I

t’s not easy to find a rental pad in the city that never sleeps.

Anyone who moves to the Big Apple dreaming of living a life based on various US sitcoms — think of Monica’s generous open-plan living room with outdoor balcony in Friends or Carrie’s famous brownstone in Sex and the City for example — will need a Mr Big-size budget to match.

This May, median monthly rents in Manhattan — the most expensive of New York’s five boroughs — reached $4,000 (£3,300) for the first time according to real estate agents Douglas Elliman, a 25 per cent increase since May 2021. At all price points, the market is hot. Knight Frank data released in June 2022 shows that New York leads their Prime Global Rental Price Index, with rents rising 38.5 per cent in the year to Q1 2022, easily outpacing London into second place.

While agents admit that much of this represents a return to pre-Covid levels, across all price points, stock levels remain low. According the latest NYC Housing and Vacancy Survey, New Yorkers’ median household income would need to double to keep pace with rents yet the availability of low-cost units, those under $1,500 (£1,240) is at one per cent, a 30-year low. The survey also states that half of the city’s renter households spend more than 30 per cent of their income on rent and one-third spend over half.

Renting in London vs. New York City

Evelina Durlind, 25, from London studying at Columbia University, tells her NYC rental story.

Renting here can be frustrating for many people,” she says. “I’ve heard horror stories of property managers hiking rent, ignoring damages and even denying that a fire took place before evicting all tenants in the building. However, I believe the biggest frustration is the huge price tag for a shoebox in Manhattan.

“When I moved here I wanted to be in the Upper West Side or near Morningside Heights because they are close to my university and I believe it was luck and good timing that I successfully found an apartment there. I opted to use Facebook groups of Columbia students living in New York. I spoke with my current roommate on the phone from London and signed the contract before viewing the apartment.”

Evelina is subletting to be able to afford to live near her university

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“I found it easier finding a place in New York compared with London as subletting is common here and people move around often. In London I tried for several months to find an apartment in Clapham and Brixton area with three friends. We found an apartment eventually in Maida Vale which turned out to be great for us although it was not what we had initially planned.”

“I’ve lived in this furnished apartment for six months and have been lucky enough to extend my lease for 12 months at the same rent. The quality is great, it was recently renovated and we have a superintendent who lives on the ground floor and helps us to fix things quickly. I pay, as a sublet, $1,250 (£1,030) plus bills and share a bathroom, kitchen and living space with one other person. My bedroom, the smaller of the two, is 13.5 feet by 9.5 and the living area is 17 feet by 10.5. That’s large compared with other apartments in the area but small compared to my London flat. Per month I pay around £300 more in New York than I did in London.”

“I am subletting as it is the only way for me to be able to afford to live in this neighbourhood. My roommate is the main tenant and has signed the tenancy agreement for us both and her family are the guarantors as they are US citizens. In London we did not sublet and we directly signed a contract with the homeowner, skipping an agency.”

“I love living in New York and all the madness that comes with it. The process was quick and easy and I have a great roommate. One good thing about subletting is that you are able to sign for shorter lease periods. As there is a big market for subletting, many of my friends sublet their rooms to new tenants even for short periods, over the summer holidays for example. Sort of an unofficial Airbnb business.”

Short-term rentals

In general in New York City, rentals of less than 30 days are only legal if they are hosted.

That means that the property owner must be in residence throughout any stay. Otherwise, it is illegal to rent an entire property for short-term stays. Penalties of up to $2,500 (£2,060) a day can be handed out for illegal short-term rentals and up to $7,500 (£6,190) for anyone who persistently lists their property for rental.

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