Sotheby's International Realty Donna Stockman

Timeline for Renting

If you rent from a landlord in a rental building, you should not start your search more than a month prior to the date you would like your lease to start. Tenants have until 30 days prior to their lease expiration to renew, and landlords typically do not know their availability more than 30 days prior to a lease start date. The approval process can take anywhere from one day to a week. Remember, the apartment is not yours until the lease is countersigned by the landlord. Occasionally an applicant thinks they have an apartment, only to discover the landlord decided to rent it to someone else. Once you or your agent negotiate the lease price and terms for the apartment, you will be asked to fill out a rental application and other documents, as well as submit the required financial and other documentation detailed in “Renting in NYC“. The landlord or your agent will run a credit check, review your financial data, check your references, and then let you know whether you are approved.

If you choose to rent a cooperative (coop), you are subletting from a tenant-shareholder, who in turn becomes your landlord. (Refer to information on coops in the “For Purchasers” section of this website). Shareholders in a coop must get permission from the coop board before renting their apartment, making the process subject to uncertainty. Although the owner of the property may like you, you are dependent on the board for approval. To obtain permission, a “board package” must be submitted to the Managing Agent of the cooperative for review by the Board of Directors. Although the elements of the board package differ from building to building, in most cases, extensive financial information is required, including tax returns, financial statements with verifying documentation and personal and business references.  In most coops, the board requires a meeting with prospective tenants. Even after investing that time, you may get turned down.The process can take anywhere from four to six weeks or longer so you should begin your search about eight weeks before you would like the lease to begin. Application and coop fees will be higher if you rent in a coop, but the apartment and building tend to be much nicer. When permission is granted, you will sign a coop sublease which is subject to restrictions placed on subleasing by the board. The lease term is usually for one year with the option to renew based upon board approval. In most coops, shareholders are not allowed to rent their apartments for more than a two year period.

You may also decide to rent from an owner of a condominium, also known as a condo. (Refer to information on condos in the “For Purchasers” section of this website). Condos are a relatively new phenomenon to New York City and as a result, tend to be more recent construction. However, some condos are old commercial buildings which have been converted to residential housing. Condos may or may not require board approval similar to a coop, and the process and timeline for approval varies from building to building. Once you have approval, you will sign a condo sublease agreement. Since there are usually no restrictions concerning how long an owner is allowed to rent, the lease term can be negotiated. Although it is typically a quicker process than a coop, you should still allow four to six weeks for your search prior to the date you wish to move.

There are instances in any of these scenarios where people are not approved. To avoid this, be completely honest and open with your broker, landlord or agent with whom you are working. If you know that you are going to have problems qualifying financially, then take steps in advance to get a guarantor. Once the lease is countersigned and the checks are accepted, the apartment is yours and you can work with the landlord or onsite super or agent to arrange to move in. Do not arrange a move until you have received permission and been given a date. If you show up with a moving van and the doorman or super have no information, you will not be allowed to move in.

Always be honest about who will live in the apartment.  If you said you’re going to be the only person living there, but other friends have moved in, the landlord has the right to terminate your lease. After you lease your apartment, you should take out a home renter’s insurance policy for your protection.