As with any institution in the New York Metropolitan area, finding affordable housing is an on-going challenge. At Columbia, University housing is offered to postdocs, however University-owned housing is very limited and is not guaranteed to postdocs. The University does provide some assistance in locating off-campus housing.
Only individuals holding titles of Postdoctoral Research Scientists/Scholars and Postdoctoral Research Fellows are eligible to apply for University housing.
Rent prices can vary widely in and around NYC. As a point of reference only, a typical monthly rent cost for a Columbia University postdoc living on or off-campus without roommates in a studio apartment might be between $1300 and $1900. Postdocs living with one or more roommates in a one bedroom apartment on or off-campus might typically pay as their share of monthly rent between $800 and $1700. It should be noted though that rent prices can easily exceed $2000 per month for many apartments depending on the apartment location, apartment size, and amenities.
After receiving a letter of appointment, we strongly encourage Medical Center appointees contact the Office of Housing Services to begin the process of housing allocation. Housing at the Medical Center is done through monthly lotteries. CUMC postdocs can remain in University postdoc housing for up to 5 years. However, in the event that the individual's employment status changes to part-time or to a non-postdoc eligible title, she/he will have required to vacate University housing within three months after her/his status changes. Please contact Noemi Bueno in the Office of Housing Services (firstname.lastname@example.org) for the housing application and additional information.
CUMC Postdocs may also be eligible for New York Presybeterian Hospital (NYP) Staff and Affiliate Housing. These housing units are located around NYP hospital and are managed independently from the CUMC Office of Housing Services. NYP housing assignments require the submission of a housing application form. Interested CUMC postdocs should contact Celine Rivera (email@example.com) in the NYP Real Estate Office at 212-305-2014. The NYP Real Estate Office is located at 600 W. 165th Street, 1st fl., New York, NY 10032. More information about their housing units can be found at www.nyphrealestate.com
CUMC Postdoctoral Residency Fellows
CUMC only provides housing to newly appointed Postdoctoral Residency Fellows who graduated from the University and resided in CUMC student housing immediately prior to their appointment. Individuals occupying single student designated housing are re-assigned to a campus studio apartment. Individuals occupying student couples housing will maintain their current apartment. This continuation is offered contingent upon the individual maintaining the Postdoctoral Residency Fellow appointment, maintaining all terms and conditions of the lease and remaining in good financial standing with the University. Individuals whose NYPH employment status changes to part-time or to a non-University eligible title will be required to leave University housing by the end of the month in which their status changes. This eligibility is only offered for a maximum of one year.
Postdoctoral Clinical Fellows are not eligible for University-owned housing.
The Office of University Apartment Housing coordinates housing near the main campus and it is done through departmental allotments. It is imperative that Morningside appointees contact their Department Administrators as soon as they receive their offer letter to begin a housing search. Assignments are based on the date of receipt of your housing application and availability.
A list of short term and temporary housing options has also been provided for you. Please contact your advisor and Department Administrator for your lab’s policies on short term housing.
The University’s Office of Off-Campus Housing Assistance (OCHA) helps postdocs in their search for rental housing in non-Columbia-owned buildings located in the metropolitan area. OCHA maintains an online database of available housing.
OCHA does NOT operate as a real estate or rental agencies and while they do not charge for their service, some of the listers may charge a referral fee. Services provided include contact information for landlords and lower- or no-fee brokers, temporary housing resources, lease review, and information and advice for the metropolitan area.
For off-campus housing, the CUMC Office of Housing Services provides contacts of landlords and realtors in the New York area. They also provide an email list of available housing.
Columbia University does not inspect any properties or endorse any landlord, management company, realtor, or individual who lists with the Off-Campus Housing Resource Center. The University does not guarantee the accuracy of the listings, the quality of the accommodation, or the suitability of the person offering such accommodations. The University will not be party to any agreement entered into between the parties and will not enforce such agreement. By accepting the services of any of the University's Off-Campus Housing Resources, you hereby release the University from any and all liability in connection with accommodations that may be referred to you.
Below are websites that current Postdocs at Columbia University have found useful to find off-campus housing:
The Office of Postdoctoral Affairs does not have an affiliation with any of these websites. Postdocs using these websites should do so with caution, as scams often occur on housing search webpages. Postdocs using these sites do so at their own risk with the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs assuming no liability.
http://www.trulia.com/guides/moving/ (Moving Guides)
http://www.trulia.com/blog/real-estate-101/renting/ (Rental Blog)
It may take one or two weeks to find an apartment once you arrive in New York. Unless you have family or friends who are willing to donate a bed to you while looking, you may need to stay in temporary living quarters. Rates range depending on the hotel and time of year. Since hotels and temporary housing options are in high demand, it is recommended that you book as far in advance as possible.
Institutional Guest Rooms
Columbia has secured preferred rates at a number of local hotels. When making a reservation, please specify that you are calling from Columbia University and request the university rate.
Local Hotel Listings:
Rates not available on the following dates:
On The Ave
Lucerne (ID: 119)
Travel Inn Hotel
Please note that most of the following have a maximum of seven nights stay. Room prices change seasonally, so please call them directly for the most up-to-date rate information.
Institutional Guest Rooms in the Columbia Neighborhood:
500 Riverside Drive (at West 122nd Street)
New York, NY
College – New Residence Hall
1230 Amsterdam Avenue (at West 120th Street)
Union Theological Seminary
– Landmark Guest Rooms
3041 Broadway (at West 121st Street)
When should I look for housing?
Because the real estate market in New York and the surrounding areas is still quite tight, it is advisable to start your search at least one month before you wish to move. You will need to research neighborhoods, transportation issues, apartment prices, amenities, and availability, so that when you go looking for an apartment, you will have narrowed your search and will be prepared to take an apartment. If you wait too long, or decide to wait until August, the chances are that you will have very few apartments to choose from and it will be at the high end of the rent spectrum.
More people move in the spring and summer, so the availability of apartments is higher at that time. But there are many more people looking to rent. New graduates and relocating families are just some folks you will meet in your search. You will also be vying for the same space as incoming housestaff, other postdocs, incoming students, and other CU and CUMC staff. When you find an apartment that meets your needs, you need to be prepared to take it at that time. If you want to see what else is out there, or want to think it over, the apartment will probably be gone. Bring your checkbook with you so that you can give a deposit to hold the apartment. It is also a good idea to bring other information that the landlord or broker would request, like a W-2 form or a letter from your employer showing that you have an income, a guarantor's notarized letter, and a couple of forms of ID. The landlord will do a credit check, for which you will be expected to pay a reasonable fee.
How do I get started?
There are many factors, which will determine where you start looking. You need to determine how big an apartment you need. Are you going to live by yourself, have one or a couple of roommates, and do you all need your own separate bedrooms? There are not that many studio apartments in Washington Heights and Inwood because this neighborhood was built for families. You can often find reasonable one or two bedroom apartments and some three-bedroom apartments. Should you wish to live farther downtown, then a studio apartment would be more readily available, but prices for apartments are approximately 1/3 more than in Washington Heights. A price list for apartments both in Washington Heights and Morningside, along with broker's fees is available at the Off-Campus Housing Center.
You must decide first and foremost what are the most important things for you to have in a living space and what you can give up. Price is not the only thing that should be taken into account, but it is the primary limiting factor. If you wish to spend only $1,000 a month for a one-bedroom apartment, you will automatically narrow your search to those areas that have apartments in that price range. Do you need trees and grass? Do you need space, light, height, easy transportation, a doorman, an elevator building?
Once you answer these questions, you can go onto other issues, which will affect where you look. Do you want to be able to walk to work? If not, how long of a commute are you willing to undertake? Do you need to have a car, and if so, where can you park it? In Washington Heights and Inwood, subway transportation is quite good. There is the Broadway/Fort Washington Ave "A" line, which goes from 168th street to 207th street. Since there are beautiful, big apartments in a safe, quiet neighborhood above the George Washington Bridge, you will not necessarily need a car. If you wish to live closer to school, there are apartment buildings along Haven Avenue, Fort Washington Avenue, and west of Broadway from 165th street and higher, which have a significant population of CU people and can be rented without the use of a broker.
Once you have narrowed your search, take a walk through the neighborhood(s) you have chosen. If you see a building that appeals to you, talk to the superintendent (super) to see if there are any vacant units that you can see, and find out how much is the rent. Talk to some of the residents to see if they like living in that building, and ask why. Look for any potential issues that might deter you from a particular building or neighborhood like lack of security, poor maintenance both for the buildings and the neighborhood as a whole, or lack of adequate transportation.
I've decided where I want to live. What's the next step?
The next step is to try to identify potential buildings and apartments that are available for rent. There are many ways to do this, ranging from newspapers, the Off-Campus Housing Center's bulletin board and e-mail list, word of mouth from friends and colleagues, the internet, and some real estate brokers.
Just as networking is important in finding a job, the same can be said for finding somewhere to live. You may find the perfect apartment just by letting everyone know what you are looking for. Many people have found success through local neighborhood newspapers, as well as the through larger, city-wide ones. In addition, the Off-Campus Housing Center may know of people giving up their apartments, or local landlords who have apartments, which you may rent directly without broker's fees.
If you should decide to let a real estate broker find you an apartment, there are a few caveats. A broker works for you, so you should expect him or her to take you to see housing based upon your specifications. If there are none, or if your expectations are unrealistic, then the broker should tell you that up front. You should not pay any fee, unless or until you and a landlord sign a lease. Typical fees range from the equivalent of one month's rent up to 17% of the yearly rent. Columbia University has a list of brokers who will often reduce their fees for CU affiliates. Brokers are useful if you want to get a feel for a neighborhood. You are not obligated to take any housing that you are shown, but if you should come back later and rent the apartment on your own, you may still be expected to pay a broker's fee.
Make sure that you see the actual apartment that is offered for rent. If a broker or landlord says that the unit cannot be seen, but another one that is "exactly the same" is available to be shown, find out when the original apartment can be shown and wait to see it. If there is any hint of a problem, move on to another building, or even another broker. You are not obligated to stay with one broker, or even with a broker within one firm. You need to feel comfortable with a broker and his/her real estate firm.
What should I look at when I view an apartment?
- Is there an elevator in the building? When was the last time it was inspected?
- If there is no elevator, are the stairs clean and well lit?
- Where are the laundry facilities? If they are not in the building, how close is the laundromat?
- Are the common areas like hallways and the lobby clean and in good repair?
- Is the apartment in good repair? If not, when are the repairs going to be made?
- Is there enough light and are the windows in good shape?
- Is the space big enough for my furniture, or will I have to get new furniture?
- What is the security setup in the building/apartment? Is there a doorman or an entry buzzer system? Are locks sturdy? Is there a fire escape and if so, are there grates on the windows?
- Are all major appliances (stove, refrigerator, etc.) in good working order?
- Are there enough outlets, and are there cable or computer hookups? If not can you put them in?
- Is it quiet or does the apartment face a busy, noisy street?
- Are all bathroom fixtures in good repair and working? Do faucets leak?
- Are there window treatments or are you expected to provide these?
- Are air conditioners in place, or are you expected to provide them if you want them? Who installs the air conditioners, and is there a charge for installation?
- Are utilities, other than heat and water, included? If not, about how much do they run in the winter and the summer?
- Are there child guards on the window?
- Are pets allowed? If so, is there an extra deposit charge?
- Are all smoke detectors in good working order? If they are battery operated, who changes the batteries?
- Is this an apartment I can comfortably live in for a while, or will I need a bigger space before my lease is up? If so, can I change to another apartment in the building without penalties?
How much money will I need in order to move?
You need to budget enough to pay for the security deposit, phone/utility charges or deposits, the first (and sometimes the last) month's rent. Also factor in moving expenses, installation expenses, fees (including broker's fees and application processing fees), plus any miscellaneous expenses. You may have to buy some new furniture as well. Make a list beforehand of all out-of-pocket expenses. Then, check with the broker or management office to see if there are any additional expenses. A landlord can require a guarantor if you do not have sufficient income, and can require this guarantor to be living in New York State. A landlord can also require more than one month's rent as a security deposit, but cannot require you to pay several months' or even a year's rent up front. This is illegal, and can result in the landlord being fined by the appropriate city or state agency.
What questions should I ask the landlord or management office?
Have all repairs and painting schedules put in writing. Ask how soon you can expect these to be done and if you need to wait until everything is done to move in. Remember, if it is not done beforehand, it is better to have it in writing so that there will be no misunderstanding later. If you have your own appliances and want to have the others removed, check to see if this is permitted. Who will remove them? Where will they be stored? Is there a charge for this? Remember, when you leave the apartment, you need to have the appliances put back or you can leave your working appliances there with your landlord's permission.
When is the rent due, and to whom? Will a bill be sent to me every month? If a bill is usually sent, and you do not receive it in a timely fashion, you are still responsible for paying your rent on time. Are there penalties for late payment of rent?
Is the apartment rent controlled, rent stabilized, or market rent? A rent controlled or rent stabilized apartment can only receive rent increases according to what is set by the Rent Stabilization Board, and are usually percentages. If an apartment is market rent (what other comparable apartments cost), as what have been typical rent increases, and how often these are levied? You cannot receive a rent increase during the term of your lease, but when your lease is renewed, you will usually receive an increase. If your apartment rent is higher than is being charged new tenants, then negotiate your next lease with the landlord. The landlord will often want to keep a good tenant and will be willing to lower the rent for the term of that lease.
If you need to move out before the end of your lease term, will this be acceptable to your landlord, and will he return your security deposit? If not, you may have to remain in the apartment, or pay rent until a new tenant can be found. What are the landlord's procedures for subletting the apartment? According to the current New York City law, a landlord cannot reasonably withhold permission to sublet the apartment. If you do not return, the landlord can raise the rent for the new tenant, who may very well be the person subletting the apartment. Remember, you cannot charge more than you are paying for the apartment, plus 10% if it is furnished, and you must get your landlord's permission in writing before you sublet.
You need to find out who does the repairs in the building and how do you request repairs. What is a reasonable time for the repairs to be made and what steps you can take if the repairs are not made. You need to be home to admit the repair person, or give permission for the super to enter the apartment to make the repairs. If repairs are not done in a timely fashion, in some instances, you can make the repairs and deduct the cost from your rent, with proper receipts. This measure should only be undertaken as a last resort, with proper notification to the landlord, in writing, return receipt requested. If you live in a rent controlled or rent stabilized building, then complaints can be made to the Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR), a state agency which has the right to lower your rent until the condition(s) have been corrected and certified.
What else should I know about renting and apartment or house?
You need to get renters insurance. If there is a problem, like a flood or a fire, the landlord is responsible for repairing the apartment, but not for replacing your belongings. Renter's insurance is quite reasonable, but check to see what is not covered, like jewelry or a computer. There are riders to cover these items.
Do not leave your apartment without locking all windows and doors. If you have a fire escape, then talk to the landlord or go to a hardware store and see about getting a fire department approved gate for that window. The gate has to be able to be opened from the inside in case of a fire.
If you have children under ten years old, it is a law the landlord must provide child guards for all windows except fire escape windows. You can also request them if you just want to have them. A landlord is allowed to charge $10 per window, but most do not charge. You may also find that they are already installed when you take the apartment. Check with the super to see if they can be removed.
Never leave your apartment in a condition that will attract bugs or rodents. Ask the management office when the exterminator comes and take advantage of this service.
What are the procedures for moving in/out of the building? Many buildings allow moves on certain days and/or between certain hours. If it is an elevator building and there is mover than one elevator, can you reserve an elevator for your move? How are apartment, mailbox, front door keys, etc. obtained, and do you have to change the lock? If you do decide to change the lock on the apartment, give a key to the management office in a sealed envelope for emergency only. If they do not have your key and must break into your apartment in case of emergency, you can be charged for any damage done to the door, or locksmith charges. You should not have to pay for keys. Key money, which is money given to a building employee to obtain an apartment, to obtain keys or for preferential treatment upon moving in, is illegal. If a building employee does something special for you, above and beyond his/her normal duties, then you can give a tip should you choose.
Ask for a list of convenient phone numbers and emergency contacts, gas, electric, phone, cable, super, and Management Company. If you have a problem, you need to find out who takes care of it. Let's say you have a neighbor who plays the stereo very loudly at 2AM. If a nice conversation with the neighbor does not resolve your difficulty, then you need to contact the super or the management office for a resolution. If there is no heat or hot water, or if it is not sufficient, you need to find out who takes care of these problems. In New YOrk City, the law is that heat must be provided from October 1st through May 31st, depending on the temperature outside.
How do I find a Roommate to share my apartment?
In addition to several commercial listing services, and internet services, you can list your information with the Off-Campus Housing Center. It will be e-mailed to those looking for housing.
Can I have more than one roommate?
Whether you can have a roommate or not depends on a number of factors. One may be what kind of lease you have, a rent stabilized lease, a sublease, or a lease for a non-stabilized apartment for example. Another factor is the size of the apartment. The best place to check this information is the DHCR, Division of Housing & Community Renewal, a state agency,with offices in lower Manhattan.
If you are allowed to have a roommate or even two, you landlord cannot object to this, but he/she does not have to add your roommates to the lease unless he/she chooses to do so. The only person who has to be added to a lease is the spouse or domestic partner. If you decide to move out, then the roommates will also have to move, unless their names have been added to the lease.
What can I charge my roommate?
In rent regulated apartments, rents must be shared proportionally from 1/2 to 1/3 or less, depending on the number of roommates. Utilities and any extras, like cable, etc., should be agreed upon, in writing, beforehand.
If an apartment is not regulated, then the roommate(s) pay whatever the lease holder wishes.
Do I have to allow the roommate into all parts of the apartment?
If there are any spaces you wish to have out-of-bounds, you should incorporate all of them into the written agreement. If you do not wish to let the person sharing the apartment to cook or use your kitchen implements, then say so up front. If you do not wish to have the roommate bring guests into the living room, this needs to be discussed beforehand. Some people feel that if they are paying their fair share of the rent, they should have full use of the common spaces, living room, kitchen, and bathroom.
If you are only renting out a bedroom and use of a bathroom, then structure your ads to reflect this. Make it clear that the other parts of the apartment, including all furniture, kitchen appliances, etc. are not included.
Do I have to furnish the roommate's bedroom or provide telephone and cable?
You do not have to provide any furniture or amenities if you do not wish. Again, structure your ads to reflect that the room comes unfurnished. The person renting the room has to supply his/her own telephone/cable/internet account, should they desire.
What should I know before I rent out part of my apartment?
Do not jump to rent your room to the first person who wants it. Even though you may need the extra money, this person's rent may bring, do all of your homework in order to assure yourself of the best possible match. A credit check, or at least a check of the person's references is wise. Have the person give you the name(s) of the last couple of places they lived and check with the management company or the tenant if the apartment was shared, as to the reliability of the person.
You should always have a written agreement in place before the person moves in. The written agreement should include:
- The length of the tenancy
- The rent to be paid, and in what form and when
- What is included in the rent
- What extras the person is expected to pay for
- What amenities the person is entitled to use
- Any restrictions on space access or guests
- Any other restrictions, like pets or smoking
- Security deposit amount and how/when it will be returned
You may also want to include a section on dispute resolution. If the person does not pay the rent, or the Con Ed bill, what steps will be taken to resolve the issues?
What happens if I don't like the person and want him/her out of the apartment?
A real estate attorney will be available to answer those questions and explain the legal process to remove an individual from an apartment.
Is it easy to find accommodations in Washington Heights/Inwood?
Depending on the type of housing that you are looking for, it is usually a fairly simple process. The Off-Campus Housing Center has a list of landlords who are known to welcome Columbia University personnel. These landlords have buildings near the Medical Center, as well as above the George Washington Bridge.
What types of accommodations are available?
The most common types of housing are one, two and three bedroom apartments. It is more difficult to find a studio apartment, as there were not too many built, so they don't come up on the market that often.
The vast majority of apartments are in pre-war buildings and are renovated. There are distinct advantages to an older building. Usually the apartments are larger, with high ceilings. The kitchens are often eat-in kitchens, so a dining room is not needed. Closet space is abundant and if the building faces the river, a tenant on that side of the building has a beautiful view of the Hudson River and the George Washington Bridge. Some buildings have elevators, grand lobbies, and laundry facilities.
Prices of these apartments are usually 40-50% less than the same type of apartment farther downtown, like Morningside or the Upper West Side. In addition, transportation is quite accessible to all parts of the city. There is an express subway available, the free CU shuttle, which runs between the Morningside Campus and the Medical Center Campus, the hospital shuttle which runs between the Medical Center and the Faculty Practice offices on the East side, as well as New York Presbyterian Hospital, and Metro North.
Many people like to live above the George Washington Bridge, in the section of Manhattan called Inwood. This is near beautiful Fort Tryon Park. Fort Tryon Park contains The Cloisters, which is part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as several fine restaurants. It is northern Manhattan's equivalent of Central Park.
Inwood has many grand buildings, a few of them rentals, but more will be co-ops and condos. Prices for apartments here are sometimes higher than in Washington Heights, and some people prefer living in this neighborhood and will buy an apartment, rather than renting.
What amenities does the community have?
Besides many beautiful parks, and tree-lined streets, there are many opportunities for shopping along 181st street. In addition, Washington Heights/Inwood has become a mecca for artists and actors, so many good restaurants with music have recently opened.
The Medical Center hosts a free shuttle bus to Fairway, one of the best supermarkets in New York. The shuttle picks up passengers near Bard Hall, 50 Haven Ave, several days a week, including Saturdays.
The George Washington Bridge Bus Station is on Fort Washington Avenue & 179th Street. There are buses to all parts of the country, and in addition, there are private mini vans that will take passengers to major malls in New Jersey, just a short ride away.
Need more information? Need help finding an apartment, a roommate, a share? Contact the CUMC Office of Housing Services Leasing Agent, Maryam Isa at 212-304-7267 at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com for off-campus assistance.