Welcome to New York City and its five boroughs!
Living in New York is always a compromise. Know what is important to you! Are you looking for a less expensive area, for a safe and secure area for the kids, the hustle & bustle of inner-city life or rather the leafy suburbs? Are you willing to commute and if so for how long? Are you considering buying a car etc.
Remember, ask your friends and colleagues about safe areas, areas with good schools etc. Word of mouth is still the most up-to-date reference for someone new in town!
Rental rules are very complex. In addition to the information provided on the website refer to the NYC Rent Guidelines Board.
Boroughs of NYC
New York City is composed of five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island. Throughout theses boroughs there are hundreds of distinct neighborhoods, many with a definable history and character to call their own. If the boroughs were each independent cities, four of the boroughs (Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, and the Bronx) would be among the ten most populous cities in the United States.
With a population of about 1,620,867 it is the most densely populated borough and is home to the Central park and most of the city’s skyscrapers. The borough is the financial center of the city and contains the headquarters of many major corporations, the United Nations, and a number of important universities, and many cultural attractions. Manhattan is loosely divided into Lower, Midtown and Uptown regions. Uptown Manhattan is divided by the Central Park into the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side. Above the park is Harlem.
Located on the western tip of Long Island, it is the city’s most populous borough and was an independent city until 1898. Brooklyn is known for its cultural, social and ethnic diversity, an independent art scene, distinct neighborhoods and a distinctive architectural heritage. It is the only borough outside of Manhattan with a distinct downtown district. The borough also features a long beachfront on Coney Island, established in the 1870s as one of the earliest amusement grounds in the country.
Geographically, Queens is the largest borough and the most ethnically diverse country in the United States. Historically a collection of small towns and villages founded by the Dutch, today the borough is predominantly residential and middle class. Queens is the site of Citi Field, the home of the New York Mets, and annually hosts the U.S. Open tennis tournament. Additionally, it is home to two of the three major airports serving the New York metropolitan area, La Guardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Located in the northernmost corner of New York City, the Bronx is the location of the Yankee Stadium, home of the New York Yankees, and home to the largest cooperatively owned housing complex in the United States, Co-op City. Except for a small section of Manhattan known as Marble Hill, the Bronx is the only section of the city that is part of the United States Mainland. It is home to the Bronx Zoo, the largest metropolitan zoo in the United States, which is home to over 6,000 animals.
Being the most suburban of the five boroughs, Staten Island is connected to Brooklyn by a bridge and to Manhattan by way of the free Staten Island Ferry. The Staten Island Ferry is one of the most popular tourist attractions as it provides unsurpassed views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and lower Manhattan. Located in central Staten Island, the 25km2 Greenbelt has some 35 miles of walking trails and one of the last undisturbed forests in the city. The FDR Boardwalk along South Beach is 2.5 miles long, the fourth largest in the world.
In general, New York has two types of buildings: all-rental buildings and buildings where apartments are privately owned (condo and co-ops). Condos/co-ops have better prices but fees are higher (broker fees and application fees) and the approval process is long (1-4 weeks). In addition, co-ops can deny your application last minute without explanation and many require an interview before you can be approved.
There are also income requirements; in most cases your gross income has to be at least 40 times the monthly rent. If the monthly rent is $3,000, you are required to earn $120,000 gross a year. For UN employees, income is always net (tax free), so it is important to make this clear to landlords. Check if you are eligible for the UN rental subsidy and mention it to the landlord, it is additional income. Again, a formal certificate of employment can aid in providing a summary of earnings.
A short-term furnished rental is a great way to land in New York, it allows you to have a place from day 1 and it buys you time to find where you want to live, look for schools and you gain sometime while your furniture arrives.
However, furnished short-term apartments in New York are scarce and very expensive (both the rent and the broker fees). Most buildings do not allow leases for less than a year. Many short-term rentals may be dark or high floors with no elevator, that’s why they are rented for a short-term.
There are two companies that do short-term rentals: http://www.furnishedquarters.com/ and http://www.furnisheddwellings.com/. Usually minimum stay is a month and there are no initial fees and hardly any deposit.
Rental places for one year or less can also be found in the lobby of the UN Secretariat as well as on the bulletin board on the 3rd floor of the DC1 Building.
Brokers & Fees
You don’t need a broker to find an apartment in New York. There are many rental buildings that have their own leasing office and you can just walk-in. But in most of these big rental buildings, if you come with a broker, the building will pay the broker fee. Broker fees in Manhattan can go from 0 to 15% of the yearly rent (1.8 times the monthly rent). If you are an eligible international UN staff, the UN might reimburse part of the broker fee.
It is always worthwhile to try and negotiate. Some apartments are offered for rent with the first month free of charge. Brokers’ fees may also be negotiable. Some fees are about 15% of the monthly rent but can be lowered to 12% or more.
Finally, there are apartments that are for rent without brokerage fees and that actually offer a gift amount of a month’s rent to their existing tenant for recommending new tenants. This is especially of value if you recommend your rental to other members of the UN family.
An aspect to be aware of is that your landlord will most likely run a credit check on you as part of the application process (especially for apartments). The American system uses your credit history as a validation system to confirm your ability to pay future liabilities. Unfortunately, most UN staff members have no credit history because they have no social security number or credit card, so many buildings will require an additional security deposit.
Ways to get around this dilemma could be to try to find foreign/diplomat friendly buildings, they exist. In many buildings you can move-in immediately. Also be aware that your respective agency of your spouse issues certificates of employment that confirm your spouse’s occupation and expected income. This might clarify doubts related to your missing credit history. Finally, providing references from colleagues and former landlords can also dispel any fears about your status and income.
Tip: In case that you already have a credit history, there are websites that provide you with your credit report. Websites that offer to send you your current credit check should always be free and not trick people into annual payments! There is only one official website to request your credit report: www.annualcreditreport.com
Check out these websites for listed rentals:
www.ccrny.com/ (hire an independent broker for a fee)
www.corcoran.com (with fee)
www.elliman.com (with fee)
http://newyork.craigslist.org (be aware of scams, never give out financial information before you have seen the apartment!)
A combination of searching on the web and actually visiting apartments with a broker seems to a recommended approach.