Off-Campus Housing

Attending college in New York City offers many educational and cultural opportunities for students. Living in the city and finding off-campus housing requires patience and determination, since apartment hunting can be competitive and expensive.


These are questions we often hear from students who are looking for apartments. Keep in mind that many FIT students have also been in your situation and that older students can be a great resource to you.

You should start looking for your apartment at least two to three months prior to your desired move date. It is helpful to get acquainted with New York City and research the internet prior to your search. 

Word of mouth can be a great way to find an apartment in New York City. Ask friends if they know of vacancies. 

Real estate brokers are the most common method for finding an apartment. Their rates usually average from one month's rent to 15% of your annual rent or more. If you use a broker, be sure the fee is payable after you found an apartment and you have signed the lease. Check with the Office of Residential Life for real estate brokers who offer negotiable fees to FIT students.

Classified ads are a good way to find an apartment. (Be aware that many classified ads are placed by real estate brokers.) Referral and roommate services are often also listed in newspapers. These agencies usually charge a fee of $75 or more to provide you with a list of apartments or roommate referrals. If you use one of these services, read and understand the contract before signing anything or paying the fee.

Many students do use Craigslist to find apartment shares and sublets. Craigslist is an extensive website which requires a large time commitment and sometimes scams take place there. If you are searching Craigslist:

  • Read the advisory on scams on the craigslist website.
  • Never send money.
  • Only give money once you have physically been to the apartment and are ready to sign the lease.
  • Trust your gut. 

When looking for an apartment, safety should be your highest priority. The best way to judge a neighborhood is to go there and determine if you feel safe. Also, talk to people who live in the neighborhood or visit the local police department.

Look at other boroughs outside of Manhattan. Manhattan is often more expensive as the outer boroughs or New Jersey. Rent can be substantially lower if you are willing to commute. Look at subway and bus maps to see what transportation options are available.

New York City is divided into five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx. Manhattan is divided into the east and west sides by Fifth Avenue.

FIT is located in Chelsea adjacent to midtown Manhattan. Other neighborhoods within walking distance of FIT are Greenwich Village, Gramercy Park, Murray Hill, and Clinton. If you don't mind the commute, living outside Manhattan can be pleasant and affordable.  

New York neighborhoods can vary block by block, so don't judge a neighborhood by its reputation. It is important to visit the neighborhood and use good judgment when deciding. A good way to learn about an unfamiliar area is by taking a walking tour of the neighborhood.  

The New York City subway and bus system operates in all five boroughs 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is an inexpensive way to get to and from your classes. PATH trains to New Jersey and New Jersey Transit also operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

Living alone means higher rent. Roommates or co-renters are a good way to reduce your housing costs.

Apartment sharing means sharing the rent with someone who has already signed a lease and is responsible for the apartment. Entering a share requires cooperation among roommates. Interview potential roommates and use a reputable referral service. Discuss how your apartment will be run, how you will divide expenses, household chores, guests, etc. Do not rush into a living arrangement that you may regret.

Subletting is temporarily living in someone else's apartment. This is common in New York City, but you should be cautious if you agree to sublet an apartment. During a sublet, the original tenant assumes financial responsibility and reserves the right to reoccupy the apartment at any time. Verify that the apartment you are subletting is legal and obtain a legal sublease from the landlord.

Residences are similar to dormitories. A residence is a good alternative for students attending a single semester at FIT or for students who want to get settled quickly and live in a ready-made environment. They are also a convenient place to live while searching for a permanent apartment. Residences offer options to rent a furnished room on a weekly, monthly, or long-term basis. Some residences include YMCA, educational housing, and hostels. Residences can fill up quickly, so make arrangements well in advance.

Most landlords require prospective tenants to have an annual income of about 50 times the monthly rent. So if your rent is $500, your income should be approximately $25,000. For many students, their annual income may be less than 50 times the monthly rent. In this case, most landlords will require a guarantor (a person responsible for all financial aspects of the lease).

In addition to the rent, there are usually also one-time expenses such as a security deposit, first month's rent, and often a realtor's fee.

It is a good idea to create a monthly budget so you can estimate how much you can afford. 

A lease is a written contract (a legal document) which defines the terms in which a particular apartment is rented.

Once you have found an apartment, you must go through an approval process and a credit check which involves completing an application, documenting financial resources, and providing references. There is often a small, non-refundable fee for processing an application and credit check. You will also have to provide a photo ID, and the name, number, and a letter from your current landlord (if you have one). If you are a student, you may ask the Office of Residential Life (212-217-5885) for this letter.

If you lease an apartment, you will be responsible for all costs and damages. You should review any lease carefully since it is a binding and legal document. Students should seek the advice of parents or guardians prior to signing a lease. Only individuals over the age of 18 can sign a lease.

A lease should contain the following information:

  • Name and address of the landlord and tenant
    Amount of rent and date rent is due
    Number of tenants living in the apartment
    The term of the lease (when it begins and ends)
    Who pays the utility bills
    Who is responsible for repairs and what structural changes can the tenant make to the apartment.

Dos and Don'ts of signing a lease:

  • Don't rely on an oral agreement.
  • Don't sign a lease until you understand everything in it (including legal terminology).
  • Do fill in all the appropriate information on the lease.
  • Do remember you are legally responsible for the terms of the lease.
  • Do make sure you receive a signed copy of the lease.
  • Do make sure all the provisions are legal.

New York City Rent Guidelines Board
(212) 385-2934
[email protected]
This agency establishes rent adjustments for all rent-stabilized apartments in New York City. Their web site provides comprehensive, up-to-date tenant and landlord information and rights.

Citizens Housing and Planning Board
(212) 286-9211
This nonprofit organization publishes "What every Landlord and Tenant Should Know," a comprehensive handbook outlining the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords.

Metropolitan Council on Housing
(212) 979-6238
This office provides information and assistance on rent stabilization, housing regulations, and problems you may have with a landlord or real estate broker.

Free legal services:
Legal Service Referral (212) 431-7200
Legal Aid Society (718) 722-3100