There’s one thing that strikes fear into the hearts of even the most established New Yorkers, and it’s not transit delays or even rent increases (which can be negotiated). No, what terrifies New Yorkers everywhere from the Upper East Side to Staten Island is how to find roommates in NYC.

It’s a dizzying task. Choose correctly and you could find yourself reliving a “Friends” fantasy. But pick wrong, and you may end up saddled with someone who raids your secret snack stash without asking (the horrors!), can’t make rent, or even more nail-biting nightmare scenarios. Even one too many Dad jokes or an, err, cacophonous dating life may make your apartment practically uninhabitable. We don’t want that to happen to you, either. So we put together a cheat-sheet for you on how to find roommates in NYC. Now more than ever, it’s crucial to know ways to find a roommate you can live with — contentedly. Read on for expert tips.

Table of Contents

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    How to Find Roommates in NYC

    Like that elusive cheap pizza place that’s actually delicious, a good roommate is hard to find. Most New Yorkers tend to start with who they know — betting that a vetted roommate is better than a rando from the internet. Let your friends and any colleagues know you’re hunting for a bunkmate, and be clear about your non-negotiables (i.e. no pets, no drum kits, etc). One thing to keep in mind: It’s essential to make sure your roommate can afford to pay the rent for the lease terms. A landlord will usually ask for a letter of employment and recent pay stubs. It’s not a bad idea for you to ask for these as well.

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    Don’t know a soul in New York? Don’t fret. Plenty of New Yorkers moved here without knowing anybody apart from Lady Liberty, so you’re not alone. If you’re starting fresh in your search for how to find roommates in NYC, we’ve got advice for you, too. Try reaching out to your college alumni network to see if any fellow grads are looking. Some real estate brokers and rental companies will also help with roommate matching. And the New York Foundation for Senior Citizens even offers a home-sharing program, which helps link “hosts” with space to spare with “guests” who rent a room — a great option if you value multi-generational friendships.

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    Where Else to Look

    Craigslist has its perks, but when you’re wondering how to find roommates in NYC, you might want to steer clear — it’s so bottomless, it can make the process even more overwhelming. Fortunately, there are plenty of online services that can help with your quest and even do some of the vetting for you. Roomi facilitates background checks and has in-app messaging, so you can keep your contact info private while you search; SpareRoom employs staffers seven days a week to weed out scams; Rainbow Roommates is tailored to the LGBTQ+ community. If you’re a fan of Facebook, you might find it helpful beyond seeing your cousin’s latest political rants. Facebook Groups such as NYC Rooms for Rent can often help folks looking for roommates or even short-term living options while you try to figure out your dream NYC neighborhood. Another suggestion is the Listing Project — an organization rooted in community-building and self-care.

    However, no matter which service you use, Rany Burstein, CEO and co-founder of the NYC-based roommate-finder app Diggz, offers important advice on finding a roommate. “You want to make sure you and your roommate are a good fit in terms of lifestyle and preferences,” he says. Which brings us to our next point…

    How to Screen Potential Roommates

    Just like a job interview, you’ll want to come prepared. Asking the right questions (and truly listening to answers) can weed out duds quickly. Be honest with your needs and personality quirks, too. Are you a night owl who doesn’t want to be nagged every time you make a kerfuffle at 2 a.m? Or a neat freak who needs a kitchen to constantly look like Martha Stewart’s been scouring the tile grout for hours? Be sure to keep that in mind when you’re figuring out how to find roommates in NYC.

    It’s wise to chat on the phone before meeting in person in a public place for safety. When you talk, be sure to bring up things that are important to you. Some of the most illuminating topics you’ll want to consider asking about include whether they work from home; how they’ll pay for rent and other bills; whether they smoke; how often they host events or have people over; what their preferred bedtime is; their cleanliness habits; and whether they have a significant other, kids or pets… to name a few. And similar to a landlord’s process, it’s worth getting their references — and then actually calling to suss them out a little further.

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    Few of us enjoy dealing with legalese. But setting up a co-living arrangement can have many legal implications that you need to consider carefully before signing a lease, says David Reischer, an attorney with the NYC law firm of Reischer & Reischer. That includes adding a roommate to an existing lease.

    “In New York, there is the Roommate Law which allows for tenants to add replacement roommates,” says Jamie Heiberger Harrison, Esq., founder and president Heiberger & Associates. “So if four are named on a lease and two move out, they can bring in two new roommates.”

    No matter what, keep your landlord in the loop. “Review the lease carefully and make sure you understand the expectations of the landlord,” Reischer says. “Specifically, look to see whether the lease agreement states that you agree to cover the cost of the entire apartment’s rent, based on the assumption that none of your roommates will default. This is a significant financial and legal gamble.”

    If you’re the one joining an existing lease, check if there are any unpaid rents by your soon-to-be roommate that you might be liable for later. Before you sign on the dotted line, ask your landlord or management company for an account statement so you can check for any outstanding balance.

    Adding a roommate to a rent-stabilized lease requires extra care, says Andrea Shapiro, Director of Program and Advocacy for the Met Council on Housing. “If you add a roommate to a lease, it may be considered a new lease,” she says. “For rent-stabilized tenants, this might add new clauses to the lease or affect preferential rent.”

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    Can You Make a Profit From a Roommate?

    We all know that living your best life in New York City isn’t cheap, so whether you can profit from a roommate is something many people ask when they’re figuring out how to find roommates in NYC. The answer? Not exactly. But interestingly, if your name is on the lease, you do have some advantages.

    For example, say your monthly rent is $2,000. You can’t charge a roommate more than that, says Bill Kowalczuk, an associate broker at Warburg Realty. “The idea is that you’re not making more than what the landlord is charging each month,” Kowalczuk says. “In dollar terms, this means you can’t charge a roommate $2,200 and pocket $200 per month.” But you can save yourself money by charging, say, $1,500. However, charging a roommate a disproportionate share of the total rent is not exactly ethical and could disrupt the vibes in your place if your roommate found out.

    No surprise: rent stabilization has stricter guidelines. “In a rent-stabilized apartment, if you have two people living in the apartment, you cannot charge more than half of the rent,” says Shapiro. “And if there are three people in the apartment, you cannot charge more than one-third.”

    After Finding a Roommate, Should You Sign a Roommate Agreement?

    In short: YES, all caps.

    “More often than not, you’re inviting a stranger into your apartment,” says Kowalczuk. “So it’s critical that you co-sign an agreement. You can find a document online, or even better, hire an attorney to draw one up.”

    Shapiro agrees that they’re a good idea when you’re working on how to find roommates in NYC. “Written roommate agreements are considered a contract and are legally binding,” she says. “If you write one out yourself, include everything you agree to, and write it in plain language so that everyone understands.”

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    How Many Roommates Are Too Many?

    Your one bedroom apartment might feel like your own personal palace—until you add a roommate (or three). That’s one reason New York City has very strict rules on the number of roommates you can squeeze into one place. How many people you live with can depend on whose name is on the lease, whether the roommates are family members, and how big your apartment is, among other things.

    Based on NYC’s “roommate law,” each tenant under a lease can have an additional occupant as long as there is at least 80 square feet of livable space (not including hallways, bathrooms, etc.) for each person.

    “This means that after finding a roommate, that person can add another roommate, as long as the apartment is big enough,” Burstein says.

    Finally, when you’re figuring out how to find roommates in NYC and get to the point of meeting potential co-habitators, don’t be nervous. Remember: all of your best friends were once total strangers. And hey, even if they don’t end up being your next bestie, they could very well be something even better: a decent roommate who treats you well and cuts your rent bill in half.