How to Get a Rental Without Meeting the Income Requirement

income requirementNot everyone is blessed with a salaried job that pays $80,000 a year. Yet in places like New York, Chicago, or Boston, for example, many landlords require that potential tenants earn somewhere between 40-50 times their monthly rent in annual salary. That means that if you earned $80,0000 per year (a hefty sum for someone just out of college), you couldn’t expect to rent any place that costs more than $2,000 a month.

On the face of it, that doesn’t seem like a huge problem – except that even if you’re splitting a 3-bedroom with two others for $2400 (your share is only $800), many landlords still require that one of you make in excess of 40 times the total rent. Yes, that’s right, even though each of your shares is far lower, one of you has to have a salary that’s 40 x $2,400 … or, in other words, $96,000! What!?

While this doesn’t seem to make sense, many landlords want the guarantee that the primary leaseholder is good for the total amount, no matter how much that might be. Begging “pretty please” won’t help – but here are some things that will.

Ask First. No sense in wasting your time falling in love with a place, when you know you can’t have it. This means that if you’re going through a broker, explain that you don’t meet strict income requirements. Likely the broker will be able to show you places that are a bit more lenient. Similarly, if you’re reaching out to a management companies on your own, ask them about their income requirements. Explain that you’re credit-worthy and reliable. If they stonewall you, or don’t seem flexible, then don’t bother looking at places with them.

Get a Guarantor. A guarantor is someone (usually a parent) who is willing to back your lease. Provided you pay your rent on time, the guarantor will not lose any money in the transaction. That said, if something were to go wrong, the guarantor would be on the hook for all money owed – which is a big responsibility. Additionally, the guarantor always has to have good credit and usually must earn 80-100 times the monthly rent (or have significant demonstrable assets). Using a guarantor is probably the most common way to get around the income requirement.

Look for Listings at Smaller Places. While it’s not always the case, smaller operations, such as a family renting out a portion of a brownstone, or a management company that only runs two buildings, are often more flexible and willing to deal with potential renters one-on-one. You may end up cutting a deal that you both find agreeable.

Look for Already-Occupied Shares. Yes, the primary leaseholder may need to meet the requirement. But if you’re moving into a place mid-lease, and taking over someone else’s spot, you’ll likely make a deal directly with the remaining residents in the apartment. They’ll want to make sure you’re good for your share, but they’ll likely be far less stringent than a typical landlord. And once you’re in, you’re in – you’ll usually be able to stay there with the group if they end up renewing the lease.

Network, Network, Network. Sometimes it’s who you know – and you don’t know who you know until you ask. Tell everyone what you’re looking for and you may find that a friend’s uncle is landlord, for example. If you have an in, you’re far more likely to get a place in spite of not quite meeting income requirements.

Alex landlord incomePay Up Front. Some people do have significant savings … they just don’t have a fabulous job right now. Often companies will make exceptions if you can prove you have a ton of extra money lying around (think 80-100 times the monthly rent)… or if you offer to pay extra on your security deposit, or even prepay your entire annual rent. This is also a good solution if you have poor credit, or no credit … provided you have the cash.

Purchase Lease Guarantee Insurance. Basically, it works like this: you pay a company to serve as your guarantor. They’re acting as an insurance policy for your landlord, and you’re paying the premium. If you go through the company Insurent, for example, after passing a credit check you’re pre-approved for any place where your salary is 27.5 times the monthly rent, which is a significantly lower amount that what’s required by landlords. The downside is the cost: it’s a one-time fee that runs approximately 80-90% of the first month’s rent.

As should go without saying, good credit gives you many more opportunities – you’ll likely find a workable solution without too much difficulty. If you have bad credit, see our article on credit scores and what your options may be – it’s still doable, but harder. Either way, keep your head up. Persistence and patience are the name of the apartment-hunting game!

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Author My First Apartment

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Alex has rented in Minneapolis, Queens, Brooklyn, and now Chicago. He can kill rodents and roaches when required, and loves picture-hanging projects. If you're ever in town, give him a shout.

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Comments (31)

  1. Avatar Michael Hawkins

    I lived off Social Security income almost 3K a month . most places wants 3 times the income. how can I find a place to live in Florida? I’m renting a town house Oregon right now. I want to moved to Florida soon.

    • MFA Editors MFA Editors

      Hi Michael,
      You need to pick an area in Florida where you can find reasonably priced rentals. Avoid Miami, Tampa and other big cities and you should have no problem finding a place you can afford. Good luck!

  2. Avatar Ashley Thomas

    Hi! A friend is new to the USA and rented his first place at 3k a month, but had a letter from work stating annual income is only 70k a year. He had received 2 paychecks but clearly he should not have qualified! Used real estate agents took 3x rent as a deposit. There is no lease break option and the landlord bought it 1xweek before they moved in. Now the neighbors are having major construction and the hoa should have disclosed it before the sale closes. How can he get out of the lease asap? Landlord also said that he is keeping all his money

    • MFA Editors MFA Editors

      Hi Ashley,
      We feel sorry for your friend, but he may be stuck for the duration of the lease. The key here is that he was “new to the USA”. First he got taken advantage of by the agent, who gets paid as % of the rent, so he pushed for higher rent places. Then the landlord took an extra large deposit, because your friend probably lacked US credit scoreand references . This should be a lesson for anyone in this situation. When you are new to the country, make sure you talk to some locals before signing a lease. If you are transferred in by your employer, talk to their relocation or human resources people.
      While legally your friend is probably stuck, maybe he can negotiate with the landlord to move into a less expensive unit, if the landlord has others available. Hope it all works out. Let us know if he finds a solution. Good luck!

  3. Avatar Barbara Mccarthy

    Hello, My application for an apt was rejected today because I did not meet the income requirement. The building is run by the management broker. They did not inform me of the income requirement before I submitted my application fee of $100 dollars. Is it legal to withhold this information? I know it is not ethical. I would not have applied if I knew the income requirement. Do I have a leg to stand on to get my fee back?

    • MFA Editors MFA Editors

      Hi Barbara,
      This is the reason why you need to ask questions before you hand over any money. Landlords often want you to earn annually 40 times the monthly rent. The broker or landlord’s agent should have asked you about your income, but it is also your responsibility to do some research. The application fee typically also covers a credit check, so even if you pass the income threshold, you may still be rejected because of poor credit score. Try to ask nicely for your fee back, but if you don’t get it, consider this a lesson learned for future. Good luck!

  4. Avatar Mia

    I’m a mom of 2 children i have a job & I receive cash aid I’m looking for an apartment ( this will be my first apartment ) I have no credit & I don’t know if any apartments are going to accept me please help give me tips..

    • MFA Editors MFA Editors

      Hi Mia,
      If you have not yet asked, you need to contact your local social services office and find out if you are eligible for any housing vouchers or aid. If you get a voucher, landlords should not be able to discriminate against you. Good Luck!

  5. Avatar Precious

    I currently live in my aunts apartment with my bf. We pay the rent and bills on time, everytime. She wants to move back in so we have to leave. I was unemployed for a while and therefore have bad credit because of financial aid (Currently paying it off. But Its gonna take 9 months just to get it off my credit and then I’ll have to build my credit score.) My bf has no credit. We have no savings. We live paycheck to paycheck. We live in NYC. We cant afford anything. I’m so overwhelmed. Just needed to vent a bit. Any advice?

  6. Avatar danna dulos

    im trying to look for a cheaper apartment to move in at el paso Texas but there income expectations are really high. they said I have to make at lease $2100 a month but im only making $1400. there rents monthly are about $700-$800 its not like I cant afford it…………….does anybody knows a cheaper place I need 2bedrooms.

  7. Avatar Carla Hareington

    I’m on disability and I have looked everywhere In Florida for income based apartment and all of them say I don’t make enough money to live there. I get 723 a month I have never been late on rent and always paid my bills. Am I suppose to live in a tent. They said my income has to be between $1100 to $2200 a month .thats crazy. I can’t work and if i go to work i lose my disability. No wonder there are so many homeless people in Florida. The government needs to give us enough to live in or make the government aparments lower there standards.

    • Avatar Luann Combs

      Hello Carla, I too am on SSDI. They do allow you to earn up to $1,000.00 per month without any penalty. Consider getting a part-time job if you are able to do anything outside of home. Unfortunately, I think the roommate situation applies in your situation. Be creative and resourceful to try to bring in a little extra income. I have found that flipping furniture is something I can do when I feel up to it, and easy to get started at. Good luck, and I hope you get well soon.

  8. Avatar Victoria

    I’m in the process of looking for another rental. The house I have rented for 3 1/2 years was unexpectantly put on the market and sold in one day. The real estate market is on fire here in Washington state. I am a senior on a fixed income, took out credit cards to help a family member which dinged my credit score even though for 30 years and pre-divorce it had been stellar. The waiting lists for subsidized housing is very long. Many of the renting complexes have taken advantage of the boom in the housing market and made it difficult for someone to get a small, 1 bedroom or studio for less than $1000 ( I live in a town and not in a suburb of Seattle). On top of that, excellent credit is required, huge deposits, and making 2 1/2 times the rent. I can afford something, just not this market. There are too many people caught in the cracks now. People should not be homeless because of this. The only thing that should absolutely require this kind of scrutiny is a criminal or eviction history.

  9. Avatar Keith Horsey

    If you have to pass a credit check to get a lease guarantee even if you meet the income requirements then what is the point of having one exactly? Would you need a lease guarantee if you had the credit to move in? Stupid platform.

    • Avatar Carol Pilkington (@becauseumatter)

      It’s not just about the credit. It’s about covering the monthly income requirements in order to qualify. Like many on this site I am on SSDI and while I do work P/T I still come up short of having 2 1/2 to 3 times the income of the rent. I have good credit and I can pay the rent.

  10. Avatar Patty

    I cent bereave it i have money to pay my rent I just dont make 3 time the rent so now I become homeless I been trying and trying I just dont care any more i just dont understand in 53 years old and in homeless

    • MFA Editors MFA Editors

      Hi Patty,
      Have you contacted your local social service agencies. Maybe they can help you. Good luck!

  11. Avatar Social Critic

    There is another factor at play in the high cost of rent. Rental properties began to make their way into investment portfolios back in ~2009 much like mortgages (Mortgage Backed Securities). Record high costs to rent in the nation’s major cities is also driven by the need to grow returns on “Rental Backed Securities”. Voters need to petition Congress to intervene in the practice of driving up housing costs, be it to rent or own, for the sake of Wall Street investors. Renting has always been an alternative for those who could not afford to own. That will no longer be the case going forward and the Rental Backed Security, though largely unknown as one of the culprits, will undoubtedly play a supporting role in driving up the cost of living nationwide.

    • Avatar Victoria

      You are so correct. The affordable housing crisis is getting worse. Even though seniors and disabled people get subsidizes, the need vastly outweighs the resources. I see landlords in terrible parts of a town, still requiring perfection in credit, income, and financial resources. It will level off at some point, like it always does, but it is a huge stressor for too many people.

  12. Avatar jasminka major

    Plus iam trying to rent an apt. but it seems nobody wants to rent u one cause iam on ssd, living in Louisville,ky. Can anybody give me an advise. I really would love that rent- to- own, so I can call it home. Iam paying more rent here and I can’t call it home.Somebody help me please any advice is greatly appreciated.

  13. Avatar jasminka major

    Why do those ppl who have those ads on here for the rent to own advertise falsely. It says this on they ads. Bad Credits OK. No Down payment. Why Do They Ask For 1$ For A Search. I just don’t get it. Why would I give them my credit card info. I don’t know those ppl.

  14. Avatar april

    hey im april a single mom looking for a 2bedroom or 1bedroom apartment or duplex under $350 month



  16. Avatar Tashawna Smith

    Hey i am a single mother of One child who is looking to move n an apartment soon. I recently. Lost my current job but i have a spouce that get social security every month. Right now i am looking for another job and also have my own talent in doing Hair for a living which brings a little more money .
    I just want to know if its possible to meet someone who can help us .

  17. Avatar charmaine

    Im a senior who lost my husband and his pension. My monthly income is guarenteed $1700 q/mo. It does’nt look promising. Is there anything I can do? I will be looking to sell my home.

    • MFA Editors MFA Editors

      Hi Charmaine,
      Your situation is really out of our area of expertise. Did you sign off your survivor benefits under your husband’s pension? If not, you might find out if there is a way to recover them.

      The only money saver idea we may suggest is that perhaps you’d consider getting a roommate to share expenses. Maybe that will help you to keep your home.
      Happy New Year. Hope you’ll find the right solution to your dilemma. MFA Editors

    • Avatar Mrs. Nailah Washington

      Ms. Charmaine, My name is Nailah. My family is homeless because our $1400 SSI income is too to low according to everyone we’ve talked to. We have no evictions, damged property or police issues. Would you be willin/ to suppliment your income by renting to us? We do all out own maintenance and landscaping (skills I.picked up thanks to slum lords). I have never had the pleasure of welfare or any kind of housing. In 2009 I started a janitorial business that died when I became pregnant with twin sons in 2011. My husband is an out of work minister.
      Again we are homeless thus I am very serious about the proposition presenting you with.

    • Avatar jasminka major

      Would any landlord be willing to rent me a 3 bdr,1.5 b,in Louisville,my.iam on ssd never late on my rent,been here almost 7 yrs in this apt. Iam not on sec.8 . my email access is available on this site upon request.