OCHA Housing Resources

New York City's rental market is different from most other cities. The information and suggestions in this section will help you become acquainted with the rental process and what you can do before you arrive to make your search for an apartment as easy as possible.

Your Needs

Assess your needs by speaking with an OCHA counselor or answering the following questions:

  • Rent: How much can you afford to pay each month?
  • Location: Where would you prefer to live? (Options will vary according to budget)
  • Size of Apartment: Do you want a place just for yourself or will you be living with family/roommates?
  • Pets: If you have a pet, your apartment choices will be limited.
  • Move-in date: We recommend that you start your search approximately three weeks in advance.

You may need the following documentation before you start your search so that you're ready to apply for an apartment. Please note that if you are a student or have insufficient income to meet the financial requirements for renting, this documentation will need to be provided by a guarantor rather than you. Most landlords want to see that your annual income is at least 40 times the monthly rent or that your guarantor's income is at least 80 times the monthly rent.

  • Letter of employment and salary verification
  • Pay stubs
  • Tax returns
  • Bank statements
  • Name, address, phone number of previous landlords
  • Photo identification (driver's license, passport)
  • Names, addresses and phone numbers of personal and business references
  • MONEY - Prepare the necessary funds for renting an apartment in New York. Landlords will generally not accept personal checks and often require certified funds. Bring enough traveler's checks to convert into certified checks to cover the cost of two months' rent (first month's rent and security deposit) and any brokerage fees (up to 15% of one year's rent) which are due at lease signing. You will also need funds to cover an application/credit check fees ($65-100).
The Search

Now you're ready to search for an apartment. Once you've found an apartment you like, you will be asked to fill out a rental application, submit documentation and pay application/credit check fees. 

Upon approval, you will be asked to sign a lease with the landlord and pay your first month's rent and security deposit and any other applicable fees. You can then make arrangements for a move-in date with your landlord or building superintendent.

  • Do not rent an apartment or room without seeing it in person.
  • Do not rely on the opinion of others or photographs to give you a complete view of the living space and its location.
  • Meet all your roommates before moving into a shared living space.
  • Never wire money to secure an apartment. 

OCHA has developed a cooperative relationship with two NYC real estate/relocation agencies, Corcoran and Douglas Elliman, to provide free counseling and reduced brokerage fees for Columbia affiliates. You will not incur any fees by participating in this free counseling service and are under no obligation to use these firms as your real estate agent.

To request counseling, contact one of OCHA's cooperating real estate/relocation agencies or, if you prefer, you may contact OCHA for counseling.


The Corcoran Group, a leading residential real estate brokerage company based in New York City, operates 52 offices with 3,270 licensed real estate agents serving buyers, sellers and renters across Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Hamptons, the North Fork of Long Island and Shelter Island, N.Y., as well as offices in Florida.

Contact: Susan Rader, Corporate Relocation Coordinator
212-508-7168 direct, srader@corcoran.com

Douglas Elliman

Douglas Elliman is the second largest independent real estate company in the USA and is ranked the largest rental and residential brokerage in New York City.  They have more than 7,000 agents and provide coverage in all boroughs of New York City as well as the Tri-State.

Contact: Christine Haney, EVP Global Relocation and Referral Services
212-303-5250 direct, 646-709-2947 mobile, chaney@elliman.com


401 West 119th Street
New York, NY 10027
212-854-2773, ocha@columbia.edu

Search the NYC Rental Network for thousands of rooms and apartments on any of these online real estate databases for sales and rentals, free of charge.These databases will tend to have a more expansive rental inventory of listings in the outer boroughs. Rooms for rent listings can be found on Naked Apartments, Trulia, and Hotpads. Search by neighborhood, no-fee, and pet-friendly. See how apartments are ranked, set up email notifications, read helpful articles, and get market reports.

The following sites have detailed lists of "no fee" rental buildings, management companies, condos, hotels and hostels, arranged by neighborhood. Neighborhood and borough information is also outlined, and renters can save money on broker fees by being connected directly to management companies.

These free websites allow you to search for (or post) a short-term rental, take over someone else's lease, and receive helpful email notifications when new apartments are available. Listers advertise apartments, live/work spaces, rooms for rent, houses for rent and sale, sublets, co-living, lease-takeovers and swaps. On Listings Project, each lister is screened, and no spaces with fees attached may post listings. Updates are emailed every Wednesday at no cost.

Broker fees range from 12-18%, typically 15% of the annual rent. Many brokers who list in the OCHA Housing Registry discount their fees to 12% of the annual rent or less. Outside of Manhattan, the fee may be even less, typically equal to one month's rent. If you are looking outside of Manhattan, we recommend using a local broker in your geographic area of interest.

    Insurent Lease Guaranty: Search the building list by address to see which landlords accept Insurent.

    The Guarantors Agency: For US residents, the guarantee typically costs around 4.75-7.5% of the annual rent. For non-US residents, the cost is typically around 7-10% of the annual rent.

      • Housing NYC: New York City Rent Guidelines Board provides information on the housing market including resources for finding apartments, market data, landlord/tenant issues, rights and advice; email question and answer forum; guidelines for rent stabilized apartments.
      • Tenant Net: Information on tenant issues and legal information. Links to tenant organizations and government agencies.
      • Tenants' Rights Guide: Published by the New York State Attorney General.
      • Housing Court Answers: Information about what happens in Housing Court, a Glossary of Legal Terms, and a Legal Help Guide. Also includes information about Roommate Issues and Tenant Rights.
      • NYSHCR: New York State Homes and Community Renewal. New York State's housing agency. Click on "Rent Administration" for information on rent regulated apartments.
      • NYCHPD: New York City Housing Preservation & Development: New York City's housing agency. Information on affordable housing, landlord/tenant issues and housing complaints.
      • Just Fix NYC: A free service that helps New Yorkers get repairs in their homes through easy-to-use tools. They will work with you to document your issues, know your rights, and take action.

      The Columbia Office of Work/Life provides Information about available services, including: a moving guide, rental guide, visitor housing options, and a list of movers and storage facilities.

      Find short-term and temporary housing options, including hotels, guest rooms & more: Work/Life Temporary Housing & Hotels