Can we find an NYC apartment?
October 20, 2011 3:34 PM   Subscribe

We need to find a new NYC apartment. My husband's working and has good credit, but I'm unemployed and have terrible credit. We also have a cat. How screwed are we?

We moved to New York in April and immediately found what turned out to be an illegal sublet. It was the first place we looked at. We didn't set out to do an illegal sublet--we just thought a sublet would be easier than a lease given my unemployment and credit situation.

Six months later, I'm still unemployed, and our sublet is up at the end of November. We're ready to move for many reasons, but I'm concerned about our ability to obtain a lease or even a legal sublet.

Relevant details:
--I'm out of work and have been for six months. Credit is TERRIBLE. I do have a small amount of income in unemployment benefits, and I paid the rent at our pre-NY apartment, so I can demonstrate a years-long history of paying rent on time.
--Husband has great credit and a stable, though not high-paying job.
--We have a cat. She is non-negotiable.
--Using the 40x rule gives us an $1800 rent budget, which is about what we're paying now (utilities included) in our sublet.
--We do not have anyone in the tri-state area who can co-sign for us.

We don't have the budget to pay a broker. So, hive mind, I turn to you: Tips? Tricks? Techniques? How do we find a lease or sublet in this situation?

posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You don't have to be on the lease. My husband is a full-time student and we moved this summer; I'm the only one on the lease. His name was on the application as a resident but they did the credit check, employment verification, etc., just for me.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:43 PM on October 20, 2011

The more rent you can pay up-front, the more likely a landlord will let you live there. A friend of mine with bad credit and her boyfriend with no credit scored an apartment -- admittedly in Gravesend, Brooklyn -- by plunking down five months of rent up-front.

Also, unless you're living in a tenement with an asshole for a landlord, an illegal sublet isn't a Big Deal. Tenant laws will still protect you. My friends and I have all lived for multiple years in illegal sublets, paying rent in twenty dollar bills.

Also, as in the example I gave above, start looking in the boonies.
posted by griphus at 4:16 PM on October 20, 2011

Also, if Hip Young Kids isn't a good example: my family emigrated to the US in 1990, and between 1990 and my mother buying a co-op apartment in 2001, we did not have a single official lease and paid rent in checks made out to Cash.
posted by griphus at 4:18 PM on October 20, 2011

Will your current landlord/subletter give you a written, signed letter of how wonderful you've been as multi-year tenants (including always paying the rent on time, and specifying the amount)? That can be a powerful thing to hand to someone who's showing you an apartment... and often even more compelling to a landlord than a particular credit score might be.
posted by argonauta at 4:24 PM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Not a New Yorker, but a former renter with (sometimes multiple) cats:

- Often, mom-and-pop type landlords are more flexible than huge rental agencies.

- As previous posters have pointed out, boonies are better bets than centrally located, uber-desirable areas. When I lived in San Francisco, people I knew with pets and/or iffy credit usually had better luck in the outer neighborhoods (which were still safe and do-able with public transit). Don't sacrifice your personal safety, of course, but steer clear of neighborhoods to where affluent young professionals flock, as landlords can pick and choose.

- Your husband's good credit will count for something; you'd be far worse off if both of you had terrible credit or if you were trying to rent alone.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 5:07 PM on October 20, 2011

As a Brooklyn resident, I don't think finding a 1 bedroom apartment for $1,800 that accepts cats in New York is going to be that difficult, and if your husband's income and credit check out, I think ThePinkSuperhero is correct that getting a lease in your husband's name is likely to pose a problem. In NYC, a leaseholder in a one-bedroom apartment is legally entitled to have another person living with them.
posted by layceepee at 7:48 PM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

Sorry, getting the lease in husband's name only isn't likely to pose a problem.
posted by layceepee at 7:48 PM on October 20, 2011

Some landlords take do take out of state guarantors. A cat isn't nearly as much of an issue as a dog (although in my opinion they are more destructive). Many landlords would not consider your unemployment toward 40*
posted by knoyers at 9:32 PM on October 20, 2011

$1800 is a great budget to have for a two-person apartment in NYC, provided you're willing to live in Brooklyn or Queens. You should have no trouble at all finding a one-bedroom in that range, and could probably find something bigger. I would use your current unemployment to your advantage and spend a lot of time combing listings and looking at whatever no-fee apartments you can find. I have rented four apartments in Brooklyn, and typically looked at ten to fifteen places in person before I found the one I wanted to rent.

Once you do find it, just explain that your husband is the breadwinner and will be the one on the lease. Your being married will probably make this a total non-issue for the landlord. If he earns enough to cover rent and can document it to the landlord's satisfaction, you won't have any problems.

Almost all NYC apartment buildings allow cats.

Basically, you don't need to stress! Your situation should be easily accommodated! Being able to pay more than $1,500 in rent will make this much easier for you! All you need to figure out is where on the square footage/distance to Manhattan ratio spectrum you want to be.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:51 AM on October 21, 2011

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