Rent - Now on Broadway (and 170th)
September 16, 2007 12:41 AM   Subscribe

How can a freelancer with a decent but sporadic income convince someone in NYC to rent to him and not just point and laugh?

Fellow freelancers, help a brother out!

My fiancee and I would like to move into northern Manhattan from North Jersey in the next year, but my self-employed status will surely complicate things, even though I'm making twice what I did at my old office job, and we're looking at apartments in the same price range as we pay now.

I get paid infrequently from different clients in large lump sums. The money goes into savings, and we transfer some over to checking as needed. Thus, I don't have any sort of pay stubs or "employment verification letters", but we can certainly make rent with no problem every month, and new work is rolling in all the time.

My fiancee makes 30k/year as a computer technician, which wouldn't cut it alone for a 1500/month apartment. She has excellent credit, mine is so-so.

I'm not a registered business yet, so I can't write myself checks and thus prove "steady income". Would that be a wise / legitimate course of action, anyway? What do you guys do, or what would you do?

I'm terrified that strict requirements with most agencies/brokers will mean I'll get rejected outright, even if I have money in the bank. It seems that people around here are way more cautious, even owner-listings on craigslist tend to be very stringent.

The good news is we're not in a hurry - this is not under a strict timeline, just "soon as we can". So any suggestions that require a few months to get rolling will be appreciated as much as any short-term ideas.

Incidentally, any NYC people who help out, if you live in the city, I'll totally take you out for drinks. Hopefully hit some meetups and whatnot, anyway - this move is mostly to increase my happiness, and that means more friends! I'm a shut-in over here, it's got to end.
posted by jake to Work & Money (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Tax statements from previously years?
posted by gomichild at 1:09 AM on September 16, 2007

Seconding tax returns from previous years. Some people (in Brooklyn, at least) have asked only for these and not for paystubs. The annoying thing will be that each mgmt/landlord will want some dumbly different thing that, for some of them, is the only thing they will accept. Sometimes people want bank statements going back as well -- if you can print out a year or two and highlight all the checks you've deposited, they should accept that. I don't think you have much to worry about. IME, in Brooklyn, it's not the brokers who have strict requirements (they'll take their fee any way they can get it) but landlords or management companies; but many brokers will be familiar with the requirements of their various landlord clients.

I've been thinking about moving to NNJ...
posted by xueexueg at 3:23 AM on September 16, 2007

My landlord required tax returns and letter of employment stating my salary. But given the number of freelancers who live in NYC, I can't imagine that there won't be some flexibility on this issue. I think that between tax returns, and bank statements, and your fiancee's steady income you'll be okay. You might want to call a broker (not that you have to use one in the end), and see what they suggest. I've lived in northern Manahattan for almost 7 years. It's pretty nice!
posted by kimdog at 4:52 AM on September 16, 2007

I've been asked for my bank statement before. I don't really like giving it (it just feels weird to me) but its definitely a way to prove that you have enough money to pay rent.
posted by modernsquid at 5:59 AM on September 16, 2007

They used to ask for a "Tri-state guaranteor". Basically, someone like a relative in the local area who would promise to pay if you didn't. Embarrassing, yes ... but there you are.
posted by R. Mutt at 6:18 AM on September 16, 2007

For some landlords, a big cash deposit -- 3 or 4 months of rent at least -- can cure all ills in an application.
posted by MattD at 7:14 AM on September 16, 2007

Seconding MattD. My fiance and I moved in together and had both been employed for less than a year. We had copies of paychecks and tax information and were asked to provide an extra month's rent in addition to the usual first and last. Landlords tend to jump on people who can produce large cash deposits on the day of seeing a property.
posted by blueskiesinside at 10:10 AM on September 16, 2007

I second (third or fourth) most of the above--I would have copies of tax returns, record of paid rent and a copy of your/her credit report ( I know yours may be iffy). However, as a past owner of apartments the only thing that is really convincing is a healthy deposit (three to four months rent) plus payment history. If you do have sporadic income I would suggest you wait until you have the money and then propose to the prospective landlord that you put advance rent (deposit) in an interest bearing escrow account as a sign of good faith. The specific terms or alternatives could be negotiated. Best of luck
posted by rmhsinc at 10:19 AM on September 16, 2007

1) Big deposit. This provides the landlord with enough $$ to cover the rent if he ever needs to evict you.
2) Offer to provide post dated checks dated the first of each month so that the landlord does not need to deal with collecting the rent from you each month. In other words, Oct. 1, Nov. 1 etc.
3) Letters of reference from people who own business if you know anyone like that.
I am a landlord and that is how one tenant with a poor credit rating won my heart and an apartment in my building.
posted by elf27 at 1:29 PM on September 16, 2007

Response by poster: Wow. I couldn't pick a "best answer" without picking all of them, because you've all been so helpful that my mind is significantly more at ease. The Girl sends her thanks too - she's always on edge (understatement) about things like this.

Okay, so my plan of action: Payment history plus tax returns, with a large escrowed deposit as a backup plan, and bank statements to prove I've got the cheddar. I will be very well-prepared.

Only problem now: My current landlord is a sweet old lady and it will be heartbreaking to leave, but it's hard to argue with 24-hour falafel joints. Mind reels.

Thanks again, guys.
posted by jake at 9:55 PM on September 16, 2007

Have your accountant prepare a formal letter of your income or expected income for the year.
posted by Caviar at 5:19 AM on September 17, 2007

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