Blocks & Lots

The costs that come with renting in NYC: all you need to know

Frank Sinatra sang about his “vagabond shoes” taking him to New York. These days if you want to rent an apartment in New York, chances are there won’t be anything vagabond about you — particularly where your bank account is concerned. And as for your shoes — they better be some expensive sneakers, cos you’ve got a lot of walking in store.

Rents are sky-high in Gotham City these days and unless you’re crashing out in a friend’s basement, snagging a rental could set up back the equivalent of a down payment on a house in any other city. Landlords typically insist applicants earn an annual salary equal to (or greater than) 40 to 50 times the monthly rent. That works out to $120,000 for a $3,000 apartment. So the very fact that you have made it through to the lease signing stage of renting an NYC apartment puts you in a rarified space.

The rents are too damn high

According to Marketproof data, the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in NYC is hovering around $3000/month ($3,500/month in Manhattan, or $3,015 in Brooklyn). New rent laws passed earlier this year set limits on the amounts that brokers and landlords can charge. Certain websites do waive brokers’ fees, where the landlord pays it instead. But as explained in a recent Marketproof column in AM New York, these apartments could cost you more in the long run, than those chosen by a broker.

A security deposit is now capped at one month’s rent. However, a broker’s fee is something completely separate and can amount to 12-15 percent of a total month’s rent. Thus, for a rent of $3000, a broker’s fee could amount to $5400. Add in a security deposit of $3000 and you’re up to $8400.

She (or he) works hard for the money

Brokers have connections and know-how to get people into apartments. They are good at negotiating and can get their clients in over a dozen apartments a day. It’s all they do. If you decide to use a broker you will have to weight up if the one-time commission is worth it to you. No doubt, $5400 + is a lot of money. It may be wise to apartment hunt in the dead of winter when the market is traditionally slow and they may be willing to lower their fee.

Some good news

Okay, after all those high numbers, here’s one that’s a little more palatable — $20. That’s the cost of an application fee — legally mandated by the new rent laws.

Beware condo and co-op boards

If you’re subletting in a condo or co-op the board might impose sublet fees on the owner who then passes it on to their tenant. If you’re planning on moving furniture in the building’s elevator you might be expected to also pay an elevator fee. NYC is no joke! Also, no joke is the cost of subletting fees. On the lower end, it could be $350 or $3500 for higher-end co-ops.

Say hello to my furry friend

Got a dog? It’s gonna cost ya. They don’t call them “pet fees” anymore and don’t add it on to your security deposit as such, but a canine friend could see another $50-$200 added on to your rent  —depending on the size of the dog. This increase in rent will, in turn, be reflected in a higher security deposit.

Guarantor Fee

Mom and dad to the rescue! Students hoping to nab a cool crib in the city by offering a larger security deposit will be in for a rude awakening. Those days are gone. Now landlords will insist on a guarantor — usually a parent. Someone who can vouch for the rent and honor the lease in the unlikely event that their collegiate offspring misused their rent cash. There are certain US companies that also offer to step in and play the role of guarantor and can charge anywhere from 70 to 85 percent of one month’s rent for U.S. renters. They can go to 90 to 110 percent of one month’s rent for international renters without U.S. credit history, for a 12 to a 14-month lease.  

Rental insurance fee

It is increasingly common for some management companies to insist on their renters pay rental insurance — often $10/month or $100-$150 a month. This could be tagged on at the beginning of the lease.

Move-In Fee

Got a 10-piece dining table you plan to squeeze into a luxury condo elevator. You’re asking for trouble. At least that’s what the management company thinks, so they may add on a $500-$1000 for the inconvenience of clogging up elevators or damaging them. Welcome to New York!

Amenity Fee

So you thought all those sparkling new amenities in your luxury rental were included in the rent? Not so fast. Some management companies will separate the costs of the health club or the roof deck to keep the advertised base rent more affordable. These fees can be charged monthly or upfront as an annual charge.