Required Documents and Paperwork to Rent an Apartment in NYC

If you have rented in NYC before, you know that the "candidate screening" that landlords put their potential tenants through is a bit like a media hound's scan of a politician's life - they leave no stone unturned before allowing you to sign a lease, or, in some cases, even begin to take a look at apartments to rent. Before beginning your search for an apartment in New York, you will need to collect a number of documents to bring to your realtor.

Because the apartment rental process can be long and cumbersome, it is my strong advice to collect your documents and paperwork well in advance of beginning your search (I would say begin doing this 1-2 weeks before you plan to meet with a realtor.) to minimize the hassle during the actual search. While the list of "required documents" required by realtors is specific to each company, below is a "general" list of documents you should likely bring with you, or at least have handy.

Paperwork/Documents that demonstrate ability to pay

This list of absolute must-haves proves to a leasing agency that you are in an economically viable position to pay for an apartment over a prolonged period of time. Basically, the real estate agency wants to see that you either have a steady source of income which will cover an apartments' rent or you are wealthy enough to pay the apartments' rent based on your current wealth (lucky you).

These documents include:

Previous years' tax returns (I would say most recent 3 to be safe; however, some companies will take most recent 2)Last two pay stubs from workLetter from employer stating company, job title, time at company, and salary (including any bonus potential)Information on liquifiable assets (e.g., money market accounts, savings accounts, checking accounts). Information on assets that are NOT easily liquified, such as a Roth IRA account, are not usually necessary. (Note: This is particularly important for those renting in Co-Op buildings but may not be as important for basic renters.)

Most companies want proof that at least one of the tenants of the apartment makes some multiple of the monthly rent (usually 40-50x rent, though I have heard a range of 30-60x, depending on the apartment), proving that they can cover the apartment's rental payments without too much economic distress.

One important thing to note is that potential renters who are moving to New York City for a new job (or do not have a job yet) will frequently have to have a guarantor co-sign their lease. I will provide more information on this special circumstance in a separate hub later this week.

More information on guarantors can be found here.

Identifying documents

This may seem relatively simple must-have but can be lost in the shuffle - bring a government-issued ID with you to prove that you are who you say you are!

Paperwork/Documents that demonstrate personal character

In addition to documents that show ability to pay, it's always nice to have (though not necessarily mandatory) documents that show you will be a good tenant in the building of your choosing. Documents that some rental companies require but most will appreciate are:

Reference letters from previous landlords showing that you were a good tenant. Providing names and contact info of previous landlords is also helpful to demonstrate your willingness to have a future landlord follow up on that referencePersonal reference letters from work connections or friendsReference letters from other tenants that rent from the company (if available)If you are transitioning from school, a copy of a letter saying you've attended and graduated

By taking the time to do some preparation on your paperwork for rental beforehand, you will save time when it comes to making that final decision and getting the apartment you've hoped for!