Apartment Hunting as an Artist or Performer
Renting an apartment as a performing artist, musician or gig based worker can be really difficult anywhere.
You might say, we suffer from a type of de facto discrimination. And while it is illegal to refuse to rent property based on someone's source of income, the fact is that many artists have their fair share of hurdles to overcome when it comes to signing a lease.
Some key issues include the difficulty of proving gig-based (even cash to pocket) income, post pandemic credit issues and debt exacerbated by student loans and periods of living off of credit cards or paying credit card bills late during dry spells.
So how do we get around this? Here is some advice from my perspective as a musician turned real estate agent. (Note that this advice is offered on a personal, not professional level. In addition, I cannot give financial or legal advice.)
First, having a "normal" day gig while apartment hunting for proof of income never hurts. Ideally speaking you need to prove that your household makes 40x rent, but even with a third party guarantor you might be able to get it down to as little as 27x. The key point is that landlords usually care less about what you have in the bank, and more about what's coming in.
Second, as an artist, read this book: It has a lot of useful information. I actually picked it up at the Julliard Bookstore:
How To Be an Artist Without Losing Your Mind, Your Shirt, or Your Creative Compass: A Practical Guide
Joanneh Nagler, The Countryman Press (2016) (link)
Third, it doesn't hurt to apartment hunt with an empathetic agent, especially one who is going to try get you in the hands of the right people and show you the right places. Examples include smaller more flexible landlords as well as guarantor companies such as "The Guarantors" and Insurent.
In the end, the sad truth is that there's a two way street between actors and artists who've just given up on the security and protections of "on market" apartment hunting and agents who may not be so eager to return the calls of tough case artists I mean, think about it from the agent's perspective: You're trying to help that client put in an application and the client gives you a blank stare when it comes to filling out the employment information and says...
Employed... sure! That last audition was really promising I'm waiting for that callback any day now!
*Gotcha, and hope you make a million, kiddo...
But the truth is, options are available. This is particularly true if you have a peripheral skill or license that allows you some flexibility when setting your hours. Not surprisingly, it is not common to find aspiring artists and musicians working gigs in almost every job imaginable in NYC, real estate and teaching included. There are even recruiters who specifically target performers, for example, by advertising side gigs in Playbill.
So, all I can say is network, strategize and don't give up hope. Also be sure to ask each and every one of your colleagues what they do during dry spells and if they can hook you up. You'll be surprised.
Understanding the 40x+ Times Rent Rule