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"Friends" Rent Control

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Michael: I even watched all ten seasons of the show Friends. Boy, those friends really were friends, weren't they? Although, [...] how did they afford that apartment? A waitress and a chef, with those Manhattan real estate prices?
Eleanor: Yeah, we were all confused about that, too.

Your cast of good-looking single hangarounds live in a fancy apartment in the middle of the town. None of them seems to work, or if they do, they're usually actors, columnists, or whatever leaves them with a lot of leisure time to have drama in their clean, well-furnished apartments. How can they afford it? They have Friends Rent Control, named after Friends, where the cast handwaved their situation by saying they had rent control.

Rent control means that a landlord can only raise a tenant's rent by a certain percentage each year, making it possible for long-term residents to continue paying low rents while the neighborhood around them gentrifies. Illegal subletting may be involved if the renter has only lived there a short time.note 

The most obvious cause of the trope is that larger sets are easier to film in. Even if the home is supposed to look relatively run-down or poor, it's a nightmare to block out scenes where characters are practically on top of each other and get in each other's way when they move around. Larger sets also let you break up the action into multiple locations, allowing for concurrent scenes and conversations within the same area. Similarly there is a certain amount of Wish-Fulfillment involved, however much the characters may struggle they can still go home to a place anyone would love to live in. And their complaining of trivial things can be contrasted with their realistic luxury.

However, not all large homes are necessarily examples of the trope. There are numerous mitigating factors that may justify why the characters can afford such a large home:

  • Geographic location. The United States on average has the largest homes in the world at every income level, which would make a modest dwelling look like a palace to someone in Japan. Even within the US, the size and cost of a home can vary wildly from one location to the next. A two-bedroom apartment in Cleveland could cost half as much as a studio in Manhattan. And if you live in outer suburbia or the countryside, the cost of housing drops even further.
  • Financial stability of the characters. A Boring, but Practical steady day-job tends to be far more lucrative than a wish-fulfillment career of a painter, writer, performer, etc. Roommates can also change everything. A three-bedroom apartment with 3+ roommates can result in a much nicer place than a two-bedroom apartment maintained by just one person. Similarly, things such as inheritance or insurance payouts can explain a brief windfall that they are still benefitting from even as they have a One-Hour Work Week.
  • The quality of the place. Busted appliances, structural damage, improper zoning, and being on the Wrong Side of the Tracks also drive the price down. Sometimes there might be a throwaway line about the place having a bad history (Indian Burial Ground, site of a murder, etc).
  • Legacy property. The characters may have gotten a good deal due to it previously belonging to their parents or was left by a wealthy grandparent. Other such connections can further justify their living conditions. As mentioned, Rent Control itself is a way of skirting around high prices.
  • Time period. The community may have significantly been gentrified since the work was filmed. In areas like Southern California and New York, property values have risen far faster than the average salary, so what was once a realistically middle-class home in the 1980s might be far too expensive for the same characters today.
  • The layout and good cinematography make some homes look larger than they are. Many people who visit such sets comment on how they're a lot smaller than they look on screen.

See also Living in a Furniture Store, Standardized Sitcom Housing, Pottery Barn Poor, and Pretty Freeloaders. The folks living in such an apartment may or may not have an Improbable Food Budget. Usually not an issue for Big Fancy House-dwellers, as they tend to be fantastically wealthy to start with. Related to Informed Poverty, where characters who are supposed to be suffering financially seem to live very well. Contrast Horrible Housing, where a character with little money lives somewhere crappy.


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  • In Absolutely Rose Street, the main characters are supposed to be a couple of 20-somethings barely keeping afloat yet they live in a spacious southern California house.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Ah! My Goddess played with this in the case of Keiichi, who lives with all three goddesses in a ridiculously large mansion that no college student could realistically afford. In reality, however, it's a rundown and abandoned Buddhist temple that was refurbished by Belldandy's magic. One chapter shortly after Megumi enters the series centers around her trying to find a decent place for a reasonable price close to campus, which they are only able to do because the apartment is being offered for cheap due to being literally haunted - once Belldandy pacifies the resident spirit, it becomes a nice place offered for way under market value.
  • In Detective School Q, it's not clear if Kyu's mom actually has a job, but she can afford a house in Tokyo.
  • Digimon Tamers is notable for avoiding this trope most of the time, but Jenrya/Henry's house is a little harder to justify; he has a bunch of siblings and his parents’ jobs (never explicitly explained, though Word of God states they are a computer programmer and a graphic designer, respectively) don’t seem like they would be able to afford the enormous apartment he lives in.
  • The Sakamoto household in Family Complex lives in a luxurious two-story residence (a rarity in Japan) despite having four children, all of whom attend prestigious schools, and only one breadwinner who works as "a simple construction worker". Lampshaded in the Sequel Series, Princess Princess, where Tohru and Yuujirou ask Akira if his family is wealthy when they visit his house.
  • High School D×D:
    • The Hyoudou residence starts out reasonable, being a two-story family home with both parents implied to work. It then starts to push it when Asia and then Rias move in, revealing it has at least two spare bedrooms. After the rest of Issei's Battle Harem moves in and Rias has the house renovated into a six-story, three-basement estate, the only explanation for Issei's parents not having to pay outrageous property tax (not to mention violating zoning laws) is Rias' magic.
    • Averted with the club members who don't live with Issei, however. Kiba and Gaspar are mentioned to live in an apartment complex nearby on Rias' dime, and she could easily afford that.
  • Played with in Love Hina, where none of the girls appear to be employed and, aside from Naru and Shinobu, none of whom have any source of family income. And somehow they all make rent, something that is referenced once or twice throughout the series.
  • The three sisters in Minami-ke are all students, with the oldest being in High School, and they live by themselves in a fairly big four-room apartment, despite having no apparent income. It's implied once that their father isn't around, either living elsewhere or dead, and the mother isn't referred to at all.
  • Played with in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid in that rent isn't the issue (as a senior programmer, Kobayashi makes more than enough to afford a 3-bedroom apartment). No, the real problem is her utilities bill, since Kanna and Ilulu both regularly consume massive amounts of electricity to recharge their mana (it's eventually revealed that Tohru uses her naturally produced mana to supplement them).
  • Monster Musume: Kimihito lives in a spacious house (stated to be his parents, who are out of the country) with three monstergirls, two of whom are significantly larger than humans. It's never stated what occupations he or his parents have, but they don't seem to be particularly prestigious or well-paying ones. Eventually the house gets expanded to being a virtual mansion, but by that point, it's justified due to the government providing him with compensation for his expenses and most of the girls also paying a portion (Maii and Centorea both get part-time jobs, Mero's mother pays her a stipend, Rachnera sells her silk to research labs).
  • Possibly averted in My Lovely Ghost Kana, because the apartment building where Daikichi lives is described as "nearly abandoned" and he may actually be squatting. Neither is it entirely clear what he actually does for a living.
  • Both averted and justified in Noir, where Mireille Bouquet's Parisian apartment is one large room with a divider between the living room/office (where a pool table doubles as a desk) and the bedroom with a galley kitchen and small bathroom. Yet Mireille comes from an extremely wealthy Corsican family and is the sole survivor besides her Uncle Claude, who lives in a mansion and himself dies during the course of the series, presumably leaving his assets to her, so if anything she's likely living below her means. And that's just going off what she's inherited, since she also works as what's implied to be a high-priced assassin and takes a number of lucrative jobs over the course of the series, so she doesn't ever appear to be worried about money.
  • In Pokémon: The Series, one has to wonder how Delia Ketchum affords her house, considering that she doesn't seem to work (except in Takeshi Shudō's novelization, where it's explained that she runs Pallet Town's only restaurant, Pallet House, which she inherited from her mother) and she has no husband. Mr. Mime, doing all the household chores. Granted, perhaps the Pokémon regions have different economic policies.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica seems to enjoy toying with this. It helps that the characters who live alone don't require things like food or heat to survive. Mami, Homura, and Kyoko are 15-year-old girls who live alone in a fairly large Japanese city with no income, yet they can each afford their own homes. Homura owns a large apartment in a European-styled building with modern furniture and holographic displays, though odds are she steals things to afford it (or stole the apartment itself), given that's how she gets her weapons. Kyoko is shown in nice rooms, but she's homeless, and the nice rooms are hotel rooms she gets into. Mami's apartment is an aversion at first; it is rather large, yet barren and spartan, with cheap furnishings that reasonably fit with her means. However, this realism was a byproduct of the animation budget running out. The Blu-Ray version fills her house with all sorts of things that she could never afford, planting it firmly into this trope.
    • The main character's no exception. Madoka's dad is a househusband, she has a baby brother and her mom is a realistically alcoholic businesswoman. Even if she makes a ton, it can't be enough to afford the Kanames' large, custom-built, ultramodern house in the Mitakihara suburbs. Which amusingly is the case, as Word of God stated that Madoka's family got the house build by a friend who works in the construction industry.
  • The Tendo Dojo in Ranma ˝ is a traditional Japanese compound with four bedrooms, two guestrooms, a large tearoom, and a large freestanding dojo, all surrounded by an expansive walled garden including shishi-odoshi. It's all a bit much for a self-employed martial artist supporting three daughters and three freeloaders. While it's reasonable to assume that a traditional dojo would have rooms to house students, Mr. Tendo doesn't appear to have any students, other than Akane (daughter) and Ranma (freeloader).
  • Sailor Moon:
    • In the first anime, Sailor Moon's household, in the particularly expensive Tokyo district of Juubangai, is kept afloat by a news photographer (although later it seems he's been promoted to editor, and in the manga and live-action television series he's instead a highly respected and well-known photojournalist).
    • Another baffling example is the case of Makoto Kino/Jupiter, who is orphaned and does not have a job but owns and maintains her own apartment. Fanon tends to say that her parents left her a very large inheritance. The same is also true of Mamoru Chiba/Tuxedo Mask, however in the anime he is seen working at various jobs and it is explicitly stated that his parents left him a very large trust fund.
  • In Sword Art Online: Alternative Gun Gale Online, Karen's apartment is highly spacious, and there's a good reason for that- it's a luxury apartment. Her parents are quite wealthy, enough to afford to put her up in that apartment while she's attending college, and for her to fly back home in first class.
  • Played with in various continuities of Tenchi Muyo! A frequent cause of disbelief is the size of Tenchi's house, that's apparently too large for the incomes of a single architect (Tenchi's father Nobuyuki) and a retired Shinto priest (his grandfather Katsuhito) to maintain, let alone acquire land for, especially with the frequent Broke Episodes in TV Series, bringing the accusations of Masakis being the Land Poor. On the other hand, at least in the OVA continuity, it's justified by the fact that it sits in the countryside on the grounds of a family shrine, of which Katsuhito is the priest, and that their original house in the city was much smaller. Furthermore, at least in the OVA continuity the Jurai Empire has serious covert influence on Earth, and Katsuhito has basically infinite funds, if he ever chose to use them.
  • In Tiger & Bunny Kotetsu lives alone in a massive two-story apartment, in the middle of a No Communities Were Harmed version of New York City, despite not making very much money as a hero and helping to support his mother and daughter out in the country.

    Comic Books 
  • In Circles, Englishman Paulie inherited a fabulous Boston mansion from his American aunt, then converted it to four spacious apartments.
  • Donald Duck lives in a free-standing two-floor house, despite not being able to hold a job for very long, or living on his uncle's slave labor wages. Handwaved by claiming Scrooge rents him the house, but that just raises more questions.
  • In Hawkeye: Kate Bishop, Kate starts a detective agency out of her apartment at Venice Beach. While her studio is realistically small and unfurnished for a college-age young woman who works on commission, the fact it’s on a major tourist site, the Venice Beach Boardwalk, would drastically drive up the rent. Kate balks at making a one-time payment of $225 for a detective license, but rent at Venice Beach can easily go for 10 times as much.
  • Averted in the MAD parody of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy rejects a vampire's offer of immortality through vampirism because she and her mother don't live in a rent-controlled apartment, and there's no telling how high the rent will be in the future.
  • In the Punisher Kill Krew miniseries, lawyer Foggy Nelson is amazed at the Juggernaut's... no not his godlike strength and Nigh-Invulnerable skin/force field. Foggy was amazed to find that Juggernaut lived in a rent-controlled house in core New York and it even had a garden in the back. Juggernaut explained that the place belonged to his aunt.

    Fan Works 
  • Justice League: The Spider acknowledges and justifies this issue. While Peter Parker is just a college student working part-time at a newspaper, he lives in a fancy penthouse apartment with his roommate (and later girlfriend) Kara/Supergirl, because the apartment was provided by Bruce Wayne/Batman as a favor, leaving Peter to focus on paying for food and other essentials rather than rent.

    Film — Animation 
  • In 101 Dalmatians, Roger and Anita seem to afford a pretty nice two-story home while also affording a nanny and two dogs despite Roger only being an amateur songwriter while Anita has never had her job said. It would seem the amount of Dalmatians finally forced them to relocate to the country in the sequel.
  • Professor Bamba from Epic (2013) must have been super rich to afford living in a remote two-story home, much less afford his science equipment.
  • Joe Gardner from Soul works as a part-time music teacher, yet is able to afford a very lush apartment in New York City! Let's just say that his mother had some right to be concerned about his career choices.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In 13 Going on 30 Jenna's 30-year-old self lives by herself in a spacious loft-style apartment with a huge walk-in closet, daily car service to work, and right on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, which would rent for approximately $7,000 a month, significantly more than the average salary of a lifestyle magazine editor. Given The Reveal that Jenna was resorting to corporate espionage to work for SPARKLE, it's possible a higher salary that would help her sustain such a lifestyle was a reason for her defecting.
  • Backstreet Dreams: Two-bit hood Dean Costello lives with his wife and son in a large, spacious townhouse whose main flaw is being cluttered and run-down.
  • Handwaved in Big Daddy. Sonny lives in a massive loft apartment in New York despite only working in a toll booth one day a week. It turns out that he got compensation from an accident where his foot got run over and he's been investing the money on the stock market as a source of income.
  • Nobody's sure how Bud and Doyle, the two male leads of Bio-Dome, are able to afford their nice house, despite being a) terminally lazy, b) terminally stupid, and c) the #1 cause of damage to any structure unfortunate enough to contain them.
  • In Blood & Chocolate (2007), Aiden can somehow afford an apartment in Bucharest purely on the commission of two graphic novels he wrote, with no other apparent source of income (he's estranged from his family, so he's not getting help from them).
  • Bumblebee: The family is supposedly tight on cash, with the mother supporting two kids and an unemployed husband on a single paycheck, yet they live in a three-bedroom house with a beautiful ocean view in California. It's unclear if the family had already completed payments on a mortgage before their current financial crisis caused by the first father's death by heart attack.
  • Elf: As Buzzfeed points out, Jovie's apartment seen toward the end of the film is apparently quite nice and fairly spacious, although she (presumably) lives alone in Chinatown which is about $2,000-4,000 a month in New York. She works in a department store and states earlier in the film that her hot water was shut off.
  • The two main characters in Final Destination 4, an unmarried couple in college, live together in a very nice house with no mention of them having jobs or parents helping them out.
  • Flashdance: As the MAD Magazine's satire Flashdunce pointed out: how can Alex live by herself in an expensive loft (even if it's a converted warehouse)? The answer? Pittsburgh (where the film is set) holds the record for one of the lowest costs of living in the United States, a title the city's held for several decades. Most apartments and lofts that would cost thousands of dollars a month in larger cities are usually leased at a fraction of that cost.
  • In Ghostbusters (1984), Dana Barrett lives alone in a spacious corner apartment in Manhattan overlooking Central Park. This would literally be one of the most expensive apartments in the country. As a cellist for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, she would earn around $80,000 a year when the film was set. The filmmakers could have easily given her a nice apartment in her price range, instead of putting her in a penthouse worth millions in the real world. On the other hand, being designed and constructed by a doomsday cult for the purposes of their Eldritch Abomination summoning cannot be good for the value of a building, especially since the summoning worked.
  • The 2016 reboot of Ghostbusters subverts it in one scene where the team are viewing a firehouse like the one from the original movies. They're all in favor of the building until the realtor tells them the rent is $21,000 a month. Erin immediately tells the realtor to burn in hell. They're able to afford the building by the end when the Mayor puts them on the city's payroll.
  • Ghost World: Rebecca on her coffee server's salary can afford the entire rent on an attractive townhouse apartment. (Enid calls it a "shithole" but all it needs is a change of curtains.)
  • Imitation of Life (1959) opens with pre-stardom Lora living in a pretty nice apartment in New York that still has room for Annie and Sarah Jane to move in. There is a Hand Wave that Lora saved up lots of money before choosing to move to New York, and she is supplementing her acting career by personally addressing a series of envelopes. She gets a modelling gig that pays very well and is cast in a Broadway play shortly afterwards. After a Time Skip to where she's become a star, she's now living in a Big Fancy House upstate.
  • Parodied in Isn't It Romantic: Main character Natalie finds herself trapped in a Romantic Comedy, and one of the first signs something is amiss is that her formerly small, messy apartment is suddenly much bigger and more well-furnished than it was at the beginning of the movie.
  • In Jane Wants a Boyfriend, actress Bianca and journalist Rob live in an enormous Brooklyn apartment with two floors. They serve $100 bottles of wine at their housewarming party.
  • Joe ends up in the eponymous Joe's Apartment by trying to track down this arrangement; looking for something for about $200 a month.
  • The heroes of Lakeview Terrace buy a large, beautiful house with an in-ground pool in a wealthy district of Los Angeles, an area with very high housing costs. They refer to this as a "starter home." The villain as well, who is able to afford a house in the same neighborhood while working as a beat cop, with the additional burden of two children and a deceased spouse. Even with him mentioning "working my ass off, saving every dime", it's too implausible — unless one assumes his late wife's insurance helped.
  • In La La Land, Mia works as a barista but can afford to drive a Prius and live in a huge apartment, big enough to host an elaborate musical number with choreography and backup dancers, though it's also shown she lives there with three other roommates. Sebastian also lives in a decently sized apartment by himself, despite his only occupation for most of the film being playing piano for tips. Los Angeles may be cheaper than New York City, but not by much. Sebastian does get employed by Keith as a keyboardist for some pretty good money, but it raises the question of what he was doing before that.
  • The Lethal Weapon films played it straight for Murtagh, but averted it for Riggs, despite both cops being of the same rank. Murtagh lives in quite a large house with his wife and children, even owning a boat, while Riggs lives in a cramped trailer on the beach. The third film shows Riggs effectively building himself a house around his trailer and there are suspicions voiced that Murtagh might be on the take, but eventually it is eventually established that his wife has been writing a successful series of slushy romantic novels under an assumed name.
  • Ma: Ma's house is awfully big for what a veterinary technician could realistically afford, but she may have bought it with her previous husband, especially since the movie isn't clear on whether Ma is divorced or if she killed him.
  • Proving that this trope isn't limited to Western media, Igor Grom in Major Grom: Plague Doctor lives in a massive loft apartment in the middle of Saint Petersburg on a police officer's salary. However, the building is located in a bad neighborhood, and the apartment itself is pretty run-down (the wallpaper is peeling, there's plaster falling out of the ceiling, and the appliances — with the exception of a washing machine and a security system — are as old as the building itself). Additionally, Igor barely spends anything on food (his fridge and cupboards are bare), clothing (his socks have holes in them), or medicine (he regularly patches himself up when he's injured on the job), which undoubtedly helps.
    • The prequel reveals that the apartment was previously owned by Igor's father and that the furnishings all belonged to him; furthermore, Igor's legal guardian was the Chief of Police and his father's former partner, and likely made sure the apartment remained untouched after his death (and may be helping to pay Igor's rent).
  • Called out (along with everything else) by Roger Ebert with reference to the premise and establishing scenes in North:
    Ebert: Children do not lightly separate from their parents—and certainly not on the evidence provided here, where the great parental sin is not paying attention to their kid at the dinner table. The parents (Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jason Alexander) have provided little North with what looks like a million-dollar house in a Frank Capra neighborhood, all on dad's salary as a pants inspector.
  • In Notting Hill Will works in a small bookshop but lives in a large house, in an expensive area of London, shared with an apparently unemployed roommate.
  • Inspector Clouseau of The Pink Panther fame lives in a downright enormous apartment for a man living on a cop's salary in a big city, especially since between his roughhousing with Cato and various parties trying to murder him, the place gets completely demolished at least once a movie.
  • In The Ring Rachel manages to live in a luxury condo alongside her son Aidan in the downtown area of Seattle, an already expensive city, all on a single journalist's salary.
  • The title characters in Romy and Michele's High School Reunion live in a spacious, loft-style apartment steps away from Venice Beach, which would be one of the most expensive apartments in Los Angeles, renting for around $7,000 a month in 2015 dollars, despite Romy working as a cashier at a car dealership and Michele being unemployed.
  • Guy Woodhouse in Rosemary's Baby is a struggling actornote , and his wife Rosemary is a stay-at-home housewife, and yet they are able to afford a spacious prewar apartment in a stately building on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Even in the 1960s, expensive and sought-after real estate. Although the Satanic coven might have something to do with it!
  • Safe Haven: The heroine is able to afford a bus ticket, then able to rent and fix up a cottage, despite impulsively fleeing her abusive husband and only finding work as a waitress. Especially glaring as it's completely the opposite of what happens in the book: it takes an entire year for her to save the money, and she has to barely eat and stay in cheap motels in order to get by. During the movie, there's a flashback that shows the neighbor who helped her escape loaning her some money, but it's unlikely it was enough for all that.
  • Saturday Night Fever: That's a hell of a nice apartment Stephanie has on a dance teacher/secretary's salary. A lot about her background is left open, but she's clearly not that well-off. Even in the '70s, it's a little implausible.
  • In The Skulls, Will, Luke, and Chloe live in dorm rooms that are bigger and nicer than some people's apartments — and single rooms at that, which are more expensive than shared — even though it's been said repeatedly that Luke is struggling financially and is only at this prestigious university via scholarship. This might ironically explain how he is able to afford such a nice room — he's seen working as well — but there's still no explanation for how Will can. A throwaway line indicates that Chloe is wealthy, but even so, dorm rooms simply do NOT look like that.
  • Lois Lane's Metropolis apartment in Superman: The Movie is awfully, awfully nice — with a balcony, no less! Lampshaded in MAD Magazine's satire of the movie:
    "Lotus Lain": Who would believe a man can fly like you?!
    "Superduperman": The same people who'd believe that $185-a-week reporter could live in a Taj Mahal apartment like this!
  • Sleeping with the Enemy: Laura is able to rent, fix up, and maintain a HUGE, beautiful home, despite only having worked a part-time job at a library before fleeing her abusive husband and initially not working at all when she does get away. And when she does finally start working, she's still in a job that doesn't pay much. Even for Iowa, one of the cheapest housing markets in the country, that's quite a stretch. (When she rents the house, the manager can be heard saying it's $700 a month, and apparently doesn't ask for any information about her employment.) As well as that she's able to afford plenty of luxuries like brand-name products. The book is only slightly better — Sara/Laura paid a month's rent for one floor of a house in advance but then had to live on beans and apples for two weeks until her job (which came out of nowhere and paid very well, not to mention paid in advance) started. The rent was supposed to be "cut" because Laura was willing to paint, but it couldn't have been cut that much; painting is a one-time expense. So the real question is why she fled her husband after months of planning without even enough money to pay for a month's expenses, knowing she'd have to be exceptionally lucky to land a job that doesn't require an identity.
  • Charlie from So I Married an Axe Murderer maintains a very nice, roomy apartment in San Francisco despite seemingly having no other job apart from working as a beat poet, something that's hard to get paid for at all, let alone paid enough to make rent in San Fran. His love interest Harriet and her sister live in a positively huge loft, but since Harriet's the only person we ever see behind the counter in there, it's possible she owns the butcher shop where she works (by that same token, it's vaguely suggested in a throwaway line that Charlie may own the coffeehouse where he performs, but neither is explicitly spelled out).
  • The family in Soul Surfer live in a very nice house, with no mention of what either parent's job is. And if the mother is homeschooling the children, she might very well not be working at all. At the time of the attack in real life, Bethany's father was a waiter and her mother cleaned condos. Not exactly the kind of salaries that could normally afford a big house right on the beach in Hawaii. Though Bethany’s father was a waiter at the Princeville Resort, which is not at the same level as someone waiting tables at say Applebees. He probably made a good amount of money and housing prices on the islands tend to skew a bit on the cheaper side.
  • Abby in The Ugly Truth has a beautiful apartment despite running a failing television network.
  • White Dog: Despite being a struggling young actress who mostly gets bit parts, Julie Sawyer lives in a large house in the hills with a beautiful view.
  • In You've Got Mail, Kathleen Kelly lives in a beautiful, spacious prewar brownstone in the Upper West Side on the earnings from a small children's bookstore. It's slightly more plausible at the start of the film when her business is doing well (her merchandise is rather high-priced) and she shares the apartment with her boyfriend, who's a rather successful journalist. (It's also hinted that most of the furnishings were inherited from her mother, who may have owned the place before her.) When her business begins to suffer, however, her lifestyle doesn't seem to be affected at all (aside from one scene where she doesn't have enough cash to cover her purchases at a food market). Moreover, she continues living in her spacious quarters after her boyfriend moves out — and, more unbelievably, after her business goes under.

  • A variation appears in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. An enormous amount of space on the Nautilus is devoted to the library, the dining room, and other amenities for use only by Captain Nemo, with hardly any space for use by the crew. While Verne would never have had the chance to see a real-life submarine, he did estimate the internal volume of a submarine that could be devoted to living quarters fairly realistically. But, while the opulence of the Nautilus' interior served an important plot point, the details of how its crew lived were irrelevant to the story.
  • In the Cut and Run gay thriller series by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux, FBI agent Ty Grady lives alone in what should be an extremely expensive three-story Baltimore row house. Turns out it is expensive, and he can afford it because he received a huge payout as part of his discharge from the Marines after an op went bad, but that isn't brought out until several books in. When he comes clean about this to Zane, he's like, "Didn't you ever wonder how I could afford this place?"
  • Daniel Hawthorne Novels: Hawthorne (a Private Investigator who was fired from the police force before qualifying for a pension and has an ex-wife and son to support) lives in a surprisingly expensive flat. At the end of the first book, he explains that his half-brother is an estate agent who hires him to stay at unoccupied luxury flats as a caretaker.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • The Carpenter family, which consists of seven children, their stay-at-home mother, and a father who works part-time as the Fist of God and part-time as the owner/foreman of a small construction company. (It's explicitly stated in one of the short stories that Michael Carpenter refuses to cut corners and being a Knight hasn't allowed him the time to grow his business enough to attract many really big, lucrative jobs.) They live in a large house in Chicago that is always in perfect repair since Michael apparently has enough spare time between fighting evil and building middle-class houses to keep his own home and yard in fantastic shape, including upgraded doors, a panic room, new extensions as needed for a growing family, and a treehouse that's probably at least studio-apartment size (though the fact that he builds houses for a living means that if he does have the time, he can do all that purely for the cost of materials, as he clearly has the skills to do such things on his own time for free). It's possible that divine grace (or, more likely, the Church) drops baskets full of money on a Knight of the Cross, though that doesn't explain why teenage runaway Molly Carpenter could afford a place to stay, along with several hundreds of dollars worth of tattoos and piercings, without access to her parent's money.
    • Karrin Murphy lives in a rather nice house in the city, well above what she should be able to afford on a cop's salary. This is justified by explaining that the house was Murphy's grandmother's, and it was left to her in the will.
    • Inverted for Dresden himself. He often has problems paying the rent for his crappy office, and it is eventually revealed that one of his enemies bought the property and has been jacking up the rent prices just for him. His apartment is decently sized (one tiny bedroom, one tiny bathroom, a generously sized kitchen/living room and space for a large lab in the sub-basement), but cheap due to being in the basement and sub-basement and lacking amenities he can't use like a water heater and refrigerator. Even so, he sometimes struggles to pay the rent, but his elderly landlady lets the occasional late check slide in exchange for help with snow-shoveling and taking out the garbage.
  • In the short story "Even a Loser Can Win," the narrator's apartment is initially implied to be Horrible Housing, but is gradually revealed to be something closer to this trope: It's safe, roomy enough for two people, and eventually accommodates a lot of new furniture and a well-appointed kitchen. And it's a mystery how the narrator can afford any rent since he's unemployed by choice. Turns out he's Secretly Wealthy due to lottery winnings, but enjoys his louche alcoholic lifestyle so much that he'd rather live in a dump.
  • Cathy's apartments in Petals on the Wind are pretty posh for a ballet dancer.
  • Elizabeth Wakefield's New York apartment in Sweet Valley Confidential is a good example, particularly since it seems to be combined with One-Hour Work Week and Unlimited Wardrobe.
    • In one of the Sweet Valley University books, the twins' college friend Isabella is forced to take in a new roommate after a car accident means that she can no longer afford to keep up the rent. Although Isabella has wealthy parents, she claims that she doesn't take money from them. She also does not have a part-time job alongside her studies, which leaves the reader wondering how Isabella has thus far paid for the spacious and beautifully-decorated apartment described in the book.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 2 Broke Girls has the apartment Max and Caroline live in with a fairly large living room with a backdoor to an open yard, despite the girls working as waitresses in a crappy restaurant and manning a struggling cupcake business. Justified in that Max was illegally subletting the apartment from an old man who didn't live there anymore. That being said, the apartment isn't really that great. There's only one bedroom, and the utilities are either broken down or dangerous, and the neighborhood they live in is in a very bad part of New York.
  • Parodied on 3rd Rock from the Sun when August is planning her future with Tommy:
    August: We could move to New York and rent a loft in the Village with a view of the river. It'll probably cost about... three hundred bucks a month. But, you know, that's okay — we'll find jobs in bookstores.
  • Justified in The 10th Kingdom: Virginia, a waitress, and her father Tony are able to live in an apartment right next to Central Park because Tony is the janitor there and the apartment is part of his pay.
  • Referenced and lampshaded in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Early in Season 4, when Fitz and Simmons were looking for an apartment together, Daisy, having gone off the grid to protect fellow Inhumans, lured Simmons into helping her by emailing her an ad for a rather nice apartment, commenting that Simmons was "always a sucker for a breakfast nook." As Daisy was always the lead Shipper on Deck for Fitz and Simmons, she did promise Simmons that the apartment was theirs if they wanted it, adding "And it's rent-controlled."
  • Angel,
    • During the first season, Cordelia finds herself a sweet, roomy apartment that she can afford on a receptionist's salary. It's haunted. One of the ghosts tries to kill her, but the other is nice and is thus not exorcised. Phantom Dennis is referenced occasionally in future seasons.
    • It was also never explained how Angel could afford to live and keep an office in the building that he used for Season 1. The hotel used for Season 2 onward however received two handwaves on the subject: first a wealthy client who owed Angel Investigations a favor handled all of the paperwork on the matter, then Lilah (in order to piss off a co-worker) fabricated even more paperwork. Some episodes show that Angel has a sizable collection of antiques from his three hundred years of being a vampire — so presumably he sells them to avoid money problems.
  • Invoked on the American television version of Animal Kingdom where the Codys own a number of apartment buildings around Oceanside and rent them out at a fraction of the going market rate. It's actually a money laundering scheme. The Codys make most of their money through armed robbery and similar crimes and need a way to justify their Suspicious Spending. On paper, the tenants pay just under market rate in rent and all the tenants will swear that this is what they really pay. Thus the Codys can claim that their money comes from rental income and pay their taxes on it like normal citizens. The secondary effect of this scheme is to generate a lot of local goodwill for the Codys and makes the locals less likely to inform on the Codys to the police. One elderly lady has been part of the scheme for years, never had her actual rent raised and is paying about 5% of what her lease says she is supposed to pay.
  • Arrowverse:
    • Arrow: Even when Oliver is explicitly having money problems and Felicity is forced to work in a demeaning minimum-wage job, they have both large apartments and multiple secret bases. Stephen Amell was asked about this, and he said "a broke billionaire is still a millionaire."
    • The Flash (2014): Star Labs is a massive privately-owned scientific laboratory that was disgraced when its particle accelerator exploded. While most of the staff quit, the building itself should still cost quite a lot just to keep the lights on, but they are still producing a number of inventions to help the Flash, and Harrison Wells is shown to still maintain a lavish home outside the lab, all without any high-profile contracts. Apparently the lab is still generating money somehow. Fans have theorized that they are receiving consulting fees from the police, royalties when the police use their technology, and perhaps more royalties on other existing patents, but it's never explained outright. When Barry inherits the lab, his own lifestyle immediately improves, and he takes his girlfriend to an expensive restaurant and later buys a very nice apartment. It even gets lampshaded when Barry has amnesia and wonders how he could afford a home like that. Cisco also has a fairly spacious apartment, while Caitlin's apartment looks quite nice (she is a doctor, but hasn't been seen working anywhere else besides Star or Mercury Labs).
    • Supergirl (2015): Kara has a very nice apartment in the middle of the city, which she lives in alone, despite starting out as a low-paid assistant and going on to be a low-paid journalist. Of course, her sister is a secret government agent and her mother is a successful scientist, so they might have been helping. In season 4, Kara mentions that it's rent-controlled. It should be noted that both Kara and Alex's apartments are studios.
      • Mostly averted with Nia Nal. She lives in a small two-bedroom apartment with a roommate.
  • Becker: Linda the brain-dead bimbo nurse of Dr. Becker lives in a spacious and lavishly furnished apartment overlooking Central Park that Becker is completely envious of. Though this is because her parents, who are extremely rich, pay for it. Becker himself has told her that he has the desire to murder her and live there, played for laughs.
    Linda: You know Becker, I have a real urge to hug you.
    Becker: Yeah, I have a real urge to kill you and live here.
  • The Big Bang Theory:
    • The show actually inverts this in principle, as Leonard and Sheldon are collegiate physicists living together in Pasadena. In fact, some have argued they are living well below their income level. It's implied at several points that the two of them don't make particularly great money even though it should be well above average (a season one episode Sheldon says "If I could afford it, I wouldn't have YOU as a roommate"). It's been proposed that the reason neither of them sought a nicer place was primarily due to Sheldon's dislike of change—he could find something better, but then he'd have to get used to it all over again. Sheldon is also a frugal spender who doesn't care much for luxury, so he's probably happy with modest living quarters. And Leonard's long-running Will They or Won't They? with Penny made for a good reason to keep him living in the same building with her; if he moved elsewhere, he would see her less.
    • Penny, on the other hand, lives next door as a waitress Waiting for a Break and her ability to make rent is frequently questioned (she was in Perpetual Poverty and regularly bummed off Leonard and Sheldon for food, wifi, and other things). Though her apartment is smaller than Leonard and Sheldon's, having one bedroom and one bathroom as opposed to their two-bedroom, one-bath apartment, which would make it cheaper.
  • The newer Bionic Woman is a struggling bartender raising her teenage sister by herself. She also lives in a San Francisco apartment that would strain the resources of anyone making less than seven figures, much less five.
  • Discussed and averted in The Bold Type. Jane and Sutton have to share an apartment because they are both living on an assistant's salary, while Kat can afford her own apartment as Scarlet magazine's social media director because she was promoted well before them. When Sutton transfers to the fashion department and learns that it comes with an unexpected pay cut, she realizes that she would not be able to afford her half of the rent and Jane would need to sublet her room in order to cover the payments. Although, as the showrunner admitted in an interview, it is a nice shared apartment. And when Sutton moves in with her boyfriend Richard, Jane's boyfriend Ryan "Pinstripe" moves in with Jane. Then when he goes on his book tour for a few months, Jane sublets her room to her co-worker Alex.
  • Bosch:
    • Harry Bosch lives in a nice cliffside house with a fantastic view of the Los Angeles basin. Bosch explains to Julia Brasher early in season 1 that he bought it with a large payment from a studio for a film called The Black Echo, based on one of his casesnote . He's the first to note the movie was terrible but at least it afforded him this place.
    • This becomes an issue for Bosch in the sequel series, Bosch: Legacy when that house sustains damage in an earthquake after Bosch has quit the LAPD to become a private eye. He's bluntly told he might well be better off trying to sell the place for a million dollars rather than costs almost as much to bring it up to local codes. He spends most of the sequel series living in a much smaller apartment in downtown L.A.
    • Julia Brasher, a rookie patrolwoman, maintains a lavish house in Venice Beach. It is mentioned she once worked at her father's law firm so it's possible she saved her money and/or got a good allowance from him.
  • Richie and Eddie from Bottom definitely are not Living in a Furniture Store: their residence is a gradually decaying first-floor walkup flat over a corner shop. And yet, although we occasionally meet the landlord, making the rent never seems to be an issue, despite the fact that our protagonists haven't held a steady job since 1979. They attempt to handwave this away in an early episode by mentioning an aunt of Richie's who is the actual owner of the flat; said aunt, however, is never spoken of again. It's also established that they're not paying for their own utilities and are instead tapping off their neighbour's gas line.
  • Boy Meets World didn't start out this way with Alan being a grocery store manager and Amy flip-flopping between housewife and realtor. However, after deciding on having Amy being a homemaker, Eric & Cory going off to college, and a fourth baby on the way you saw this trope being played straight. It also made Alan not being immediately happy after hearing Amy was pregnant again as being a case of Informed Wrongness.
  • As of season 3 of The Boys, the titular group has set up their headquarters in New York City's famous Flatiron Building. The place looks fairly run-down, but the landmark status of the building and the prestigious address right in the heart of Manhattan would still push it into absolutely unaffordable territory for a bunch of vigilantes with no day jobs. It's possibly justified due to the Boys' ties to the CIA, who most likely own the property.
  • Broad City:
    • Even with a roommate, Abbi has a surprisingly nice apartment for someone with a low-paying job in New York City.
    • Referenced by Kelly Ripa in "Coat Check": "It's rent-controlled. I only pay 600 bucks a month. Of course not! Prank!"
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine:
    • Lampshaded in Season 1, Jake lives in a large, pleasant apartment despite being terrible with money (to the point where he's implied to have declared bankruptcy at least once) — it's quickly explained that it was his grandmother's apartment, and that he still benefits from the rent control she negotiated decades earlier (Jake and Gina both refer to having spent time in the apartment during childhood; they're now in their early thirties). Furthermore, almost as soon as the apartment appears on-screen it's revealed that he's about to lose it because the building is about to become a co-op and he can't afford to purchase the place. In the end, Gina puts a down payment on the apartment for herself, but this time it's justified by the fact that she's been renting the same one-room studio for over ten years and saving up until a nicer place came along.
    • And when you actually see Gina's old apartment (which becomes Jake's new place), the set is actually about as small as they could make it while still allowing space to actually film the scene. For bonus points, you never see more than three actors in a scene in Gina's/Jake's apartment, presumably because there's no more floor space for them all to stand up at once without obstructing the camera.
    • Amy's apartment is also larger than might be expected for a single person living on a detective's salary: though none of the rooms are large it has a separate dining room and is implied to have a spare bedroom (since the squad mistakenly believe she lives with her grandmother). However, Amy is explicitly stated to be Jake's exact opposite in her attitude to money, and it's completely in-character for her to be so good at budgeting that she's able to afford a nice place for herself.
    • Rosa also lives in a very nice and spacious apartment that is well-furnished and fully decorated. Complicating matters is the fact that she's so paranoid about her personal information being revealed that she's set up an intricate financial maze under false identities and shell corporations, which adds to the cost of the already-expensive NYC rent.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • Although not an apartment, Buffy and Willow's dorm room is rather large for a dorm housing incoming freshmen.
    • Xander averted this throughout the series. In Season 4 he lived in his parents' basement and being charged rent while he went through a number of scut jobs. Then in Season 5, he moved into an absurdly spacious apartment, but was hesitant because the rent was too high and, while he and Anya possibly could have afforded it if they lived together, he wasn't comfortable with it; later in the episode his contract construction gig becomes a permanent job and he takes the apartment. Throughout the rest of the series we regularly see him on the job at construction sites, and by Season 7 he's implied to have been promoted again since he's in charge of a major project and frequently in suits to talk to clients.
    • In Seasons 1-3, Joyce has a gallery and yet Buffy is always shown wearing the latest fashions in every episode without working on her own. While one could argue that Buffy's father might send money their way it's still a huge stretch that Joyce's gallery pays for their nice house (and the constant repairs to it), all their luxuries, and Buffy's designer wardrobe. In one episode, Xander comments that Joyce had at some point taken to buying cheap furniture (the coffee table was made of balsa wood) and having workable yet inexpensive repair work done around the main window due to the constant damage to the house. Even more bizarrely, Buffy is apparently able to keep up with all the bills in Season 6 just by working minimum wage in a fast food restaurant.
    • Sunnydale is stated to have insanely low property values. This fact serves two purposes: it explains how a single mom, and later, a group of twentysomethings who are either college students or working in fast food can afford such a nice home, and it explains why people even live in a town that is ravaged by demons on a near-weekly basis.
  • Bunheads veers wildly back and forth on this trope: one of the arcs of the first season was dedicated to the financial intricacies of the main characters' home ownership situation, which, however, never made much sense and never seemed to actually imperil their ownership of a house that they explicitly could not afford. Played utterly straight when Sasha, a sixteen-year-old girl without a paying job, whose parents have both moved to different cities, leaving her to live on her own, rents and furnishes a gigantic apartment in impeccable taste. Although her resourcefulness in dealing with the logistics of all this at 16 is highlighted, there's not so much as a Hand Wave towards who is paying for all this.
  • Burn Notice.
    • Justified thanks to the titular notice, Michael Westen has no job history, no credit, no bank accounts, and a decidedly irregular income. But he lives in a very large multi-level apartment in Miami, overlooking a river, that only costs him $200 a month. But it's explained in the pilot episode the apartment is actually a converted storage space above a nightclub that is not technically zoned as an apartment. Westen had to agree he was a squatter should the authorities question him and he doesn't mind the noise level because he's slept through worse over the years. Just about anyone else would. The pilot episode shows the loft in its bare-bones condition, and over the course of the first season makes some changes so that it looks halfway livable, with a fridge, kitchen counter, furniture...
    • Inverted in the pilot episode, where the loft had a normal floor-to-ceiling height, and looked like it was little more than a converted storage space. After it went to series, the ceiling doubled in height and the room gained a raised platform on one end. Still looks like converted storage, as there are still club items stacked against the back wall and the place is never painted, and while we never see the bathroom, there is clearly no other separate room as Michael treats it as a studio with his mattress right in the open between the door and the kitchenette area. In an early episode, the landlord offers Michael a month rent-free in exchange for help with a problem, it's implied that this might not be the only time they've made such an arrangement.
  • Caroline in the City: Caroline lives in a palatial apartment in Manhattan. The number of comic strip creators (even nationally syndicated ones) who could afford that can be counted on one hand, but she appears to be one of them. (Most comic strip creators have very middle-class salaries.) It's helped by her being popular enough to have a Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon and frequently mentioning working on calendars and greeting cards as well, making it seem like Caroline has been franchised in-universe into a merchandising giant like Garfield. Richard, by contrast, lives in a squalid studio apartment that became available when the previous tenants were murdered (and is shown racing to the crime scene to rent it before someone else does). Annie, a perennial dancer in Cats, lives in a similar single-room apartment and leeches almost everything off Caroline.
  • Castle:
    • Averted and played straight. Castle, being a famous bestselling author of over 20 novels as well as being well-known in New York's elite and upper-class circles, can easily afford his spacious penthouse. On the other hand, Beckett's apartment would break the wallet of a police detective, and this was before it got blown up. Her new place as of Season 4 is even more extravagant. But then, the show notes that she does come from a wealthy family...
    • In one episode, they realize that the killer's motive was to keep a rent-controlled apartment in the family. Everyone agrees that yes, they would definitely kill for rent that cheap.
  • On Charmed it was initially played straight - with the three sisters owning a spacious house in San Francisco, which has some of the most expensive real estate in the US. The house has been in the family for generations, but even the property tax would be too much for a bank teller-turned-head chef and museum curator-turned-auctioneer to afford. Around the fifth season, it's a bit more realistic; Piper now runs a club that is always packed with people (and is able to afford respectable musical guests) and Phoebe is doing well enough as an advice columnist to appear on talk shows and get billboards (Season 8 has Elise say that she "doubled our readership"). The house is said to have been built on a spiritual Nexus generations ago, being passed down over the years — so we have to assume that their ancestors exploited A Wizard Did It quite a bit — if the show weren't really big on the "not using magic for personal gain" thing; the need to protect the nexus the house is sitting on from falling into the hands of evil might have allowed them to get around that. A Season 7 episode hangs a lampshade on it when Leslie visits Phoebe at home, takes note of the grandness of the house, and says "the paper pays you better than I thought."
  • Initially averted in CHiPs when Ponch lived at a mobile home in a trailer park. Later played straight when he moved into a fancy apartment by the marina. It makes you wonder if he was on the take.
  • On the Soap Opera The City (a reworking of the Soap Opera Loving), the survivors of the Corinth Serial Killer move to an apartment building in New York City's So Ho neighborhood. Aside from this building implausibly being able to house a bar, medical clinic, fashion studio, and several apartments, there is no way any of the people living there (with the exception of the woman who owned the building) could have afforded to, even with a roommate, as several tenants were shown to have.
  • The Gifford family in Cold Feet live in a large, well-appointed (if slightly run-down) house in London which they apparently own, despite their low income. Averted to varying extents by the other characters, whose vaguely defined careers are implied to be well-paid.
  • Community: While rents are probably fairly affordable in the Colorado suburb where everyone lives, the fact that most of the cast lacks any income brings this trope into effect.
    • The Troy/Abed/Annie apartment. Annie originally lives by herself in a terrible apartment but moves in with Troy and Abed to a nicer area. They split the rent on the two-bedroom apartment, which is probably pretty affordable, but it's never stated where any of them are getting the money, as none of them have jobs. Presumably they're getting money from their parents, though this is never confirmed.
    • Jeff lives by himself in a nice apartment. In the first season, he has to deal with not having enough money to live there or afford new fixtures for the place, but he decides to stay living there. In spite of still not having a job, his rent problems don't get brought up again.
    • Subverted with Britta in season 5, when she learns that her parents have been secretly paying her rent behind her back.
  • Characters on their ITV rival Coronation Street just barely avert this, according to this study of housing costs on British soaps. Living conditions would be a lot more spartan than shown on screen, however.
  • In Cucumber's companion series Banana Dean and Freddie only pay £400 a month for an entire industrial building! Justified in that it's not 100% legal and their landlord is a gangster.
  • Daredevil (2015):
    • Matt Murdock lives in a pretty large apartment in Hell's Kitchen, which has some of the highest rent prices in the United States. As a recent law school graduate who's only just starting his own practice, this place should be well outside Matt's budget. But, it's mentioned when Matt and Foggy are scouting out their space for Nelson & Murdock that Hell's Kitchen saw property values drop due to damage sustained during "The Incident". Making Matt's apartment even cheaper is its generally run-down aesthetic (notice that the minibar is made of unfinished plywood), and the bright electronic billboard across the street that shines directly through the living room window - an eyesore for anyone with functioning eyes, but not a problem for a blind man.
      Karen Page: [looking at the billboard] Holy shit!
      Matt Murdock: Went up a year ago. I'm told that co-op there nearly rioted. Some oversight from the developer's agreement. [shrugs] Upside is, nobody wanted it and I got a corner apartment at a helluva discount.
    • When the comic premiered in the '60s, Hell's Kitchen really was pretty wretched, but by the 2010s, the neighborhood had gentrified considerably. But since it's so ingrained in the Daredevil mythos, moving him to, say, Newark was out of the question.
    • Matt's living situation gets a bit more complicated in The Defenders (2017), since he's still living out of the apartment but is now an independent pro bono attorney, and probably earns less than he earned at Nelson & Murdock. It's implied Matt received a large inheritance from Elektra upon her death at the end of Season 2. Lampshaded in "Ashes, Ashes" when Matt and Jessica Jones drop by the apartment so Matt can change into civilian clothes before they go to interview John Raymond's daughter, and Jessica asks Matt, "So you wanna tell me how a pro bono lawyer can afford a loft like this in New York City?" Like with Karen, Matt points out the billboard (though he has to actually tell Jessica about it because it's daytime), and jokes (badly) that he sometimes helps his landlord by roughing up tenants that are late with their rent. A fake Craiglist ad put out for the apartment right before the release of season 3 lists the rent as being around $2,000 a month, which ain't exactly cheap.
    • Karen Page's various apartments are all large for the job she currently has. In season 1, working an entry-level job at Union Allied, her apartment is quite big, with a distinct bedroom. The writers do make a token effort to try and be realistic, as in season 2 she's downgraded to living in a large studio apartment, no doubt because she burned through Fisk's hush money pretty quickly (and would've wanted to move away from the place where Daniel Fisher was murdered and James Wesley kidnapped her), and her new job as Nelson & Murdock's office manager doesn't pay as much as Union Allied did. In The Defenders, The Punisher season 1, and Daredevil season 3, Karen is now living in a large, well-furnished apartment, even though she's a brand-new journalist for the New York Bulletin (not a high-paying job) and somehow is also paying Matt's rent on top of her own while he's missing post-Midland Circle. That said, it is established early in the season that Karen is financially strained since her first scene involves her asking Foggy to help her out with paying Matt's rent.
    • Of the main characters, Foggy Nelson is probably the only one who can realistically afford his apartment. While we never see his apartments in season 1 or season 2, he's moved in with his girlfriend Marci Stahl after joining her at Jeri Hogarth's firm at the end of season 2. In season 3, they're shown living together in a high-rise condominium in North Williamsburg. Given how big a firm Hogarth Chao & Benowitz is as depicted in Jessica Jones (2015), Foggy and Marci would both be pulling down six-figure salaries, and Marci certainly was already pulling down something like that when she worked at Landman & Zack.
  • Degrassi:
    • The production team takes great pains to make Sean's apartment in Season 3 look like a dump, but a single person on welfare in Ontario receives about $300 a month for rent. There's no way he could realistically pay for an apartment that size in Toronto.
    • The house that Ellie, Marco, Paige, and Alex (replaced with Griffin later on) shared looked a little more spacious than what four college students could realistically afford.
    • Similarly, in later seasons, Fiona's condo. At first her finances are being covered by her wealthy parents but after her mother is investigated for tax fraud, Fiona is forced to take on a roommate and yet the both of them are able to pay for a very large condo in a very trendy neighbourhood in Toronto with their combined salaries from minimum wage mall jobs (and Fiona's is only part-time, as she was still enrolled in school).
  • Again subverted in Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23, where June works a low-paying job at a coffee shop while Chloe has no regular employment at all, yet they manage to live in a spacious two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan. Turns out that Chloe's been running scams for years to pay her rent: she puts out ads for a roommate, convinces them to give her three months' rent ("first, last, and deposit") in advance, then drives them out with her sociopathic antics, while running other, smaller scams and mooching off friends for daily living expenses. Meanwhile, almost all of June's meager wages go to paying her share of rent, at one point forcing her to eat a bag of potatoes she found in the trash because she can't afford food.
  • In Drake & Josh, the family lives in a beautiful dwelling. But the father is only a weatherman on the local news. And he does a lousy job of predicting the weather. As for the mother, we never even see her working. What's more is that the pilot episode implies the house comes from Drake's side of the family — so Audrey must be doing very well for herself to own such a house while supporting two children. Audrey is divorced from her first husband so she may have won the house in a settlement, considering she appears to have full custody of the children.
  • The short-lived The Dresden Files TV adaptation justified Harry's surprisingly nice home in Chicago as the only thing on which he spent any of his inheritance from his well-off Evil Uncle.
  • Averted on Drop Dead Diva. At first, it seems off struggling models Jane and Stacy can afford a large apartment in Los Angeles. After Jane is killed in a car crash, she's reborn into the body of successful lawyer Deb, who has enough money to afford the place with Stacy helping out via her random odd jobs throughout the series.
  • The number of characters on Eastenders who could afford to live anywhere in London is almost microscopic. Possibly averted with Dot, who lives in a council flat.
  • Subverted in El Chavo del ocho. Don Ramon and La Chilindrina live in a one-bedroom apartment in a low-rent neighborhood. However, given that Don Ramon is either unemployed or in a very low-wage job, he should still not be able to afford it. Thing is, Señor Barriga forgives his rent and has been doing so for the past fourteen months, and in some episodes, Don Ramon manages to scrape up the dosh to pay for at least one month.
  • Justified with Sherlock's brownstone in New York in Elementary, as his father is the one who owns the place and lets his son use it, provided Sherlock stays clean and goes through the 12-step program. Joan is hired to live with him and keep him clean, being paid enough to keep her apartment. Later, after finding out that the guy she was subletting to filmed a porn video there, she gives up the place and moves her stuff to the brownstone. As in Sherlock, Holmes consults the NYPD for free, although he does work with private clients during downtime. After Holmes Sr. stops paying Joan for her services, Sherlock offers to pay her out of his own pocket if she stays on as his apprentice. Previously, Joan was an accomplished surgeon and, presumably, could afford a nice place. We later find out that the Holmes family is Fiction 500 wealthy and thus Sherlock's living accommodations are actually quite spartan by their standards.
  • In Everybody Loves Raymond, Ray, on a sportswriter's salary, can afford a two-story house in Long Island while also supporting a wife and three kids.
  • Explained in Flight of the Conchords: The boys' New York City apartment is quite humble, with a small living area, tiny bathroom, and a single bedroom that they share. Even still, it's not clear how they afford it when they make almost no money performing gigs in libraries and such. Brett eventually gets a "real" job holding signs. In the last episode, it's revealed that they've been paying their rent in New Zealand dollars instead of American, so they've been living practically rent-free.
  • Frasier
    • Frasier himself is a somewhat downplayed example, as he does have a presumably well-paying job as a radio host. However, his condo is extremely spacious and well-furnished with swanky designer furniture and art, making many viewers wonder how he could afford it even on a six-figure salary. Even in The '90s, local AM talk radio personalities weren't millionaires. (For reference, the furniture for the actual set cost about $500,000.) And since Frasier had just come off a divorce when he moved in, and is a spendthrift who lives a very luxurious lifestyle, it's even less plausible that he could afford it. In addition, Frasier lost his job for six months in a season 6 story arc, and it was never suggested that he was struggling for money in the meantime - even loaning out $1500 to Roz.
    • The writers actually discussed this trope behind the scenes. Joe Keenan told fans on Twitter that Frasier wisely invested the money from his Boston practice in a Seattle software startup in order to afford his lavish lifestyle.
    • Niles is a curious example. He's a psychiatrist like Frasier (although in private practice) but has been living well above his means due to being married to Maris, who is a millionaire. Once they begin divorce proceedings, Niles moves into a luxurious apartment at the Montana (a very exclusive building that even Frasier couldn't get into) that has three stories, a library, a study, and a gift-wrapping room. However, Maris soon cuts Niles off from her finances, resulting in him no longer being able to afford his rent thanks to his legal bills draining most of his salary. He has to temporarily move into a studio apartment at the Shangri-La while subletting his Montana apartment. Fortunately thanks to his new lawyer Donny Douglas, Niles gets a healthy settlement in the divorce and returns to the Montana.
  • Friends, the Trope Namer.
    • The rent for Monica's apartment was estimated, if it were real, to be $4,000-$4,600 per month in mid-1990s dollars (the Sept. 2018 article itself ballparks it at $7,000-$8,000/month). This doesn't take into account the significant gentrification much of New York's more in-demand neighborhoods has gone through in the years since the show first aired, so the difference is likely being understated here. The show Handwaves it by having Monica claim that her grandmother originally rented the apartment at $200/month and she is illegally subletting it, which is actually in the realm of possibility due to rent control in Manhattan. The superintendent is actually aware that Monica is breaking the law, and one episode centered on Joey trying to persuade him not to blow the whistle after his patience runs out. That being said, there was a chunk of time when Monica was unemployed, meaning the entire apartment's rent fell to the wages of a waitress. A particularly terrible, and therefore probably poorly-tipped, waitress. Though in fairness, Monica borrows money from Ross and makes several references to her savings being quickly depleted, so clearly she was still paying some rent. Given her status as the responsible one, it's likely she would save up in the event of a crisis.
    • Chandler and Joey's apartment directly across the hall is an aversion, as Chandler has what is implied to be a high-paying white collar job which would allow him to support both himself and the frequently unemployed Joey, and yet their apartment is roughly a quarter the size of Monica's and is sparsely furnished. This was lampshaded by Chandler in the Grand Finale, by telling his newborn children of the apartment: "because of rent control, it was a friggin' steal."
    • Played straight with Phoebe, whose apartment was larger and nicer than Joey and Chandler's. Justified in early seasons as she was sharing it with her grandmother but is later living alone on a masseuse's salary. There is a plot point later in the series where Phoebe is now working for a corporate chain that pays better, despite it being against her morals.
    • There's also the original apartment Ross resided in that was about midway between Joey and Chandler's and Monica and Rachel's apartments size-wise that he lived in alone. He may have lived there with Carol originally, but he stays there until Emily forces him to move and he moves in with Joey and Chandler, then to Ugly Naked Guy's apartment, which is much smaller than even Joey and Chandler's place, but much nicer looking.
  • Full House: Some found it unrealistic that Danny could have afforded what was obviously a very nice, very big townhouse (5 bedrooms, with a spacious attic, huge basement, and attached garage) in a presumably equally very nice section of San Francisco on a TV morning show host's salary, as well as support three young children. The real life home used for the establishing shot comes from an iconic neighborhood, while real estate prices in the early to mid-'80s in San Francisco were a much different animal for the time period it was quite a stretch this would be a plausible home. That said, Danny has steady income as a television newscaster, life insurance from her death could have helped and Joey and Jesse may have assisted with some expenses (though they were sporadically employed for good chunks of the show).
    • This comes up in the pilot of Fuller House. With all his daughters long since grown up and moved out, Danny is looking at selling the house, which by now in the modern San Francisco market would go for literally millions. But when DJ and her children come to visit not long after her husband's death and he sees how hard a time she is having at taking care of her kids alone, Danny and later Jessie and Joey offer to put their own plans on hold to help her out. But after Stephanie and Kimmy offer their help instead, Danny instead gives them the house to live in, setting up the premise of the revived series. A later episode does mention Danny never charged Joey or Jesse rent, and playfully wanted some backpay.
  • Ghosts (US): Averted with Samantha the journalist and Jay the chef. Samantha wants to move out of New York City because "We work insane hours to live in a shoebox that we can barely afford." Explaining why they decide to stay in the haunted mansion Sam inherits even after the ghosts nearly kill her.
  • Gilmore Girls is a borderline example. Lorelai and Rory live in a lavishly furnished two-story house in rural Connecticut, far larger than is practical for a single mother and her teenage daughter. She lives there on the salary of a bed-and-breakfast manager, a job she earned working up from being a maid after being a teenage mother at sixteen. It's a plot point that Lorelai saved up for years to afford the house, which isn't in the best condition. For the bulk of Rory's childhood, they lived rent-free in a converted shack behind the inn.
  • Girls: Hannah's and Marnie's Brooklyn apartment, which is in the most expensive part (India Street) of Greenpoint, would have rented for about $1,500 to $1,800 per month before the series started; now the rent would probably be even higher. Marnie is forced to pay the full rent after Hannah loses her parental funding. While paying half would be possible, it's way too much of a stretch for Marnie to pay the full amount given that her art gallery job would pay no more than $30,000 per year and she gets only limited family support. Played up even more in the final two seasons when Hannah and Elijah occupy it, one episode reveals Hannah only earns $24,000 a year, while it's ambiguous if Elijah has a job, he last worked as a barista for Ray and would leave work early on whims.
  • Glee
    • Some viewers have wondered how Marley's mom can afford a two-story house when their poverty is often a plot point. However, the house could be a rental, and renting in semi-rural Ohio would cost a fraction of New York's prices.
    • The Bushwick loft that the New York group lives in starting in Season 4. At first it's just Rachel, shortly joined by Kurt, then Santana joins them but doesn't seem to pay rent. The loft is quite spacious, though the apparently low price could be justified by the fact that it's very far from Manhattan and the neighborhood is rough. Still, for a while, the only one with a job is Kurt who had an internship at until the three of them got part-time jobs at a diner. It's possible that their parents are helping them out though since they are college students. Now though Rachel and Santana have moved out so it's just Blaine and Kurt living there, and Blaine doesn't have a job (yet) so we don't know how that loft is getting paid for. Blaine's parents have been noted to be well-off enough to pay the high tuition cost at Dalton, so they probably help out.
  • On Graceland the main characters live in a spacious beach home that they could never afford. This is perfectly justified since they are federal undercover agents and the house is a safe house owned by the federal government. However, it also means that they cannot really bring any not-in-the-loop friends to the house since their cover identities could not afford the rent on a place like that and people would start asking questions. Mike can get away with this since his cover is that of a pilot on temporary assignment in LA whose expenses are covered by his airline. On the other hand, Johnny is supposed to be a personal trainer and Charlie usually pretends to be a homeless junkie so they could never explain how they can afford to live there. However, Charlie only pretends to be a junkie when working a case involving drugs, in the pilot it's mentioned she tells the locals she's a trust-fund kid.
  • The Good Place: Michael says that after he watched all ten seasons of Friends, he simply can't understand how they can afford the apartment they have. Eleanor agrees that always puzzled people.
  • Gossip Girl:
    • The Humphreys keep griping about how they are poor (at least in comparison to the rest of the cast) and how times are rough, which makes sense given that Rufus is the sole breadmaker and he owns a low-key art gallery. Their loft, however, suggests that they are considerably more wealthy than Rufus' job would make them and that they are far from as poor as they keep saying that they are.
    • Blair's dorm room at NYU is approximately the size of at least two actual dorm rooms, so unless she also bought the room next to hers and knocked down the adjoining wall, there's no explanation for how absurdly spacious her room is.
  • In The Handmaid's Tale, the refugees from Gilead are housed in fairly large, well-kept houses in the suburbs of Toronto, one of the most expensive cities in North America. A possible explanation could be the real estate market plummeting due to the population crisis.
  • Subverted in an episode of Hawaii Five-O. While they're investigating what appears to be a suicide, one of the detectives is more interested in bargaining about the rent of the apartment with the landlady. Apparently, real-life cops can sometimes can get better rents on such a place, as nobody wants to live somewhere there has been a suicide or murder.
  • Particularly egregious in Heroes.
    • Mohinder is able to afford a huge apartment in Brooklyn working as a taxi driver, as was his dad. Apparently — according to Season 2, when Matt and Molly move in with him — it was a three-bedroom, only one of which was occupied throughout Season 1. We do, however, see Mohinder's family's Big Fancy House in India, implying that his family was wealthy. Which makes you wonder why they were working as cabbies in the first place...
    • They really draw attention to it in Peter's case: he gets a job as a nurse, throws a huge party in his new apartment, and everyone acts like it's tiny. Sure, his family's rich and they live in a mansion, but it's still a huge apartment by New York standards.
    • D.L. and Niki's house also qualifies. Their entire plot is kicked off by the fact that they can't afford the rent. But they live in a two-story house in the suburbs which is a little too big for three people, has a pool in the backyard and reflective surfaces on pretty much everything, and a PlayStation 3 inside. If only they'd moved into an apartment or sold something, they wouldn't have had to borrow money from the mob.
    • The Bennetts "go underground" by living in a massive house in a very wealthy neighborhood in Southern California. Noah's cover job is an entry-level position at a copy shop. Presumably he has a great deal of money from working with Primatech and Claire's biological family is absurdly wealthy but using it to live beyond his obvious means kind of defeats the purpose of going into hiding.
  • Long-running Australian soap Home and Away has many examples, mostly teen characters set up in their own living spaces but with no job or income to support them.
  • The biggest criticism of House Hunters is how it often features people with budgets way beyond what you would expect from their jobs. This has since taken on a memetic life of its own:
    Wife: I'm a kindergarten teacher.
    Husband: And I breed salamanders. Our budget is $800,000.
  • How I Met Your Mother
    • The apartment where Ted, Marshall, and Lily live has an abnormally large main room but is otherwise not that big. Both the kitchen and the bedrooms are fairly small (Ted's drafting table is in the main room cause it won't fit anywhere else) and it's implied the building itself isn't that great. Ted has always been employed as an architect and Marshall lives off his student loans. Averted when Lily moves out and ends up living in a one-room apartment so small that its Murphy bed can't even come down all the way. Lampshaded by Ted in Season 4: "I thought having a rent-controlled apartment on the Upper West Side was half the reason she agreed to marry me." Also lampshaded in a flashback when Marshall points out that they can just barely afford their apartment.
    • Justified when Marshall and Lily move into their own place — it's nice, but not overly spacious, and it's stated to be outside their price range despite both of them working full-time (he is a lawyer!). It makes even more sense when we find out that the only reason it was even close to their price range was that it stinks due to its proximity to a sewage plant, and the floors are not level.
      • It increasingly starts to strain belief when Marshall loses his job and still somehow manages to keep the apartment. He had to take a much higher interest rate when the credit check revealed Lily's enormous credit card debt and his own student loans from Columbia. Not to mention the apartment was discovered to have warped floors that required an expensive repair process.
    • Robin's original apartment in the first few seasons is also pretty spacious considering she worked for a low-end news job at the worst station in New York and had five dogs. Season 9 explains that Robin has a lot of money from her wealthy family — and she was previously a famous Canadian pop star.
    • Lampshaded after Marshall and Lily spend some time in a spacious suburban home, and when they return to their apartment, it suddenly appears cramped and tiny in comparison. (This sets up a trope subversion for the rest of the show: We can now assume that all of the apartments are small, and only look big to people used to New York apartments.)
    • Word of God is that Ted's discussion of the apartment being much better is an example of his Self-Serving Memory telling the entire story to his kids.
  • iCarly: The living room and dining room are somewhat realistic, but how many condos do you know that have a second and third floor and an elevator? It's also decked out with the latest technology. The Grand Finale confirmed that the elevator opened up to more floors than just the three which the Shays used, which might explain why they can afford the apartment — Anyone can enter their apartment at any time, without their permission. It is also hinted in the finale that Spencer gets financial assistance from their father. The 2021 revival rectifies this by acknowledging that it's an expensive apartment and Spencer has become very wealthy in the interim.
  • Seemingly played straight, then justified and averted in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Dennis and Mac live in a nice two-bedroom apartment with a leather couch, despite making less than they would on unemployment. Dee lives alone in a very nice apartment despite making even less than the bar owners. Dennis and Dee come from a wealthy family, however, and a Season 5 episode explicitly mentions that Frank pays Dee's rent (and presumably at least helping with Dennis'). Meanwhile, Charlie lives in abject squalor, averting the trope entirely, though a later episode shows that Charlie's apartment is actually a lot larger than previously thought but Charlie prefers living in a single filthy room. (Also, Philadelphia rents are famously low by East Coast standards, so it's even more believable that Frank could pay the rent out of his pocket change.)
  • JAG: Mac's Georgetown apartment probably costs as much for one month's rent as a JAG lawyer would earn in three months. It can't even be handwaved in any meaningful way, since it's well-established that Mac came from a poor family. (To their credit, they never really even tried.) The same arguably applies to Harm's apartment, but it has the mitigating circumstance of being located "north of Union Station" (a really bad neighborhood in real life, so it's somewhat plausible that even an apartment that big and nice would be relatively cheap) and being almost derelict until Harm personally renovated the place.
  • In Just the Ten of Us, the Lubbocks live in a house in Eureka, California that's big enough to comfortably house ten people. The parents are a Catholic school coach and a homemaker. Especially bad as a running theme is that the family is struggling financially. It's indicated that the school provided the family with the house. And even if not, it's also implied that it isn't the nicest of places — the four oldest sisters share an attic bedroom, son JR shares with his baby brother, and youngest daughter Sherry shares with her baby sister.
  • Deconstructed, like so many other Dom Com tropes, on Kevin Can F**k Himself. The reason why Kevin and Allison can afford their spacious home on their decidedly working-class salaries is that the house is falling apart and located in the dump that is Worcester, Massachusetts. Allison desperately wants to move out.
  • In Kim's Convenience, Janet and Gerald's apartment seems surprisingly spacious and decent considering both are college students that only have casual jobs at best (with Janet not even getting paid since it's her parents' convenience store). The one possibility for them being able to afford the place is Janet's parents Mr. and Mrs. Kim helping out since they don't want their daughter living in an unsafe cheap place (and Mr. Kim is more than keen for his house to finally be offspring-free). Jung and Kimchi's apartment is debatable; it appears to be a one-bedroom plus a den repurposed as a second bedroom, which would be much cheaper than a proper two-bedroom, but still expensive for a couple of car rental customer service employees even in the least pricey neighbourhoods of Toronto.
  • The King of Queens. Doug is a package delivery man and Carrie is a legal secretary, yet they can afford a detached, two-story house in Queens while supporting Carrie's elderly father and paying for a car, big-screen television, daily dog walker, and other luxuries. Granted, Doug's job is unionized, big-firm legal secretaries do pretty well, Arthur has retirement money to pay his way, and Queens is not Manhattan. Still, it is New York City with the related real estate prices, taxes, and insurance rates.
  • Laverne & Shirley averted this for most of the series, where they were living in a small basement apartment, appropriate to their low-paying bottlecapping jobs. In season 6, however, they moved to Burbank, taking an apartment that had a living room larger than their entire Milwaukee apartment - before starting working and having maybe $100 in savings.
  • Living Single also takes full advantage of this trope. While it makes sense for stockbroker Kyle and superintendent Overton to afford their nice place and for lawyer Maxine to have her own rarely-seen apartment, the place (and main hangout) where Regine, Khadijah, and Synclaire live and how it could be afforded defies logic. The women live in a beautifully furnished unit where each of them not only has their own room but also has a second-story, in spite of them being employed as a department store salesgirl, the owner of a fledgling magazine (which is so cash-pressed, that they usually don't even have money for office supplies) and an aspiring actress/receptionist for said magazine, respectively. But as the series goes on, Regine gets better jobs over time, and Khadijah's magazine gains hype which presumably leads to higher pay, which makes their living situation easier to swallow.
  • Lodge 49: Liz is very behind in payments on her late father's debt while working as a waitress in a Hooters-level bar and grill, yet she lives in a fairly spacious two-bedroom apartment with a massive kitchen in Long Beach. Her brother crashes at her place for a while, sleeping on the couch, but you'd think that she would at least try to get a paying roommate to help her get ahead of her payments.
  • Subverted on Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman - Clark Kent lives in a rundown motel room with a coin-operated phone for the first couple episodes after moving to Metropolis. A few weeks into his steady job at the Daily Planet, he rents a spacious but completely dilapidated one-bedroom apartment.... then uses his super-speed and strength to fix it up into a gorgeous 90s dream pad worthy of Architectural Digest in a matter of minutes!
  • Lucifer (2016) averts this with Chloe. You might wonder how Chloe can afford such a nice house and support her daughter on a police officer's salary. Later episodes reveal that the house isn't hers. It actually belongs to her former movie star mother who lets them live there rent-free. After she moves out of that house, she moves into an apartment that's discounted due to the previous tenant being a murderer, and still has to take on a roommate to afford it.
  • In The Magicians, starting in season 4, the main characters move out of Brakebills University and into a beautiful, spacious two-story apartment somewhere in New York City that had at least six bedrooms (Josh is shown to have his own room; presumably that the others had separate rooms as well before getting romantically entangled). It's stated that their frenemy Marina had the place as one of her safehouses. She lets the magicians stay there, and she has so little regard for the place that she doesn't kick them out even after they come into conflict with her. It's stated once that the group pays rent by running errands for the magical being that owns the building, which is fortunate because most of the characters don't have regular jobs.
  • Subverted in Malcolm in the Middle — when Reese storms/is kicked out of the house, he manages to rent a really nice apartment on an (admittedly well-paying) part-time job. However, it turns out he's paying the rent and all the expenses by credit card, and has racked up several thousand dollars in debt in a matter of weeks. It's also implied in a Halloween episode that Malcolm's family can afford their house partly because its value plummeted after the man who lived in it just prior to them went insane, slaughtered his family, and decorated the place with their body parts.
  • Married... with Children. Al Bundy made minimum wage and was the only working member of the family, yet they lived in a two-story house with a large basement in a neighborhood that's nice enough to have a pair of upper-middle-class bankers as their next-door neighbors. It's also clean and tastefully decorated, making it a stretch for us to believe that the place is a dump.
  • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel:
    • For the first two seasons, the Weissmans live in a massive Upper West Side apartment that has enough room for them, Midge, Midge's kids, and huge decorations. Ostensibly all on Abe's salary as a mathematics professor and researcher at Bell Labs. It's eventually revealed late in season 2 / early season 3 that Columbia University actually owns the apartment...and even then, Rose still needed to dip into her trust fund to pay the bills. Then they lose the apartment and have to move in with Moishe and Shirley, who've managed to upgrade from a rowhouse to a Forest Hills mansion after Joel made changes to boost revenue at their garment factory.
    • From the end of season 3, Midge made a deal with Moishe to purchase the apartment she lived in with Joel, prior to his leaving her. In season 4, Midge takes on a job as a strip club emcee, Abe is employed as a low-level community paper reviewer and Rose has given up her trust fund. Yet Midge and Rose, especially, are still proliferate spenders, with Midge revealing to a new acquaintance in the park that she's wearing Dior. It could be handwaved that as family, Moishe is especially generous about repayments, but the lifestyle the family is maintaining on low-mid range income is simply unfeasible.
    Rose: You really think we live like this on your salary? You really think that Miriam has all those fabulous clothes because you were a professor at Columbia? The vacations, the dinners, the cocktail parties; you think all that exists because you taught eight hyper-intelligent, emotionally-retarded eunuchs to draw symbols on a chalkboard?
    Abe: I think you're oversimplifying my classes.
  • In the first season of Mom the Plunketts rent a fairly nice house in southern California on Christie's waitressing wages, though they get evicted at the start of season 2 due to Christie developing a gambling addiction. After a couple episodes of homelessness and a few nights in a house whose prior occupants were murdered, Bonnie finds a job as a building manager that comes with a large apartment.
  • Monk:
    • Monk himself is downplayed or an odd variant of this trope. For a private investigator and consultant to the San Francisco Police Department, his apartment (1 bed, 2 bath, kitchen, dining and living rooms) is very nice for notoriously expensive San Francisco (AKA home to some of the highest rent prices on the West Coast). While Monk's personal expenses are somewhat reduced (he doesn't own or drive a car, rarely travels, does not own any high-end electronics, and has an iconic Limited Wardrobe, etc.) his OCD brings about a number of other expenses many people don't have (frequent psychiatrist sessions with Dr. Kroger or Dr. Bell, a personal assistant, etc.) and others most people would find unnecessary (he only uses an umbrella only once, runs his dishwasher and washing machine too often, etc.).
    • Monk's assistant Natalie Teeger plays it straight. She has money troubles from time to time due to Monk sometimes not being able to pay her in a timely fashion (and being a bit of a miser to boot), she does not take money from her wealthy parents, but still, her Noe Valley housenote  is much too large for herself and her daughter Julie (not to mention that the interior set doesn't look like something you might find in that part of San Francisco).
    • Done in the tie-in book Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants, where a murder victim is a shoe salesman who lives in a converted loft apartment (also pretty expensive real estate). It's lampshaded as the characters wonder how a lowly shoe salesman is able to afford such a place.
    • In "Mr. Monk and the Marathon Man," the murder victim Gwen Zaleski is an out-of-work actress who lives in a pretty nice 21st-floor apartment. It's explained here that her lover Trevor McDowell, furniture showroom magnate, was paying her bills. That McDowell was about to stop paying the bills is considered by Monk as a clue that implicates him as the killer.
  • A Foreshadowing on Moon Knight is that Steven, who works at a museum gift shop, has a lavish apartment in London. He claims it belongs to his mother but it's soon clear it was bought by his mercenary alter ego Marc (like much of Marc's actions, Steven has no idea of the truth and doesn't find it all odd he lives beyond his means).
  • In My Name Is Earl, it is unknown how Earl and Joy paid rent on their trailer which they de-facto inherited from Earl's old roommate Frank, who went to prison, considering that Earl was often between jobs (he did occasionally work various odd-jobs, but due to his problems with authority, they never lasted long), and Joy never worked at that time. (She is occasionally shown to run a nail salon out of her trailer later in the series, but it appears that she started that business after her marriage to Earl ended.) They stole a lot of things, but those were almost always either things like formula for the kids, or luxury items that they used but did not resell. It's subverted later when Earl mentions that he and Joy would camp out in an abandoned RV when the bill collectors got to be too much. (It was their de-facto "vacation home.") Even though their standard of living is low, by all logic it should be lower.
    • Not that Joy's standard of living is that much better after she divorces Earl for her longtime lover Darnell. As a bartender or the manager of the Crab Shack, Darnell makes a base salary even below minimum wage, and this being Camden, the tip jar is often empty.
  • Tony DiNozzo of NCIS lives in a very nice apartment for a guy living on a cop's salary. Late in Season 13, McGee does some digging and learns that not only does Tony own the apartment outright but he bought it back when he was still a probationary agent and thus was not making much money. It turns out that Tony paid well below market price for the apartment since it was once the site of a gruesome triple homicide, after which nobody wanted to live there anymore. Tony was able to get the place cheap and put a grand piano on top of a large bloodstain that couldn't be completely cleaned. Tim then informs Tony that if Tony wanted to sell the apartment, enough time has passed since the murders that he is no longer legally required to inform potential buyers of its sordid history and thus could get full market value for it. In the following season, a subplot of one episode is the team quarreling over who gets to lease that apartment from Tony's dad after Tony leaves the team and the country. Tim ends up with it, partially because he and his fiancee Deliah need the extra space. A season later, new agent Nick Torres laments that back when he did undercover work in South America, he could get a gorgeous apartment for $400 US a month. The cost of living in the DC Metro area is much higher.
  • Zigzagged in New Girl. The cast lives in an extremely spacious loft apartment in Los Angeles, and their fortunes rise and fall over the course of the show. Winston and Jess are each jobless at some point in the early seasons, and Nick is always broke. However, Schmidt does make a good living at a white-collar job. In later seasons, as many as six people are living in the loft, splitting the rent. Similar apartments rent for $4,500 a month.
  • In the pilot of Once Upon a Time, Emma is shown living in a spacious high-rise in downtown Boston that would be pricey for a bounty hunter, even one with a steady flow of assignments (which is hardly guaranteed), especially in Massachusetts where being a bounty hunter is an effectively dead job since the 1980s. Once again in Season 3, with the timeline reset, Emma and Henry now reside in even more expensive NYC, in a fancier apartment. Boy, apparently New York City's got lots of bail jumpers to bring in.
  • In Only Murders in the Building:
    • Charles and Oliver ask how Mabel is able to afford to stay in a large apartment in the Arconia when she is young and with no discernible source of income. She explains that the apartment belongs to her aunt and she is only living there temporarily while she renovates the place.
    • Averted with Oliver who is near broke at the start of the series and has been clearly living beyond his rent for some time. His struggles to maintain his lavish lifestyle are a key part of his character.
  • Perfect Strangers: A photographer, a mailroom clerk/cartoonist, and two flight attendants couldn't possibly have afforded a big Victorian house in Chicago's Old Town neighbourhood.
  • Near the end of the first season of Person of Interest, Reese moves into a huge apartment overlooking a park that probably has a monthly rent greater than the monthly mortgage payment of most suburban houses, which he never could have afforded back when he was an Army NCO or a CIA agent (The pay scale for his current job — vigilante working on behalf of reclusive billionaire — never being mentioned). Fortunately, the apartment was provided by his boss, who could easily afford to pay the rent for him (assuming Finch doesn't own the building outright). Finch also mentions in a later season that he is paying Reese a lot, to the point that he can pay for any lifestyle he chooses even after routinely donating most of it to charity.
  • At first on Pretty Little Liars, it doesn't make a lot of sense how someone just out of college like Ezra could afford such a nice apartment on a high school teacher's salary in a high-income area like Rosewood, but then it's revealed that his family is actually extremely rich even owning a theater on Broadway and was likely helping him for the first few months at least.
  • In Reaper, the guys move into a massive three-bedroom apartment which cost them only $1,200 a month in rent. Despite Sock trying to handwave it away by saying that he "got a great deal" and it "used to be a meth lab," it's obviously way over the minimum-wage group's income bracket. Especially considering the established gay couple living next door, who have obviously been there for ages, and the wonderful state of repair it is in. This is later justified when it is revealed that the Devil, Satan, Father of Lies, He Who Is Legion, the Beast Whose Number Is 666, happened to sign their lease as part of an Evil Plan to put down a demonic rebellion.
  • In the first season of The Rookie, protagonist John Nolan is shown living in a luxury home that would be nowhere near affordable for a rookie cop. It's soon revealed that it belongs to a friend of John's who's allowing him to live there rent-free; by the second season, he has moved into a dilapidated house and is working to fix it up on his own time using his past construction experience.
  • Deconstructed with Roseanne. The Conners had an older but reasonably spacious two-story home with a basement even though the parents worked a series of low-paying jobs and suffered extended periods of unemployment, the home was heavily mortgaged, and being unable to pay the bills was a real concern. The series made it quite clear that the family really wasn't able to "afford" their home and were constantly struggling to make ends meet - all the way back to when they bought it and had to borrow money from Roseanne's parents.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch lampshades this in one episode, where Zelda alludes to the fact that the neighbours are suspicious that she and Hilda are able to afford such a fancy Victorian house in Massachusetts — when Hilda is a struggling violinist and Zelda doesn't actually work until the fifth season. The aunts can afford whatever they want by having held onto various things over the centuries until they turn valuable.
  • S Club 7:
    • The second season of their TV series LA 7 fits closest to the trope. S Club 7 manage to find a pretty nice building with enough room for seven people. Their landlady Joni features as a supporting character and she first gives them the apartment out of sympathy. The gang are constantly talking about how they're broke and owe each other money, hand-waving it somewhat. One episode also has the power getting rather easily shut down just from all seven using it at once — and Joni claims that the wiring was "kind of a death trap".
    • Miami 7 inverts it, with the group living in bunk beds in what looks more like a cramped military barracks than a Miami hotel. Knowing how tight the owner Howard is, it's incredibly possible that he gave them the worst rooms in an already terrible hotel.
    • Hollywood 7 and Viva S Club were a bit more justified in that they were now established as a band in America and thus earning enough to afford their homes in Hollywood and Barcelona respectively.
  • Subverted in Scrubs. At first, Elliot lives in a quality apartment despite her low salary. It is later revealed that her rich father pays for all her expenses, and when she refuses to let him make decisions on her life, he cuts her off, forcing her to bunk with her friends or live in a U-Haul truck for an extended period. We do see the effects of this trope, however, when Carla thinks of JD and Turk's normal-sized apartment as "tiny."
  • In The Secret Life of the American Teenager, everyone's houses and apartments are very nice and wonderfully decorated, despite everyone having various jobs that should create economic differences between them. Ricky's apartment gets a pass because it used to belong to Leo's wealthy parents. A few headscratchers in particular are Adrian and her mom having an upscale apartment in Season 1, even though they were supposed to be kinda poor. Daniel and his friends also manage to have lavish apartments, despite being college students.
  • In Seinfeld, Jerry and Elaine have steady jobs, and Jerry's apartment is based heavily on his actual former apartment in the Upper West Side. George's living arrangements depend on his employment status, sometimes resulting in him having to live with his parents. As far as Kramer is concerned, no one has any idea how he can afford his apartment with no obvious source of income, but this was kind of a Running Gag throughout the series. It was shown in an episode of Mad About You that Kramer sublets from Paul and that Paul doesn't want to let go of the apartment; as such he may be subletting at under market value as Kramer is a "good" tenant. In an early episode, it's mentioned that the rent of the apartment above Jerry's is only $400 (possibly actually rent-controlled, considering the former resident was an elderly lady).
  • Carrie from Sex and the City is an interesting example, as this depends on whether the episode in question depicts her as a nationwide sensation like the real Candace Bushnell or as another workaday columnist. If the latter is true, then it's unknown how she can afford her nice apartment and her extensive collection of shoes. One episode revealed that her rent is only $750 a month, though at the time she only had $1,600 in her bank account. One episode lampshaded the trope. Carrie remarks to her screenwriter boyfriend-of-the-season that his TV script about a bunch of young actors living in a Manhattan penthouse is hardly realistic. Another episode reveals her apartment was rent controlled. When Aidan buys her building and gives her the option of either buying the apartment or leaving, she starts to look at more believably-priced buildings (including one which apparently reeks because it's right above an Indian restaurant). Apparently, she got the apartment and the rental value just exploded around her. The exterior of her apartment, actually a five-bedroom townhouse, sold for $13.2 million in 2013.
  • Justified with Sherlock and John's flat on Baker Street, as Sherlock has helped the landlady Mrs. Hudson (by ensuring her runaway husband would be executed in the US), so she gives him a discount (unspecified, of course). On the other hand, Sherlock makes no money off his police work and frequently refuses compensation from private clients (John usually steps in and takes the money). John was only shown working once by getting a job as a local doctor... only to fall asleep in the office due to long nights investigating. He does receive pension after being discharged from the army but claims in the pilot that it's not nearly enough to afford a place in London. Also, in the pilot, Mycroft offers to pay John to spy on Sherlock (John didn't know who Mycroft was at the time). When Sherlock finds out, he berates John for refusing and later explains that Mycroft's concern was that of a brother, not an enemy. Mrs. Hudson can afford to live in a townhouse in an expensive London neighborhood because her late husband ran a drug cartel and she inherited a sizable fortune when he was executed.
  • She's Gotta Have It: Nola lives in a large, very nice apartment even as a struggling artist. Mars lampshades it by asking just how she affords the place. It's downplayed somewhat as Nola is behind in paying the rent very often, and once almost gets kicked out by her landlady.
  • Played with in The Suite Life of Zack & Cody. The twins and their mother occupy a dwelling that looks more like an incredibly-cramped one-bedroom apartment than a suite in a five-star hotel. In the first episode, though, Carey says that she and Mr. Moseby worked out a deal where she gets free room and board in exchange for working as a lounge singer at the hotel.
  • Sort of handwaved in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles that they found money and diamonds at one of the "safe houses," but it's not addressed how the family can afford house rental and a different vehicle every week. Also how Jessie is paying for a five-star hotel room.
  • On That Girl, Ann Marie is a struggling actress, auditioning for bit parts and taking various one-off temp jobs on the side, and yet she can afford a spacious, groovily decorated bachelorette pad in the middle of Manhattan.
  • The Vampire Diaries. Matt Donovan seems to be able to keep himself afloat despite his only source of income being a part-time job at the Mystic Grill. One could also wonder how Alaric Saltzman is able to live in such a swanky apartment on a teacher's salary. Or how Elena and Jeremy manage to live comfortably despite all of their caretakers being dead. Though the latter case is understandable being the Gilberts are a wealthy family, they're friends with the mayor and also several vampires who can just compel the payments to go away.
  • The West Wing has perhaps the strangest variation on this. The show's White House sets include vast, opulently furnished rooms such as the Lobby, the Roosevelt Room, and the Mural Room. The real-life West Wing either doesn't have these at all, or has much smaller, shabbier versions, as you'd expect given that, for all intents and purposes, this is essentially a glorified government office building. Part of what causes this dissonance is the desire to create a sense of constant activity within the White House, resulting in the TV version being more active than the real thing (as well as having many more pretty glass doors and windows to exhibit this activity).
  • Will & Grace usually justified this, one way or another. Most of the characters are established to either make enough to afford decent housing or are mooching off those who can. The second season shows that Grace can apparently make enough to afford a large apartment by herself, but not enough to actually furnish or clean it.
  • Played straight in Wizards of Waverly Place. Nobody in New York, especially not owners of a sandwich shop that seems to be perpetually half-empty, can have a house, complete with basement, parking lot, and balcony in TriBeCa. Though there could be explanation in that Jerry (the dad) seems to STILL have some very big pull in the magical world. This would help with the situation. Also, their uncle not only is magic but is Shakira, so he might lend them money.
  • Dana Scully on The X-Files lives in a large, two-bedroom apartment with a fireplace in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, DC (a very upscale, expensive area of the city), on an FBI agent's salary. While she acts as a forensic pathologist for her department, she's also an investigative agent and it's mentioned several times how working for the FBI is a step down—both in esteem and money—from working in a private practice with her MD. Meanwhile, Mulder, who comes from old money and probably doesn't need to work for an income, lives in Arlington in a much smaller and more realistic apartment for his salary and the area.
  • The Young Ones: Four unemployed college students are renting a house in London. Averted partly by the implication that Mike is blackmailing their landlord into discounting their rent, partly by the fact that the house is falling to pieces (their first house is condemned and demolished at the end of the first episode), and almost entirely by the fact that all UK higher education students at the time got a generous means-tested grant to cover their living expenses, Housing Benefit to top up any shortfall, unemployment benefit during vacations, and paid no tuition fees. Part of the joke was the needless squalor in which they lived, given how relatively well-off students could be. In the final episode, they get turfed out when Jerzy has enough of them not paying rent.


  • The Trope Namer is parodied in Friends: The Musical Parody with the song "495 Grove Street - How Can We Afford This Place?". The answer turns out to be Suspension of Disbelief.
  • In The Odd Couple, it's not clear why Oscar Madison expects to maintain a family-sized apartment in New York for himself and his friends, since the start of the play finds him running painfully short on alimony payments.

    Video Games 
  • Done as a game mechanic in Animal Crossing where in spite of having no job other than a very brief part-time stint at a corner store you're able to not only own a home but continuously remodel it into (eventually) the nicest and most lavish home in town. Reason being Tom Nook doesn't charge interest, lets you pay off your debt at your own pace and doesn't care if you never pay outside of not letting you upgrade (and there's no real incentive aside from a Cosmetic Award for paying your final debt), so you have all the time in the world to pay off your debt as slowly as possible. A patient player could actually eventually pay off their home by picking fruit and gathering sea shells.
  • In Dragon Age II Merrill is a newcomer to Kirkwall, having come from a society of nomadic druids who don't really deal with money. The city is already overflowing with refugees, plus being an elf means that she is forced to live in the slums in the worst part of town. By all rights she should be living in a shoebox, but somehow she's situated in what amounts to a reasonably-sized apartment (albeit one with a vermin problem). Though given Varric's underworld ties, it's not unlikely to believe that he smoothed things over to get her a place of her own. He does at one point mention that he pays off thugs in Lowtown to not give her trouble... And it's heavily implied that the apartment is smaller in-universe. All of the furniture is packed into tight corners and cubbies, and cut scenes in the apartment are all edited to make it look like those areas are all there is. That it's so tiny finding a place for guests to sit down is an issue is mentioned a few times. Most of the space seems to just be a place to put the camera.
  • Fate/stay night: The Emiya residence surprises quite a lot of characters who visit it, as it's a rather large, traditional Japanese-style house, with at least four spare bedrooms, a spacious yard, detached dojo, and two-story storage shed in the middle of the city. Shirou is an orphaned high school student who works several part-time jobs; and he certainly didn't have enough of an inheritance to afford such a place. The VN explains that the house is actually owned by the local Yakuza syndicate; Shirou's father Kiritsugu had rented it from them, and after his passing they allow Shirou to stay there as a favor to Kiritsugu. In one of the visual novel's endings, Sakura Matou purchases the residence, and it takes nearly all of the Matou family's finances (which is not a small amount) as well as selling her own Big Fancy House in order to afford it.
  • In Final Fantasy VII Remake, like in the original, most of the Sector 5 slums are a shanty town constructed out of salvaged scrap metal. The notable exception is a three-story wooden house with a landscaped lawn. That's where Aerith lives with her adoptive mother. While Elmyra Gainsborough's job is not mentioned, Aerith sells flowers for a living. Not from a shop or cart, but from a handbasket, which severely limits the maximum amount of sales she can make in a day. Floristry must pay really well in Midgar. Which would actually make sense, because there generally isn't much plant life growing in Midgar and the prices of flowers should logically be high. Aerith's Ancient ancestry lets her grow plants when no one else can.
  • In Growing Up, regardless of the job you got in your previous run, your child in the next still lives in the same American suburb house.
  • The Last of Us: Before the Cordyceps outbreak, Joel, a carpenter and single father, lived in a decent-sized two-story house. Joel was married to Sarah's Missing Mom for a while, so it's likely that they bought it together while they were married. And without her around (whether she's dead or if they're just divorced isn't confirmed), Joel implies in dialogue that he's on the verge of losing it.
  • In Layton's Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires' Conspiracy, Katrielle Layton not only has an apartment somewhere in London, which she apparently lives in by herself, she also has an office for her detective agency somewhere else in London within walking distance of Big Ben, even though her only apparent source of income is her newly created detective agency which is described many times as not getting much business. Although given her father's fame and connections, it's possible Hershel pulled some strings to ensure she'd be financially secure even in his absence.
  • In Persona 5, Sojiro Sakura lives in a nice house with multiple bedrooms and spends a lot of money on fancy electronics for his daughter Futaba despite just having a small coffee shop that doesn't see much business. Justified given that he's a former government employee and probably has a pension that he's actually living on, although he ended up having to give a lot of that money to Futaba's greedy, abusive uncle in exchange for custody of her.
  • Virtually endemic to the works of Quantic Dream:
    • Beyond: Two Souls justifies it more than usual, as Jodie's luxurious apartment seen in "The Dinner" was explicitly provided by the CIA for her work with the agency, as she had been employed for two years by that point. But it's also the only time she samples an environment this lavish; the rest of her life, she's stuck in spartan government facilities or homeless/on the run.
    • In Detroit: Become Human, Todd lives in a fairly spacious if poorly-kept house despite being an unemployed drug addict. On top of somehow supporting a drug habit, he has enough money to pay for a Robot Maid (as well as repairs after destroying her) as well as a robot child. At least in the case of maid, Kara's model is a commercial model available for $800.
    • Heavy Rain has a problem with the apartments that are owned by Ethan (who's supposed to be a divorced dad falling on hard times) and Madison (a reporter who doesn't even seem to be working for one particular newspaper) — they're both absurdly spacious, though at least Ethan's apartment is bare. Ethan lives in a house even after he's divorced. Except in his happier endings, when he's living on the aforementioned Lucas Kane's apartment.
    • Indigo Prophecy has several examples, being set in New York City and featuring many elegant apartments, but Lucas Kane's is the most egregious. He has an almost ludicrously-sized apartment in the middle of Manhattan, made even more ridiculous by the tiny, run-down appearance of the access hallway inside his building. Either Lucas has the only penthouse apartment in the building, or parts of his kitchen and bedroom reside in alternate dimensions, because the doors in the hallway are set far too close together to accommodate Lucas' luxurious living room. All this, on a mid-level IT manager's salary.
  • At the start of Shin Megami Tensei I, the high-school-age hero lives with his mother in a house in Kichijoji, a neighborhood considered to be one of the best places to live in Tokyo. For context, his next-door neighbor is a doctor who appears to live in a similar house. The hero's parents are divorced and his mother doesn't appear to work; it must have been a hell of a settlement.

  • Subverted in City Under the Hill. Seamus works full-time for the Border Police, and yet still only affords a small-sized flat above a grocery store.
  • Go Get a Roomie!: Starts off as this, but Lillian mentions in one strip that her father died when she was young, leaving a large inheritance to her mom, her brother, and her. It's enough that she and her brother were able to buy a large house together and live a comfortable lifestyle despite not really having jobs.
  • John's father from Homestuck is able to afford a massive house, despite being "just a businessman". Compare the other parents in the comic, who are all explicitly filthy rich with similar house sizes. Averted with the post-Scratch version of "Dad", who's now raising the heiress to a multinational baking corporation.
  • Living with Insanity was like this for a while until it was eventually commented on..
  • Ménage ŕ 3:
    • The lead trio are a call center worker who spends most of his spare cash on geeky collectibles, a comics shop assistant (hired without negotiation as "counter candy"), and a waitress. The apartment they share looks pretty nice, though, even if the landlady is a serious hard case, and the lease apparently permits her to enter the place any time she wishes, and apply surcharges to the rent for arbitrary reasons.
    • Waitress Sonya can afford an apartment of her own, in a building with its own swimming pool.
    • Possibly slightly justified in that the series takes place in Montreal, which has historically been a better city for rents than some owing to a large supply of older rental buildings and thirty-odd years of political uncertainty.
  • Lampshaded in Metacarpolis when Emiko admits that she can't afford her apartment solely on her income as a cleaning service maid. It's just one of many hints that she is more than she appears.
  • Occurs (but is lampshaded at least once) in Questionable Content — Martin, Dora, and Faye live in an enormous and gorgeous apartment, despite the fact that Marten works at a library for a small college, Dora owns a coffee shop she continuously has trouble keeping afloat, and Faye works for Dora as a barista at the coffee shop.
    Faye: C'mon, at least lemme break one of (Dora's) arms...
    Marten: No, because then she'd fire you and I'd have to pay the rent on this place all on my own.
    • Housing in Western Massachusetts is rather less expensive than in urban East Coast areas like Boston or New York, even if it still comes across as expensive compared to the South, Midwest, or Western part of the country. Three people working, even at low-wage jobs, and budgeting carefully or scoring lots of their stuff for free off what college kids throw away (easy to do in Amherst or Northampton) can and have afforded pretty decent apartments there before.
    • Later strips explain that the coffee shop isn't nearly as bad off as it seems; Dora purposefully understaffs the shop (and picks up the slack herself) so she can take home more of the store's profit for spending money.
    • Played with when Marten's mom moves there from San Francisco. She rents a place in the most expensive part of town, which is laughably cheap to her.
  • Subverted in Rhapsodies. Kate, Paul, and Brian live in an apartment across the street from a popular park, owned by Brian's parents. However, the three units surrounding Brian's apartment are almost unrentable so his parents are virtually giving them away at slum rates.
  • Justified in S.S.D.D. as Richard is actually the landlord, and willing to give his friends a lot of leeway when it comes to rent because of their history, although his patience does have limits and he's occasionally threatened both of them with the boot when their antics get too much. He also gets part of his payment in kind: Kingston supplies him with weed, and Norman helps him persuade uncooperative tenants to cough up. It also later turns out that Kingston's family are quite well off, and are implied to be helping him out and probably paying a bit extra to Richard to look after their wayward son. And Richard is only able to be a landlord because his father bought all the properties in his name as a tax dodge.
  • Wilde Life. Oscar was working as a journalist in Chicago before quitting the job, and it's implied that he'd been living with his sister (and her husband) for a while after that. But one day he found on Craigslist a nice house for rent in Podunk, Oklahoma and just went and moved there. Sure, the house is haunted so it has a lower-than-market price, and some of the previous owners had left their furniture and even TV there, but still he doesn't seem to be doing anything to pay the rent.

    Web Original 
  • Cracked discusses this trope in its article 5 Insane Things You Believe About Money (Thanks to Movies).
  • Good Game: In the first episode, the two main characters live in a large, well-furnished house in Southern California despite apparently having no job between the two of them. Their landlord tries to evict them in the same episode, saying that they're six months late on their rent, but how they got the house to begin with is still suspect.
  • Word of God is that the house used in The Gumdrops is far too nice to be a student house - so they've left the layout intentionally vague to avoid showing the full place. It's implied to be in a town with a lot of students, which would push rent prices down a bit.
  • Deconstructed by The Nostalgia Critic (with a guest appearance from '90s Kid) in his Bio-Dome review, which he points out was one of numerous movies from the The '90s featuring stupid young people with no steady jobs, yet still having decent places to live.
  • Lampshaded in Smosh's video, "If TV Shows Were Real 3":
    So no one told that you that this life would be such rough!~
    You're living in a dumpster and you're broke as f*ck!~
  • Parodied by Texts from Superheroes where the reason Poison Ivy insists on operating in Gotham despite it being one of the worst possible locations for her powers and goals is that her apartment is rent controlled and she refuses to give it up.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time initially seems to play this straight, as the Treehouse seems way too large and lavish for a jobless kid and his talking dog/adoptive brother to afford and maintain, especially given that the show is set After the End. But it soon turns out that the Treehouse is downright spartan for Finn and Jake, as they're rich enough to crash economies by themselves with the massive hoard of treasure, artifacts, and weaponry they've built up from years of Dungeon Crawling and monster-slaying. The only reason they aren't living in a straight-up castle is that they don't care enough to spend much of that money, seeing it as a Bragging Rights Reward that comes secondary to the adventure itself. It's implied that this is a common situation for adventurers; Billy is even wealthier than Finn and Jake, yet lives in a dank cave that isn't furnished with anything other than his loot.
  • The main trio in Aqua Teen Hunger Force live in a house that is basically smaller than Hank Hill's, but only Frylock seems to be paying the bills as Shake is a jobless Jerkass and Meatwad is too stupid to qualify for a job. Though given that the house seems to be depleting in almost every appearance, it's safe to assume it's a squalor.
  • Parodied in The Critic. Doris owns a huge, spartan apartment in New York City — and only pays $120 thanks to rent control. She tells Jay — without turning around — to put the candlestick down, knowing he wanted to club her to take over her rent-controlled apartment. Made even funnier at the fact Jay didn't even realize he was about to club her until she pointed it out.
    • Truth in Television: There are some apartments in Manhattan with ridiculously low rents, even as low as $120, thanks to rent control. A good chunk of them are in upper Manhattan, though, and often date back to the 1940s.
    • It's also inverted in Alice's introductory episode. She's a divorced mother with a child to support on meager earnings, her apartment is run down and in a bad neighborhood with mentally-unstable neighbors and she's in the process of being evicted.
  • Danny Phantom: Given their status as presumably self-employed scientists working in a very specific field, and universally regarded as quacks, it is unclear exactly how the Fentons could afford to construct all their various inventions, including a gateway to an alternate dimension and multiple vehicles, let alone their house.
  • Darkwing Duck:
    • The titular Darkwing Duck lived in a two-story home despite not even having any sort of job outside of his crime-fighting. This was finally explained in the 2010 comics, where it's revealed that SHUSH paid him for his services.
    • Meanwhile, Drake's next-door neighbor Herb Muddlefoot was somehow able to afford an equally sized house and support a family of four as a door-to-door Quackerware (expy of Tupperware) salesman. Even if he is apparently one of the best salesmen in the company, the fact remains that leftover containers aren't very expensive, and last for years before needing replacement, so there's not much of a market for his product, and the commissions are probably pitiful.
  • Dexter's Laboratory: The Justice Friends (Major Glory, Val Hallen, and Krunk) live in an apartment they rent. It's revealed in one episode that Val Hallen got the largest room (well, less "room" and more "pocket dimension containing the full glory and splendor of VALHALLA ITSELF") and pays a bigger share of the rent than the others because of this (which isn't a problem for him as he is not only a superhero and "Norse God of rock," but also the world's most famous rock star). It's never stated how much each Justice Friend pays (although Major Glory probably has a cushy government contract). They also seem to destroy it (both the apartment and the building), frequently, yet never have to answer for it.
  • In Family Guy, Peter is the only one employed in the family, as a below-management level employee at a toy factory (at least until the later seasons, where he worked briefly as a fisherman, and then got a decent-paying job at the Pawtucket Brewery) yet they live in a nice house. In addition, he manages to spend all kinds of money on stuff, which was lampshaded in Peter's use of the "Peter-Copter" and the "Hindenpeter" which damage Joe's house and property, prompting Joe to wail incredulously, "How can you afford these things?!!" The episode "Emission Impossible" explained how: Lois and Peter won a lawsuit against a condom company after Lois' pregnancy with Chris due to a broken condom. That lawsuit allowed the Griffins to buy their lovable, size-changing house on Spooner Street. Lois is also not above the occasional Five-Finger Discount or accepting money from her obscenely rich father. It is also revealed how in The Cleveland Show when Junior offhandedly mentions all of the random jobs Peter had to get to pay for the incident that killed his mother. So he pretty much stated that all of the Cutaway Gags shown in the series is how he pays off for all the damages his stupid actions cause. "Meg Stinks!" takes this even further explaining that Peter affords his wacky shenanigans by committing bank robberies.
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: Mac's apartment is fairly spacious, despite the fact that he lives with his single mother who's supporting him and his brother. His father is presumed dead (as opposed to divorced or separated), so she probably doesn't get child support or alimony. It's also revealed that the enormous, titular Foster's Home gets donations (in reference to a house that feeds and provides room & board for hundreds of imaginary friends). Although when Mac fibs about there being no hot water, his mom passes it off as one of the problems with their home. She doesn't object to him turning on the AC though shortly afterward.
  • In a throwaway gag on Futurama, the Planet Express crew watches an episode of Real World: The Sun, and while people scream as they're burnt alive by the surface of the sun, Leela is disgusted by the show's premise:
    "Do you know how much an apartment that big would cost on the sun?"
  • Elisa Maza of Gargoyles lives alone in a fairly spacious loft apartment in Soho on a detective's salary, while simultaneously buying amenities for the Manhattan Clan. Given that she is half-Native American, it's possible that she receives reparations money as well, but it can still seem fairly ridiculous.
  • Goof Troop: Despite not having a job, Goofy has a house that's just as big as the Petes, albeit not as nice as theirs.
  • The eponymous character on Jimmy Two-Shoes lives on his own without a job. One episode centered around him having to take a job to pay for some frivolous purchases, but he never has problems with basic living.
  • In King of the Hill, Bill Dauterive seems to be the only character that’s hit with this as he's divorced and works as a simple army barber, yet has enough income to live in a one-story suburban home.
  • The Looney Tunes Show
    • Played with: Bugs and Daffy live in a very nice house in a neighborhood where almost everyone (excluding Yosemite Sam) appears to be rather pleasant, if a bit eccentric. While Daffy is stated to have no job and very poor credit, Bugs, however, is revealed to have invented the carrot peeler and most if not all of his money stems from the royalties.
    • In the episode "Peel of Fortune," Daffy bought the house (based on royalties from an automatic carrot peeler he stole from Bugs) and lets Bugs live with him. However, Daffy's demands cause Bugs to lose it and he storms out. He is forced to move back into his old rabbit hole from the classic Looney Tunes cartoons. He finds the experience unpleasant, after years of suburban lifestyle. Status Quo is restored when the schematic Daffy stole and mass-produced turns out to have an irreparable defect: overnight, Daffy's once again a freeloader, and Bugs' manual-carrot-peeler royalties are rolling in again.
  • While the mortgage doesn't seem to be a problem in The Loud House, Lynn Sr. and Rita seem to have enough money from being a dental assistant and an office worker to pay for groceries, bills, etc for their 11 children and a bunch of pets. Though Lynn Sr. soon owning a restaurant and Rita becoming a writer in later seasons might make their payments more easy.
  • Subverted in Mission Hill: Andy is working at a water mattress store at (presumably) just above minimum wage, Posey is just...there, and no one knew what Jim did for a living until Kevin came along, yet they live in a very spacious apartment (with a second floor!) in a decent building with neighbours they like, in a part of town that doesn't seem run down or depressed. Then Jim is revealed to be a highly paid corporate executive with tons of clout for basically being a computer whiz. This isn't revealed until Andy loses his job and a tooth, and Jim lets him use his health insurance to have it fixed, because Andy never asked — even though he's Jim's best and oldest friend.
  • The Mane 6 from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic seem to play on this trope.
    • When Twilight is first sent to Ponyville, she moves into a tree library and basically becomes the new librarian. However, in nearly all of the library's appearances in seasons 1-4, Twilight only seems to barely drum up business and owning a library, much less living in it, costs a lot of money in order to be kept afloat. That said, she's the personal protégé of the ruler of the land, which may get her a stipend. She ends up subverting the trope when she moves into her tree castle at the end of the fourth season.
    • Rainbow Dash lives in a Cloudominuim, a condominium made out of clouds, but her job in Ponyville seems to be managing weather and upon seeing how her home is basically a castle, she must've been paid at least a year's worth of bits to pay for mortgage. Though becoming a Wonderbolt in the 6th season might have added to her payments. Pegasus are also shown building structures out of clouds, so it's not unreasonable to assume Rainbow Dash simply built her home.
    • Fluttershy lives in a reclusive 2-story cottage and it is implied that her job is to take care of animals and knowing how devoted she is to woodland creatures, it might make sense why she is able to afford her home. Furthermore, she lives in a small farming village and on the border of the Everfree Forest, which to most ponies is considered an Eldritch Location, which means she probably got it for cheap.
    • Applejack, Rarity, and Pinkie Pie avert this trope though, as Applejack and Rarity both own and live in their businesses and they are basically the busiest of places in Ponyville while Pinkie Pie also lives in the place she works and seems to be able to pay rent.
  • Played with in Ninjago. Most of the series has them living out of either Master Wu's monastery (presumably inherited from his father, who is basically the creator deity of their universe) or a rehabbed pirate ship they found abandoned in the desert. In season 1, they have to move into the bustling metropolis of Ninjago City where real estate is at a premium. They're forced to choose between a tiny, cramped, one-room apartment (the only thing within their budget) or a sprawling, luxurious loft with in-home ninja training course and other various amenities. They choose the latter and spend an entire episode working odd jobs to pay for it, from which they're almost immediately fired. After learning their lesson, they move into the first apartment so they can focus on training Lloyd instead of working... but now they're left with no income whatsoever, which still leaves the question of how they're managing to pay for it. Nya is the only one of the bunch to have a job (part-time at an automotive shop), but that money goes into the vehicles she builds for the team, so it's unlikely she could also provide rent and expenses for seven people.
  • Rocko's Modern Life: Rocko works as a cashier in a comic book shop but is somehow able to afford to live by himself in a relatively large, two-story house with a spacious living room, full kitchen, basement, front and backyard, attached garage, and, in one episode, a grand ballroom. Not helping matters is the fact that O-Town is implied to be based on Orlando, and Florida is not a cheap state to live in (On the other hand, a map showing Rocko and Filburt's bus route to Holl-O-Wood in "I Have No Son!" implies that they live in Ohio or Michigan near Lake Erie, where housing is much cheaper).
  • Ruby Gloom: Ruby and her friends live in a large mansion on a large amount of property, despite having no visible source of income whatsoever.
  • The Simpsons live in a very large, four or five-bedroom house despite Homer being the only breadwinner (and being somewhat, ahem, unreliable when it comes to spending money), though it was once explained by Grampa Simpson selling his house to help Homer and Marge buy theirs. Some episodes draw attention to it though.
    • Lampshaded in "Homer's Enemy":
      Frank Grimes: (in awe) Good Heavens! This is a palace! H-How can, how in the world can you afford to live in a house like this, Simpson?
      Homer: I dunno. Don't ask me how the economy works.
    • Further lampshaded in "Kill Gil, Volumes I & II", where Homer says, "I make six [thousand dollars] a year"; and in "Father Knows Worst", where he says, "[One thousand dollars is] how much my house is worth!"
    • Of course, a safety inspector at a Real Life nuclear power plant working for someone other than Montgomery Burns would be earning serious money (easily hitting six digits with only a decade's experience). Plus, Springfield is considered in-universe to be a crappy place to live, which could drive down prices.
    • The creators have also been known to state that they've deliberately kept the precise layout of the Simpsons' home vague and inconsistent, so it's hard to tell how big it really is.
    • Furthermore, the house is large but not exactly that good, as it has pretty thin walls among other problems.
    • Flanders has a very nice house with a very spacious and lavish rumpus room in the basement, but in an early episode is stated to only make $27 a week more than Homer does before going into business for himself. Flanders also admitted to buying his RV on credit; for all we know the house is mortgaged to the hilt too.
  • In SpongeBob SquarePants, both SpongeBob and Squidward live in nice two-story houses and are able to furnish them while still affording food and everything they need for their hobbies. This is despite the fact that they work for a fast food joint run by Mr. Krabs, who would make them pay him if he could get away with it, and SpongeBob had his house even before he was employed at all. The most logical conclusion is that they don't pay for their homes at all; "Home Sweet Pineapple" shows SpongeBob's house simply grows (complete with furniture and everything...) while Squidward perhaps, like most sea creatures in real life, simply found an abandoned Easter Island Head and made it his home.
  • Averted and justified in Steven Universe. Steven only lives in his very nice (if small) home because it was built and integrated into the Crystal Gems' base (which is clearly not owned by any human) by the Crystal Gems, expressly for him to live in. His father, Greg, supports him in ways other than housing, but only barely manages to do so by effectively living out of the tiny car wash he runs, until he receives an unexpected windfall of cash from a 10 million dollar royalty check for a song he wrote in his brief music career.
  • Super Noobs: Alien warriors Memnock and Zenblock move into a house in the second episode, which is a two-story house that is fairly spacious and well-kept. However, Memnock and Zenblock apparently have no job besides being virus warriors so it's unknown how they are able to afford to keep living in it, let alone being able to buy other things. Ironically this spacious house turned out to be too small for them due to their large size and this problem caused them to have a Feud Episode until the Noobs decide to add more spacious high-tech rooms underneath the house in order to end the feud. It's speculated that the Benevolent Alliance supplies Memnock and Zenblock with the funds they need to afford the house smother can continue staying in it and be able to train the noobs.
  • Sym-Bionic Titan: The alien trio move into a large house outside downtown Sherman (similar to Chicago). How do they afford it? Why Octus is able to createnote  money to pay for it as opposed to applying for a home loan. ("Fine. Everyone pays for houses in cash.")
  • We Bare Bears: Played with. The bears live in a renovated cave they paid nothing for, at least some of their furniture is hand-made, they either walk (often in "bearstack" mode) or use public transportation, and numerous episodes show they make very little money. That said, this doesn't stop them from getting an Internet connection, cell phones, laptops, television, a fridge, and they still have plenty of free time to do whatever the plot requires.

    Real Life 
  • A variant for American military personnel living off-post in friendly nations. The US military will provide a housing allowance, allowing personnel to live in nicer homes they'd otherwise be unable to afford on their salaries.
  • In California, a proposition passed during the 1970s that limited how much property tax could increase. This meant however that property values had to be reassessed. Though everyone who owned property before then were grandfathered in at their current rate. This means in some areas, there are some property owners who are paying a fraction of the tax that everyone else would be if they purchased property today.
  • In Cairo, due to rent control, there's some houses built before 1996 whose rents never rose since Nasser, even though the currency suffered Ridiculous Future Inflation. For example, in this case, the rent stayed at 15 Egyptian pounds since the 1960s, around one $US. In some cases, such rents are too low to pay for maintenance, resulting in some of these buildings decaying.
  • In Mumbai, rent control was enacted during World War 2, and rents on most of the housing have been set at their 1940 level.
  • New York City's rent control laws have allowed long-time tenants to hold onto insanely low rents as the city has become increasingly expensive. Two longtime tenants in Manhattan's trendy SoHo neighborhood paid $55 and $71 a month where the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is over $2,500. One woman paid only $28 a month for a two-bedroom apartment in Greenwich Village she had been renting for 63 years, estimated to go for $5,000 on the open market.
  • In the Canadian province of Ontario, all rentals occupied before November 2018 are subject to a maximum 1.2 percent increase per year for the duration of the tenant's occupancy. Therefore, depending on how many times a unit has changed hands, two tenants in the same apartment building can have a thousand dollar a month difference in their rent.

Alternative Title(s): Sitcom Rent Control, Impossibly Large Apartment