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Required Documents and Paperwork to Rent an Apartment in NYC

Updated on January 30, 2017

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). Remember, they are looking to see if you can pay rent for the ENTIRE duration of the lease so try to show more whenever possible!

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 work
  • Letter 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 reference
  • Personal reference letters from work connections or friends
  • Reference 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!


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    • profile image

      Kiev Apartments 

      7 years ago

      Very interesting and informative article for me. The thought is very well expressed. I do bookmarks of your blog to show to the friends. I am absolutely assured that they learn a lot of a new material.

    • juliebooly profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Be patient - it took me about 15 apartments each time I looked to find one I liked! Good luck!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I haven't even made it to this point yet...still can't find a decent place!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Wow! I had no idea...really. I thought it was all spoof, the whole 'finding an apt in NY' thing. Thanks for a useful and informative hub. Well written. Welcome to hubpages and congratulations on your nomination. Good luck to you. :)

    • elayne001 profile image


      8 years ago from Rocky Mountains

      I was in New York City the month before 9/11. I loved looking around at the humanity and spacious buildings, but not sure if I would survive there. Very expensive. My husband's cousin has lived there for many years and she sure knew how to get around without a car. It was amazing. Thanks for this education.

    • juliebooly profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Thanks so much! I actually had no idea I was even in the running :). I find the lack of information when you move into New York City (as I have done twice) from somewhere new so frustrating, so paying the information forward was the least that I could do.

    • profile image

      Duchess OBlunt 

      8 years ago

      Wow, you have to give them your entire life's history by the sounds of things. I think I'm happy I don't live in New York!

      Great hub and congrats on your nomination.

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Congrats on your nomination and very good information indeed!

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 

      8 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Very useful information!

      Official announcement: This hub has been nominated in the Hubnuggets! What is that? You are about to find out by clicking this link and reading all the exciting things that happens with the Hubnuggets: Best of luck

    • fetty profile image


      8 years ago from South Jersey

      Very thorough information . Great hub. Congratulations on your hubnugget nomination.

    • equealla profile image


      8 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

      If I were to go live in NY, this will be a very usefull few tips to have beforehand. There is a lot to prepare just to rent an apartment, and without proper guidance, precious time could be lost.

      I wish all systems could apply such information as you did, to make life easier for the customer.

      A well written article, and I want to congtatulate you on the HubNugget nomination for it. Good luck.


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