthly rent by 1.8.

  2. Pro Tip

    Everything is negotiable - including the broker fee. Oftentimes, brokers charge 12% or even a month’s worth as a fee.

  3. When do you pay the Broker Fee?

    Think about it this way: if a person is actively working to finding the perfect home, they should be compensated, right?

    Sometimes brokers are compensated by the landlord, who most often than not offers brokers one month’s worth of rent as compensation

    If the landlord is not offering any compensation, they have to get it from you. That’s why they charge the broker fee sometimes.

  4. Recommendations

    If you're not from New York, chances are you have no idea how to navigate the city and how to get your application for an apartment to the right hands. A broker can come in super handy for you because their expertise will allow them to show you apartments in which your probabilities of being accepted is higher.

  5. What “No Fee” Means

    Apartments in which landlords are offering compensation to the broker are usually marked as “NO FEE.” This doesn’t mean you won’t have to pay any fees, though. You’ll likely have to pay for an application fee, renter’s insurance, and your moving costs.

    If the apartment you’re applying for is a condominium or a “co-op” (Google it,) there may be more fees involved as well.

    The most common case in NYC, however, is people applying to a “rental building,” in which case there should be no other fees.

  6. Pro Tip

    Free Month’s Rent VS No Fee

    It is often the case that landlords offer 2 months free rent during your lease. At the end of the year, your rent goes up exponentially and it is no longer financially sustainable for you.

    If you’re expecting to live in the same apartment for over a year, chances are you’d be better off paying a broker fee and getting a lower price rather than a couple of free months.

High Season VS Low Season

Price might vary depending on the time you rent.​ As you may imagine, there are "high seasons" and "low seasons" for renting an apartment in New York. High season tends to be in summer, which is when there's many new students starting school, people starting new internships or just relocating from different cities and offices.

Around September, every ivy league student is in town looking for the exact same thing - so prices go up. During high seasons, prices can go up 10% or even 15%.

Landlords also start offering less concessions, so it's harder to stumble upon deals that include "One month free", "Free gym membership", or "No Fee" deals.

From June until September will tend to have higher prices or less concessions, while October until March will have the lowest prices and most concessions.

​Low season tends to be closer to New Years Eve. This might be due to the fact that people are on vacation, the weather is usually cold (and rainy) so nobody really wants to be visiting apartments, and/or there is less movement in terms of schools/relocation.


It shows you all available rental apartments in New York on a map with their prices laid out, so it’s easy to understand which neighborhoods tend to be more expensive. Understanding the mosaic of prices across New York rental apartments will help you make a more informed decision.

Replay Listings also shows available rental apartments through unedited videos, floorplans, tenant reviews, and building scores. - all data that’s difficult to manipulate. What you see is what you get.

Convertible Apartments: What it Means

Get used to that word, "convertible". Chances are you'll hear it a lot when searching for an apartment. By law, New York State requires each room that will be called a "room" to have a window.

So if you see a "One Bedroom Convertible", this means that there's enough space for tenants to put up a wall and create a second room, kind of "converting" the one bedroom into a two bedroom. The difference is that in some cases, that conversion means that the extra room might not have a window or might have a thin wall.

Many people recur to this in Manhattan because of the super expensive prices. If there's two roommates looking for a two bedroom, they will very commonly search for a "One Bedroom Convertible" instead, making their rent much lower and more affordable.

Where to begin your search for apartments for rent in New York?


  1. Listen to the podcast “Renting an Apartment in NYC”
  2. Get your documents together
  3. Go to
  4. Find and apply for your new home!


Listen to Podcast “Renting an Apartment in New York City”

Spotify Apple Podcasts Google Podcasts Amazon Podcasts

Listen to the podcast “Renting an Apartment in New York City” on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

The podcast contains many tips, advice, and stories about real people who have ran into obstacles, and how to overcome them.

Highly recommended!

Pro Tip

Finding the perfect home is difficult and can be a very frustrating process. We’re aiming to make it easier for you by bringing a more transparent and direct process with unedited videos that you can access from anywhere in the world.

Download our Replay Listings mobile app on the Apple Store or visit us online at

Follow us on Social Media for more tips!

Our IG is @Replaylistings

We often share stories and tips that are very useful to anyone interested in finding the perfect home.

We hope to see you there, and we hope this guide was helpful!

Download the Replay Listings App Today