There’s no doubt that COVID-19 shook the world. New York was one of the hardest hit, leaving residents concerned about their health and job security. Many New Yorkers who lost their jobs are also experiencing housing anxiety. How can you rent an apartment if the pandemic left you unemployed? First, it’s critical to know that you’re not alone. New York City’s unemployment rate reached 20.4% in June 2020. That’s twice the number during the peak of the great recession in 2009. The rental market responds with rent concessions and drastically lower rents, making life in the city more affordable. However, during an unemployment crisis, it doesn’t make renting a new apartment any easier. But it is possible when armed with some essential knowledge. Here’s how to rent an apartment without a job.

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How to Get an Apartment Without a Job? Secure a Guarantor

Pre-pandemic, a landlord would ask for a guarantor if someone couldn’t prove income or had terrible credit, says Becki Danchik of Warburg Realty. It still holds in the current market.

“It might not be the most convenient or comfortable way for someone to rent an apartment, but it’s one of the most effective,” she said. And there are two ways to go about finding one. 

1. Use a Personal, Tri-State Guarantor

“The guarantor would be someone whose income is a bare minimum of 80 times the monthly rent,” said real estate agent Bill Kowalczuk. “For example, if an unemployed person is looking at a rent of $3,000 per month, the guarantor would need to make a minimum of $240,000 a year and have excellent credit and low debt. When it comes to how to rent an apartment without a job, if you know someone who meets those requirements and lives in the tri-state area, ask them if they’d be willing to act as your guarantor.

2. Use a Third-Party Guarantor

If you don’t have someone local who meets the guarantor requirements, companies like Insurent will act as one. “To use a guarantor company, usually you have to pay a fee of about two months rent,” said Kowalczuk. “Companies like these typically guarantee rent payments. But, there’s a catch. You need stellar credit.”

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How to Get an Apartment Without a Job? Get a Credit Letter 

If you saved substantially for a rainy day and can’t meet the apartment’s income requirements, you could set up a credit letter with a bank. In a nutshell, it guarantees that a tenant’s rent payments will be received on time and for the correct amount. In this example, it pays to have savings regarding how to get an apartment without a job.

“If the tenant is unable to make a payment on the rent, the bank will be required to cover the full or remaining amount of the rent,” said Kowalczuk. “The tenant supplies the bank with the full year’s rent, which is held by the bank, similar to a typical security deposit. The tenant would still be required to pay the monthly rent. The money held by the bank is used if the tenant is unable to pay the rent for any particular month. At the end of the lease, the leftover funds are returned to the tenant.”

According to agent Jeremy Kamm of Warburg Realty, another similar option is to secure a personal loan. “You could use a personal loan to cover the costs of living while unemployed and using those funds as proof of funds for a landlord,” he noted. “That being said, it may be challenging to secure a personal loan right now, and the interest fees might be very high.”

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Don’t Forget Unemployment Benefits

Just because you lost your job doesn’t mean you have no source of income. Unemployment benefits max out at $504 a week in NYC, and it’s more than $600 in New Jersey, meaning you could have around $2,000 or more before taxes to spend. And as of July 2020, a law was signed that provides additional unemployment insurance. You can refer to the U.S. Department of Labor for the latest regarding Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation.

UPDATE: As of September 5, 2021, several federal unemployment benefit programs across the states will expire. Please check with your local unemployment office for more information.

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How to Get an Apartment Without a Job? Find a Roommate

If you’re having trouble securing an apartment on your own, consider finding a roommate. Apply for an apartment with a friend (or two) who perhaps are in a better financial situation than you. That way, your combined income could meet the landlord’s requirements. 

If you don’t have potential roommates lined up to share the cost, plenty of online services like Share a Room or Roomi have listings of people looking for roommates. Another option is to find someone subletting a vacant room in an already leased apartment on these sites or Craigslist. 

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Consider Renting in a Co-Op

Although it’s not a tried and true method, some experts believe co-ops might be more lenient about renter restrictions given the market and economic climate. “I could see how some of the smaller buildings might be willing to take a chance on the tenant since the responsibility is on the shareholder,” said broker Becki Danchik.  

Apply For Cash Assistance or Rental Relief Programs

Not surprisingly, government agencies are recognizing that COVID-19 created an unprecedented crisis. Even the safety nets in place for residents weren’t enough. In response, additional programs were formed recently to help New Yorkers. These programs could help unemployed residents looking to rent an apartment. 

1. Cash Assistance Program

The Human Resources Administration is providing emergency cash grants to help you pay for rent and other necessities. Certain documents will be needed to apply.

2. COVID Rent Relief Program

The state set up the COVID Rent Relief Program to help households facing an increase in rent burden due to a loss of income during the pandemic. However, it ended. As of June 1, 2021, a new federally-funded rental assistance program opened. If you’re seeking help, please reach out to New York State’s Emergency Assistance Program (ERAP). It is important to note that the rental assistance grant from ERAP does not have to be repaid.

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