Getting the Landlord to Yes
October 10, 2018 10:45 AM   Subscribe

How do I convince the landlord to grant me the lease to the market-rate apartment I have lived in for the past three years, paying nearly half the rent, as a roommate to the prime leaseholder? I have several strategies, but I’m seeking more suggestions. Note this is in New York City, where renting is an experience very unlike that of the rest of the country.

I will be meeting the landlord tomorrow, along with my prime (leaseholding) roommate who is moving in December when the lease ends, but has effectively been living outside the apartment for months already. The move is unexpected, and I have not had time to do long-term planning of my financials with an eye to taking over an apartment. So although I have filled out the application to become prime (leaseholding roommate) myself, I have not included the financials (bank book balances, taxes, W2s) the landlord is requesting because, as I explain on the application, like many New Yorkers, I’m often paid in cash, and I’m afraid they will be misleading. And, in fact, on paper, my income for the last two years looks ridiculously low. I’m also currently in the middle of a job search, which I’d rather not disclose, although I will be providing the landlord with a copy of my resume, to show I have a reasonably impressive professional background.

To make up for the lack of financials, I will be making a proposal for a six-month trial lease, which will reassure the landlord about my reliability as a tenant able to make the rent on time, and will also change the lease end date from the winter (when landlords are apt to lose money) to the spring when they aren’t. Once the trial period is up, the goal is to get a regular lease for a one-year term.

Between the prime who is attending the meeting with me, and the prime in my last apartment, I have references of on-time payment dating back six years. I also have a reference from one of the neighbors in the building, and I know and have a good relationship with several of the staff in the property management company. In addition, I will be providing the landlord with a recent copy of my excellent credit rating.

And I am documenting the several ways I’ve saved the landlord money. They finally painted and repaired the apartment because I complained after the 4th leak (my only complaint in 3 years), and pointed out the apartment was in slum-level condition, and therefore not competitive with the other market-rate apartments in this area. Once they did paint/repair it, I facilitated the process while allowing them to do it while I was here, over a period of a few months, without asking for a rent reduction. The apartment was in very poor condition and had not been rehabbed in more than a decade, so had we not allowed them to rehab it when we were in the apartment, the landlord would have had to paint as soon as we vacated the apartment. (Note, however, that we do not expect the landlord to raise the rent much, as we live in one of the few neighborhoods in Brooklyn where the rates actually went down last year due to overbuilding.)

Finally, I want to offer up the names of roommates, to further reassure the landlord I will be able to meet all rental payments. Do you think I’ll be able to find roommates in a month in NYC? Can you think of anything else I can do? This is hugely stressful, please try to keep it positive.
posted by Puppetry for Privacy to Work & Money (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I think you're in good shape because of your history of being a reliable renter/lessee. I've never rented in NYC, but I think this holds true no matter the market.

I understand why you're stressed, but you'll live through it. Deep breaths.
posted by boghead at 11:00 AM on October 10


There's plenty there where others will know more than me, but:

Do you think I’ll be able to find roommates in a month in NYC?


If the apartment is a good deal, then yes. Most roommate searches happen in the half-month-to-month before the term starts anyways, it seems.

Also, perhaps this is obvious, but: any chance you have someone willing to cosign with you? That would certainly help your case.
posted by mosst at 11:01 AM on October 10 [1 favorite]


Also, while I know it's short notice, it couldn't hurt to put out feelers for a roommate literally today and do everything you can to see if you can find someone who might be willing to commit to a lease ASAP, even as soon as tomorrow.

Most people I know handle leasing requirements by having both roommates sign the lease considering their combined incomes, not by trying to convince a landlord to rent to one person on a two-bedroom lease that they probably can't afford alone. At this point you're asking your landlord to trust you to pay a rent that is about twice your current rent payment - you'll be a lot better off if you can fix that sooner rather than later.

Finally, I concur with boghead - I know how hard all of this is, but you'll get through it, really. Your landlord wants to rent to you, it's a whole lot easier and cheaper than finding someone unknown new group. You'll just need to help them understand how trustworthy you are, and from what you've written here, you seem to be the kind of organized person that will be just fine at that.
posted by mosst at 11:13 AM on October 10 [1 favorite]


I'm a landlord. I'd be a bit nervous about your lack of documented income. But your history of on-time payments and your high credit score would go a long way with me. I'd focus there. Bank balances showing savings would also help. If you have the cash, you could also offer to increase the security deposit (from "last month" to "last 1.5-2 months rent") so that they'd effectively have cash to cover their losses if you suddenly couldn't make rent. The six-month trial... I'm not sure that would help with me. Getting a non-paying tenant out would be a huge pain, whether they're under lease or not. Being a trouble-free tenant who cares for the unit and helps facilitate repairs is nice, but I wouldn't highlight that you complained or that you told them the apartment was in slum-level condition. That portends future repairs (which it sounds like they should be making anyway, but that wasn't your question) if not complaints to the authorities. I'd either ask for minor upgrades now (if you feel like you have the leverage) or just act like you're satisfied. I think you probably have a good case, assuming they want to minimize their effort (which it sounds like).
posted by slidell at 11:21 AM on October 10 [8 favorites]


I lived in NYC for 14 years and worked as a housing advocate there for several years. In a market-rate apartment, you should be fine. It's rent-stabilized units that are a fight to take over.

Just breathe and don't oversell yourself. Let the landlord ask you for documentation. Don't volunteer a whole bunch of info. Definitely don't offer a resume or propose a 6-month trial lease. Take an application and fill it out. Then, if the landlord has questions about the contents of your application or your credit, answer them one by one as they arise. Lots of people are paid in cash. Don't worry about that.

The one special maneuver I might suggest (echoing slidell) IF they have doubts is paying several months of rent up front. If you have people from whom you can borrow, contact them now. Wait for the LL to object, though, don't just offer.

Good luck! I think you'll be fine.
posted by 8603 at 11:24 AM on October 10 [3 favorites]


On rereading, I see you already filled out the application. Great! So just let the LL respond to it tomorrow.

BTW, they might prefer to be paid in cash, which might be easier if your pay is in cash anyway. Just get receipts.
posted by 8603 at 11:29 AM on October 10


@8603, The trouble is my written taxes/bank accounts, etc. are minuscule in size. I wouldn't rent to me if I saw them. So what I'm trying to figure out (with the Hivemind's collective help!) is what to provide instead — or how much to offer to provide instead. In a related vein, a lot of my in-cash work have NDA's attached (think politics), so I'm not allowed to answer a lot of questions in that regard.

Have nixed the resume. And I guess I should nix the 6-month idea? My main thought there, from what I've read is a Spring end date is far preferable for landlords, and they do lose money mid-winter when everyone's away on holiday rather than looking for an apartment.

I kind of liked @slidell's 1.5X security idea. I could cough up a 1.5X security now, however, and maybe a little bit more, but not months and months of rent.

Also note I have taken care to do nothing but praise the repairs they made, and emphasize this was a one-time thing. Should I not discuss that either?

What I've got so far is a written proposal listing all these things out.... (And, no, by the way, I'm not much of a negotiator, which is why this whole process makes me so nervous.)
posted by Puppetry for Privacy at 11:39 AM on October 10


Slidel's concerns would be mine as well - your points about on-time payment and tolerating the condition of the apartment are well and good, but at the end of the day the question the landlord needs answered is will you have the cash to put up at the beginning of each month to pay her/him rent.

would your cash-paying job be willing to write you a letter describing your pay rate and how much work they give you? (probably not as it might open them up to future questions about why they are paying you in cash).

this is not hopeless. the fact that the landlord is meeting with you is a good sign - as others pointed out keeping the apartment continuously leased and not having to find new tenants is good for your landlord. you may want to have a last-ditch option in your back pocket of offering to increase the security or pre-paying rent as suggested above. When we first moved to NYC we managed to rent a reasonably decent apartment without consistent employment by adding a months rent to the requested first/last deposit.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 11:40 AM on October 10


I would not mention the repairs, no. It sounds passive-aggressive (if not outright aggressive).
posted by unknowncommand at 12:02 PM on October 10 [5 favorites]


I agree with 8603 completely. Do not make this seem unusual in any way. It's almost like you're protesting too much? I took over the lease of a 3-bedroom, where we even had a guarantor when we first moved in. If you've been there awhile, this is really not that crazy. If they want information that you can't or don't want to provide, ask what they'd be willing to accept instead, and maybe give them 2-3 suggestions of what you can give them, and see what they say. Good luck!
posted by unknowncommand at 12:13 PM on October 10 [2 favorites]


How many rental units in this building? Does your landlord have other buildings? (In other words, what percentage of his income will he be trusting you with?) Where will you be meeting? Is your income low on paper because you've been under reporting it? If not, wouldn't your taxes show sufficient income? If so, how will your landlord feel about this? You don't say what kind of work you do or what size of a business you do it for. Is your only interaction with this landlord in the past been complaining about the leak and conditions? Why didn't the prime tenant handle this? The potential roommates whose names you will offer: how are their financials and rental histories? How do you know you can get along with them in the apartment? Maybe one of them would make a better prime tenant than you because of their documented histories.

These are the questions that occur to me off the top of my head as a landlord in NYC. (Otherwise, I pretty much agree with what Slidell says above.
posted by Obscure Reference at 12:17 PM on October 10


So my last insert. What do you all think I should give him?

The standard application asks for:
*bank statements (2 months)
*pay stubs
*2017 tax returns

I could, in a pinch, give him the tax returns. i don't want to give him anything else because I'm paid in cash, the NDAs, etc.

What I was thinking about giving him, in addition, was a document (basically a list), detailing:
*length of residency to date (3 years)
*6 years of prime references: e.g. past and present prime contact info (plus one of the primes will be with me)
*neighbor references (same building): + contact information
*up-to-date credit scores
* and a notation that I have no history of complaints, disruption, or asking for a rent reduction.
posted by Puppetry for Privacy at 12:18 PM on October 10


@obscure reference

How many rental units in this building?
4

Does your landlord have other buildings? (In other words, what percentage of his income will he be trusting you with?)
We think this was a starter building for him. (It will never be luxurious.) He has a couple dozen other properties in the fanciest section of Brooklyn. We are not in the fanciest section. We are in a section everyone hoped would take off, but never did, really.

Where will you be meeting?
His offices.

Is your income low on paper because you've been under reporting it? If not, wouldn't your taxes show sufficient income? If so, how will your landlord feel about this?
That's why I didn't want to show income.

You don't say what kind of work you do or what size of a business you do it for.
Politics. Communications.

Is your only interaction with this landlord in the past been complaining about the leak and conditions?

They offered to repaint the apartment. I only asked them to repaint over leaks, and I only complained after the 4th one and because the other repairs to the ceilng and walls were so bad. I sent pictures, and they immediately agreed with me.

Why didn't the prime tenant handle this?
He's not an activist prime, let's say.

The potential roommates whose names you will offer: how are their financials and rental histories? How do you know you can get along with them in the apartment? Maybe one of them would make a better prime tenant than you because of their documented histories.

I would have to advertise for them. As noted above all of this was sprung on me recently. Hence the immense stress. Also note that the landlord fixes very little as a rule, and just finally fixed this place because it was egregious and it hadn't been touched in at least a decade. All that said, he also tends to maintain modest mid-income tenants (teachers, city workers) for years, including in a couple of cases as long as a decade.
posted by Puppetry for Privacy at 12:26 PM on October 10


If you can't show you meet the 40x rule on paper, assuring the landlord you can do so out of the proceeds of your tax evasion is probably not going to reassure him. That's the big issue, right there. Paying rent on other apartments is all very well and good, but presumably you are paying roughly half the actual rent right now and something in the same rough ballpark in your last place. I pay rent on my place on time every month without fail, but if you doubled it I might well find myself struggling to do it.

Landlords have been known to overlook 40x with significant bank accounts (which I guess you don't have) or a significant amount prepaid. But I'm guessing your ability to satisfy him with that will be based in significant part in how great a gap there is between the rent your reported income can sustain and what the rent actually is. I would not bid against myself, as it were. Put in the application as if it were acceptable. If the landlord says no, then offer to pay ~ three months in advance.

(He will probably make you pay for an independent third-party credit check, by the way. About $75.)

This is all assuming that the timing you've imposed on yourself is absolutely necessary. The apartment needs to be occupied as of January 1. Many landlords won't ask you about your intentions, so to speak, til the beginning of November or even later, and you usually have some time to respond. Is there some reason you're conducting yourself as if you have to secure the lease re-up right now? Because the most obvious solution to your problem is to find a roommate with a good income and then deal with the landlord. Heck, even if the landlord says no now based on your solo income, I don't see anything stopping you from coming back later with a roommate with a good income and trying again.
posted by praemunire at 1:11 PM on October 10 [1 favorite]


@ praemnunire

Yes, there is reason for haste. The landlord says if he doesn't have a signed lease by Oct. 15th, he'll put it on the market then for a Dec. 1st rental.
posted by Puppetry for Privacy at 1:18 PM on October 10


...how can he put it on the market for a Dec. 1 rental if the lease expires in December? A little confused.

Anyway, it's not like once it's "on the market" you can't apply for it yourself anymore. If it was just that your income was low, I'd say take two bites at the apple (apply now solo, apply again with a roommate after finding one ASAP if rejected). But now I'm having second thoughts about my prior advice. If your landlord doesn't know right now that your income is undocumented, finding that out may possibly sour him on you a bit. (Trying to say this in a nonjudgmental way, but a dude who is being systematically dishonest about money he owes would strike me as lacking certain key qualities I'd be looking for in a person who proposed to enter into a financial obligation with me.) So unless you're pretty confident your landlord won't care about that part, or think your apartment is such an amazing deal that it will be snapped up instantly--bearing in mind that, if this is actually a Dec. 1 lease, most people won't even be looking til November starts--take a week or so, find a roommate with an adequate documented income, and apply with him/her.
posted by praemunire at 2:03 PM on October 10 [2 favorites]


I am a landlord and I used to live in NYC (where I was not a landlord). To be honest I am highly doubtful that a 1.5 months deposit is going to move the needle. NYC evictions are notoriously long and costly, 3 months at a minimum and 8 months on average, from what I understand (and in some cases a skilled attorney can keep non-paying tenants living rent-free for years because of various extensions). What's an extra half-a-month in this context?

I think there isn't anything magical you can do other than prove that you make the money to pay the rent. I know you said you can't but that's just... not reasonable. History of timely payments is a huge plus, yes, but not without showing ability to pay going forward first. In my personal experience as both a renter and a landlord, references and history help when you your income is a bit on the low side in terms of how much of a percentage of your total income will be going towards rent but not if you can't show sufficient income at all. So to be honest all this talk about NDAs and such does not bode well, given that you are competing against an endless supply of qualified tenants who can demonstrate sufficient, stable income. If you can't show income of your own, can you find a qualified co-signer (guarantor)? Remember, your "primary" was, effectively, your guarantor.

I would also give a good think about your attitude going in. It's pretty haughty to say that you did the landlord a huge favor because you "allowed them" to make repairs you requested (what else are they supposed to do?), or to "point out the apartment was in slum-level condition" (no landlord appreciates being called a slum lord).
posted by rada at 3:08 PM on October 10 [6 favorites]


I have a longer comment half written for later (but lunch break ended). One thing that really jumps out about your list is the lack of bank statements. Having assets would go a long way in addressing concerns about a lack of income. Not being willing to prove that you either will be receiving money or already have money is asking them to take a lot on faith. Can you provide just the page showing the top-level balances at the beginning of each month for the last 3-4 months, redacting the pages with the transactions? Could you show other savings, such as an IRA or other retirement vehicle? (Or are those assets all in offshore numbered accounts? ;) )
posted by slidell at 3:31 PM on October 10 [1 favorite]


Most people I know handle leasing requirements by having both roommates sign the lease considering their combined incomes

Unfortunately the standard lease agreement in nyc requires all occupants of an apartment to show their ability to pay, on their own, the full rent, regardless of how many occupants there are splitting that amount. I have only been able to get around this via illegal sublets, paying a full year's rent up front, having parents cosign the lease, or showing sufficient investment income.

OP, I think your listed strategies are probably the best that you can do, but I would be more optimistic about your chances if you had an actual roommate with acceptable income lined up for tomorrow's landlord meeting. Is there any way you can postpone that meeting even a day or so in order to try and make that happen?
posted by poffin boffin at 3:40 PM on October 10 [2 favorites]


Unfortunately the standard lease agreement in nyc requires all occupants of an apartment to show their ability to pay, on their own, the full rent, regardless of how many occupants there are splitting that amount.

I think you're conflating two things--whether you're individually responsible for the entire amount of the rent should the others not pay (highly likely) and whether you each had to demonstrate annual income of 40x the monthly total rent. However, given that the OP is proposing to be the sole name on the lease, this is moot--they'd be expected to show income in excess of 40x the full rent anyway.

However, I think the whole thing is moot--this appears to be a lost cause without money in the bank, given the unwillingness to provide tax returns (and, if I were a landlord, I wouldn't particularly want to rent to someone who told me they were evading taxes if I thought I had reasonable alternatives!).
posted by hoyland at 5:16 PM on October 10 [2 favorites]


Unfortunately the standard lease agreement in nyc requires all occupants of an apartment to show their ability to pay, on their own, the full rent, regardless of how many occupants there are splitting that amount.

I can only speak from personal experience, but I've lived in three different apartments in New York (in East Harlem, Bushwick, and now Park Slope) with a roommate in all of them, and have apartment hunted for many more, and this is not my experience. Two of those apartments were managed by large management companies, my current one is a family-owned building.

To be more explicit, I've never had a landlord interpret the income requirements such that I, as one of the two roommates, had to individually show an annual income that was 40x the apartment's entirely monthly rent in order to sign a lease. I certainly did not (and do not) have an annual income that was anywhere near that; it was only when my roommate and I combined our individual income that we met this threshold.
posted by andrewesque at 6:22 PM on October 10 [1 favorite]


Yes, if both people had to show 40x the rent, there would be very few roommate situations in NYC--because the reason people live together is that they can't afford the rent on their own.

Roommates on a lease together will usually be jointly and severally liable for the rent--that is, if your roommate doesn't pay their half, the landlord can come after you for it. That's a separate issue, though.
posted by praemunire at 8:40 PM on October 10 [1 favorite]


I’d bring six months of recent bank statements and/or a co signer. Those are the two things that can reassure the LL that the rent will likely be paid. References of your good tenancy, references of your on time payments, and credit scores are good too, but not as important as the bank statements or cosigner.

If you can’t swing that, I’d go to the meeting and say that you are deeply interested and will be presenting them with an application along with a roommate some time early next week.

Don’t being up the cash and taxes and NDAs if there is a way to avoid discussing them.

It’s a pain to get a new tenant, even in a hot market it requires sprucing the place up and placing ads and it takes time and money. So that’s in your favor. I believe most landlords would have a mild bias towards hoping you stay.

Good luck!
posted by hungrytiger at 10:07 PM on October 10


I would absolutely bring three months of bank statements. This is what I did in NYC when I had legally nontaxable income that wouldn’t show up on my 1040.

However, on the longer scale, you may want to consider reporting your income on your taxes, even if they pay you in cash and you don’t have to, for just this sort of thing. You also don’t want to get hit for tax evasion, which will be a huge pain in the ass, and NYC is particularly aggressive about it as I recall. You can state it’s from independent contractor income without disclosing all the individual contributors, as I recall.
posted by corb at 8:09 AM on October 11


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