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6 (Totally Realistic) Ways to Live Rent-Free in NYC

by | Jun 12, 2015

(Photo credit: Les Finances)

I have never heard anyone say, “apartments in New York City are so affordable!” It just doesn’t happen. The average price of an apartment in the city is around $4,995/mo, and that number is on a steady incline.

No matter how much you maximize your space, a tiny apartment is still a tiny apartment. For those of you who feel like you have been priced out of the city you love so much, here are some alternatives to paying rent:

1. Charge Your Roommates More

We would never EVER condone this behavior, but if you’re the kind of person that would overcharge your roommates so you don’t have to pay rent, this is for you.

Throw an ad on craigslist looking for roommates for your 4 bedroom Lower East Side apartment. Tell the potentials that the rent is $1,733 each for the 3 remaining rooms ($5,200 total, which is the total cost of the apartment), and then enjoy your rent free life.

2. Live in an RV

People live in RVs in New York City. That, my friend, is fact. Abide by parking restrictions, and you too could have a house on wheels. Dreams do come true! If you attempt this, please let us know how you accessed fresh water and electricity because I just don’t get it.

3. Find a “Zombie” Home


A zombie home is a home that is going to go into foreclosure but hasn’t yet. During this interim period, homeowners are still financially responsible for the property and property taxes, so in some cases, they will find “tenants” to live in the home with the stipulation that they have to pay those fees. How to find zombie homes? Look for someone who looks like they are about to lose everything and ask how you can help.

4. Care for a Historic Home


Caretakers are required to keep a permanent presence in the property and safeguard it from fire, frost, and vandalism. You might also have to give the occasional tour. Interested applicants should contact the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.

5. Work in Lieu of Rent

Search classified ads for housing arrangement that allow you to live in a room rent-free in exchange for services such as housekeeping, childcare, gardening or pet sitting. Your duties may be flexible and varied, so make sure you know exactly what is expected of you when making an agreement for free boarding. Some property management companies may also offer rent-free accommodations in the property or complex they are hired to manage.

6. Move Into a Homeless ShelterShelter

NYC has this 33 year old decree that says that New York will provide food and shelter to anyone who says they need it. According to this NY Post profile from 2013, people staying at the shelters receive breakfast, lunch, dinner, and get their laundry done for free.

“Some people in here have it better than people working 9 to 5, because they’re not paying rent. I’ve stayed in hostels worse. I call this four stars,” said William Sullivan

Political views aside, this is a pretty sweet deal. The last time someone did my laundry for me, I paid them $42 and hauled it 2 blocks and an avenue back to my apartment. -sigh-

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