OCHA Frequently Asked Questions

Off-Campus Housing Marketplace

The Off-Campus Housing Marketplace allows affiliates to search available rooms and apartments in non-Columbia-owned buildings as well as sublets of units in Columbia-managed housing. Prospective roommates can also post and search profiles on this site. A brief 30 second video on how to use the Marketplace as an affiliate can be found here.

Landlords can sign-up to list on the Columbia University Off-Campus Housing Marketplace by completing the form at the bottom of this page, and a brief 30 second video of how to use the Marketplace's Landlord Portal can be found here.

Renting in NYC

Renting an apartment without seeing it or meeting your roommate or the landlord is risky. We strongly suggest that you are here in person to see the room or apartment before renting it. Understandably, this may not be possible. We recommend securing a place to stay in NYC for three to five days while you are searching for a longer-term place to stay. Learn how to protect yourself and how to avoid rental scams.

    Columbia students and affiliates have exclusive access to search the Off-Campus Housing Marketplace, which is a valuable resource. The marketplace includes a database of available rooms and apartments in non-Columbia-owned buildings in NYC. You can find additional searching resources on the OCHA website.

    Plan on arriving in NYC between two to three weeks before you want to move in. Set up appointments to view some places the day before you get here. It should take between three to five days to secure an apartment.

      Short-term apartments are difficult to find, as most apartments have a one-year lease and can be very pricey. You may need to consider renting a room in an apartment share for a short-term place to stay.

      You may search for a “room in apartment,” also known as an apartment share, which does not require financials or a guarantor. You will be renting a private bedroom and sharing the common space. You can locate an apartment share on the Off-Campus Housing Marketplace site by:

      • Searching the Subleases tab, under More Filters, select Room for Rent.
      • Searching the Listings tab, under More Filters, select “per bed” (not per unit) and select Room.

        The option of pre-paying the year’s rent upfront is no longer permitted in New York State, as of June 2019. Without a U.S. guarantor, you may need to use a guarantor company like Insurent or The Guarantors, which charge a fee of roughly one month rent or less.

          A retired person or couple can be a guarantor if their combined sources of income (social security, pension, rental income, or stock dividends, etc.) are at least eighty times the monthly rent.

            Your first recourse, when having a problem with your broker, is to get in touch with that person’s supervising broker or the lead broker in their office. You can usually find contact info on their website under “Our Agents”. If you are unable to get results, then you can consider filing a complaint with the Division of Licensing Services N.Y. State Department of State. 

              Most landlords will not accept credit cards to rent an apartment. For the first payment when signing the lease, they prefer some form of guaranteed funds, like a cashier’s check, certified check, or bank check. After that, subsequent rent payments can be paid by personal check or through bill-pay services.

                The boundaries of Morningside Heights are from 110th on the southern boundary to 125th Street on the northern boundary, and with Morningside Drive on the eastern boundary to Riverside Drive on the western boundary.

                  The only train that stops directly at Columbia is the 1 train, which stops at 116th Street and Broadway. Other subways within a ten minute walk include the A, B, C, and D trains, which stop at 125th Street.t up service.

                    There is no standard length of stay when you rent a room (or apartment share). It can be short-term or long-term, depending on whom you rent the room from and what you agree upon together. It’s not the same as renting an entire apartment, which is usually unfurnished with a standard one-year lease.

                      If you can’t find a place in Morningside Heights, the next best thing would be to start looking at neighborhoods situated along the 1 train line, since this is the only train the goes directly to Columbia (stop at 116 Street.). Just south of Columbia is Manhattan Valley and the Upper West Side, and just north and east of Columbia is Harlem, all of which are within walking distance or about two to three subway stops on the 1 train. North of Harlem is Washington Heights, Inwood, and Riverdale, all of which are situated along the 1 train and are within a thirty to forty minute commute, door-to-door.  

                        Yes, do the following:

                        • Confirm the room is being offered by the primary tenant or owner of the apartment. Ask to see paperwork to verify their identity (i.e.:  a lease or ownership papers, a photo ID).
                        • Make a written roommate agreement between you which should include the exact address, move-in/move-out dates, rent and security deposit, utilities that are included with rent, policies with visitors and overnight guests, sharing of cleaning for common space, kitchen privileges, return of deposit, etc.

                        If you plan on keeping a pet in your apartment, your housing options will be limited. Many Manhattan landlords do not allow dogs, and if they do, you may be limited to only one. There also may be restrictions on the weight (no more than 20 pounds) and the breed and temperament of the dog.

                          The rates below are approximations. The rent market fluctuates with the seasons and the neighborhood.

                          • Renting a Private Bedroom (Apartment Share): $900 - $1,700
                          • Studio - 1 Bedroom: $1,700-$2,600
                          • 2 Bedroom: $2800 and up

                            To qualify on your own, most landlords require that you and/or your roommate’s combined annual incomes are about 40 times the monthly rent. For example, if the monthly rent were $3,000 per month, you would need to show income of at least $120,000 per year. You will need to provide financials to prove your income, including: a tax return from last year, recent pay stub. If you don’t qualify, then you will be asked to provide a guarantor, who must live in the U.S. as their primary residence, have good credit, and must earn roughly double what you have to earn to qualify on your own or 80 times the monthly rent. 

                            Another alternative is to use a guarantor company for a fee. The most popular guarantor companies include: Insurent, The Guarantors, and Rhino.

                              If you do not meet this requirement, you may be able to qualify to rent if you can provide:

                              • Income from other sources, such as a roommate’s. Landlords may accept roommates' combined incomes to determine financial qualification for an apartment. 
                              • A guarantor (must be an individual not a company) who earns roughly 80 times the monthly rent and lives in the U.S. (preferably in the tri-state area).
                              • A guarantor company like Insurent, The Guarantors, or Rhino,, which will charge you a fee.

                              A guarantor is usually a parent, relative or friend who accepts financial liability in the event you and/or your roommate fail to make any payments under the lease. Landlords require that guarantors earn about 80 times the monthly rent as their annual income. This means that for a $3,000 apartment, a guarantor must show income of at least $240,000. Most landlords require that the guarantor live in the tri-state area (New York, New Jersey or Connecticut) and will ask for the same documentation listed below.*

                                There are two options:

                                • You can use a guarantor company like Insurent or The Guarantors, which charges a fee of up to one month rent.
                                • You may search for a “room in apartment,” also known as a sublease or an apartment share, which does not require financials or a guarantor. You will be renting a private bedroom and sharing the common space. You can locate an apartment share on the Off-Campus Housing Marketplace site by:
                                  • Searching the Subleases tab, under More Filters, select Room for Rent.
                                  • Searching the Listings tab, under More Filters, select “per bed” (not per unit) and select Room.

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

                                * You may need the following documentation:

                                • Letter of employment and salary verification
                                • Pay stubs
                                • Tax returns
                                • Bank statements
                                • Name, address, phone number of previous landlords
                                • Names, addresses and phone numbers of personal and business references
                                • Photo identification (driver's license, passport)

                                Typically, you will be asked for the following:

                                • Two certified checks (first month’s rent and one month security deposit)
                                • Pay any brokerage fees (up to 15% of one year's rent) which are due at lease signing.
                                • Make arrangements for a move-in date with your landlord or building superintendent.
                                • Contact utility companies to set up service.