As a recession-hits Ireland forces young people to immigrate to other countries, including the U.S., many are unaware of the high costs of setting up home in a new place, according to landlords and recent arrivals to New York.
Vincent Tarrant, business owner and landlord, spoke to the Irish Voice of the realities associated with moving to New York and how many young Irish don’t come without enough money to get started.
Tarrant, who rents out three apartments in Yonkers, looks for one month’s rent and one month’s deposit before he allows anyone to sign a lease.
“All of my apartments are over $1,000 a month, so when someone wants to rent from me I require, as do most landlords, at least $2,000, depending on which apartment they take, upfront,” explains Tarrant.
This, however, said the landlord, is getting harder and harder to come by, especially with new immigrants.
“I’d much prefer to rent to immigrants who have been here a few years because they’ve a life built for themselves and can afford the required upfront payment and bills,” he said.
However, Tarrant gets many calls from recently arrived immigrants, including many couples, who can only come up with one month of rent.
“They are not coming to New York with enough money in their pockets and end up either sleeping on strangers’ couches or spending the little bit of money they have on hotels or bed and breakfasts,” said Tarrant, a Co. Cork immigrant from the 1980s.
Donal O’Donovan, an immigrant from Co. Carlow, came to New York in January and said that although he “just about had enough money” to rent a one-bedroom apartment with his girlfriend, whom he has since split from, he was surprised that apartments in New York aren’t furnished.
Said O’Donovan, 28, “Me and the ex came with enough of money for a deposit and rent because we did some research into the cost of it before we came, but we didn’t know that the place would be empty when we rented.”
Tarrant explains, “It’s different in Ireland. Most homes that are for rent in Ireland are fully furnished, but here it’s not the landlord’s responsibility to furnish a place.”
Most new tenants are required to purchase all furniture, apart from appliances, in New York.
Not having enough money to furnish an entire one-bedroom apartment, O’Donovan said he bought a blow-up bed from a liquidation store. He found a discarded couch at the side of the road on garbage day, and after a few weeks got enough money together to purchase a television.
“To be honest, it’s only now that I’ve gotten a decent job (O’Donovan is a plumber) and a few bob together that I’ve been able to add bits and pieces to the place. I’ve just bought a small kitchen table and two chairs so I’m not doing too bad,” he said.
Vanessa Flood, 24, has only been in New York a month, and warns new immigrants of the dangers of renting from people that advertise on the Internet.
Flood, from Co. Longford, came to New York to pursue a career in acting and was determined to be organized before she boarded a plane.
“I did a lot of research on accommodations and set up appointments for when I arrived,” said Flood.
“I found a lot of fake landlords online and when I met them I knew they were scam artists.”
Through Internet advertising site Craigslist, Flood found a landlord advertising himself as a “no fee” landlord. He didn’t require a deposit and only wanted $125 a week with basic furnishings in Manhattan.
However, when Flood, accompanied by her future roommate, also from Co. Longford, met the “landlord” in person she immediately knew he was a scam artist. After asking him a few questions, which he didn’t answer, she turned on her heels and pursued her next appointment.
“The second guy was even worse. He wanted a copy of our passports and $200 upfront to give us a list of apartments that were for rent, something we could get ourselves on Craigslist. We were really not having any luck,” said Flood.
A little research on the above mentioned “landlords” led Flood to discover that both of the men had various encounters with the police, scammed people out of money and were not real landlords.
After a few more emails and time on the Internet, Flood and her friend came across Woodlawn, an area populated with Irish immigrants in the Bronx.
While staying in the city they ventured up to Woodlawn and were directed to the Aisling Irish Community Center on McLean Avenue in Yonkers where they immediately found a one-bedroom apartment that was affordable and clean.
“We had enough money for the month’s deposit and rent so that wasn’t an issue,” she added.
As for purchasing furniture, Flood said, like O’Donovan, her friend bought an inflatable bed, and she bunked in the bed that was already in the apartment.
“We were lucky because the apartment was partially furnished which was a great help, and thanks to the ladies at the Aisling Center we got a lot of bits and pieces that we would have needed donated to us so all in all it worked out,” she said.
Tarrant said it’s important to have enough extra cash, after the rent is paid, for sustenance until a job is found.
“It may be a few weeks before a new immigrant gets a paying job so it’s also important to have a bit of change in their back pockets to buy food, etc., the first few weeks until the wages start to come in,” he added.
Flood suggests immigrants planning to come to New York for the long-term should get in contact with the Irish centers in the area they would like to live before they leave Ireland.
“It can be very daunting trying to sort yourself out in a new place if you don’t have any contacts, so my advice is to do the contacting before arriving in New York and they will inform you how much money you will need for an apartment, furniture, bills, etc.,” said Flood.
And to those immigrants who are starting off and don’t even have a spring mattress to sleep on because they can’t yet afford it, O’Donovan said, “Don’t get disheartened. It takes a few weeks to get established but you’ll be surprised how great people are here so keep the chin up, don’t turn your nose up at any job that comes your way, and if you’re a go-getter then everything will fall into place sooner rather than later.”