Retiring to New York? What are the best buildings to rent in?

Question: My husband and I are considering retiring to New York. If we are committed to renting, how risky is it to rent an apartment in a condo or co-op building rather than an all-rental building? Also, I’ve read that rentals ask for annual income of 40 times the monthly rent to qualify. How is that evaluated if one is retired?  We have income from dividends and interest, certainly, but also substantial investments, which get sold off as necessary to support our spending needs. Is it sufficient for a financial adviser to write a letter stipulating this?

— Ready to Retire in the Big Apple

Dear Ready:

You won’t have any problems on the income front. Any smart landlord should welcome a mature couple with a high FICO score and plenty of money in the bank.

Rental applications rarely take into account people like you. They are, for the most part, geared to younger, early-career people who have few, if any, assets. But if you can properly document your net worth (with bank or brokerage statements and the like), most any landlord is going to accept you. A letter from your adviser certainly wouldn’t hurt.

If you are working with a broker,  they should be able to ease the way for you. If no broker is involved, simply present your documentation and explain your circumstances to the building’s rental agent. Ditto if you are looking at a smaller landlord’s properties.

Which brings me to the first part of your question. I’m assuming that you mean renting a condo or co-op from an individual, not a company.  That could be a problem for you. First, most co-op buildings that allow subletting also limit the duration of the sublet — often to just two years. So you could be out on the street just about the time you get the last moving box unpacked.

Condo buildings are easier in that regard, but then you have the issue of the owner coming back someday and saying he wants to move in. Again, you could be back out on the street.

If you are concerned about being forced out of a rental, focus your search on large, corporate-owned rental buildings. They are well staffed, and you are unlikely to ever be evicted if you are a good tenant.

A couple of random notes:

Some landlords may balk at renting to an older couple. The law is on your side. State law prohibits housing discrimination based on age. If you believe you have been denied an apartment due to age discrimination, go here to lodge a complaint.

Look for a rent-stabilized apartment, where older tenants enjoy a special level of protection. If you are over 62, you can’t be forced out unless the landlord provides you with a comparable apartment nearby at the same or less rent.

David Crook is a veteran journalist and author of The Complete Wall Street Journal Real-Estate Investing and Homeowner’s Guidebooks. Do you have a question about anything real estate-related in NYC? Write him at For verification purposes, please include your name and a phone number; neither will be published. Note: Nothing in this column should be considered professional legal advice. If you have a legal issue, consult an attorney.

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