Student Resource Guide
GOOD ADVICE ON HOW TO IMPRESS YOUR LANDLORD
"Impress your Future Landlord and Get Approved for your Dream Rental" https://www.rentecdirect.com/blog/impress-your-landlord/
In a competitive rental market, getting approved your next apartment can depend on more than just your credit score and income.
A rental hopeful should always put their best foot forward when trying to impress a future landlord. In fact, apartment hunting can be as competitive as landing your dream job.
Some tenants have found success in providing a renter resume to stand out, while others understand that a professional and honest conversation can get them beyond phase one of the tenant screening process.
Preliminary tenant screening will determine if the property manager will move your rental application into the final rounds of the tenant screening process. Preliminary tenant screening includes asking questions to determine if you will be a good tenant, before a property manager has to pull a credit report or call your employers to verify income.
Nathan Miller, President of Rentec Direct, explains how competitive the rental market has become and why it’s important to stand out during in the preliminary phase, “We reviewed some statistics from 5236 rental applications received during the first two months of 2017. Of those applications, 56% of the units we rented after receiving just one application. The remaining units received between 2 and 63 applicants per unit. The average overall was 3.54 applicants per unit to find and place a tenant.’
If you want to be the first application processed and approved, you need to make a good impression with your landlord during phase one of the tenant screening process.PRELIMINARY TENANT SCREENING
Preliminary tenant screening typically takes place when you call a landlord or property manager to ask about available rentals or when you meet them for a property showing. Housing providers will be looking and listening for legitimate cues to tell them if you are going to be a good tenant.
During this round of preliminary tenant screening, your landlord will be asking questions to see how you will fair as a tenant. They are looking for honest answers. If you lie about credit or pets, they will find out and you will just end up wasting everyone’s time.
HERE IS SOME ADVICE TO APPEAR IN THE BEST LIGHT POSSIBLE TO YOUR FUTURE LANDLORD
THE WHY ARE YOU MOVING QUESTION?
Think carefully about how you answer this question. While you should never lie to a future landlord, a renter who complains about their current living situation or about management is not going to be someone your future landlord wants to deal with.
If an applicant has a bad attitude about their current property, even if for legitimate reasons, the landlord could perceive the applicant as high maintenance. A complaining renter requires a lot of energy from landlord.
An applicant is better off saying something like, “I am looking for more space” or “I want to live closer to my office” (bonus points if you mention a promotion – this shows you are committed to your company and don’t plan to move anytime soon!). These answers are much better than “The management never responds to my maintenance requests!”.
If you want to get a new puppy keep your lips sealed! Even if pets are allowed at the property, your future landlord will not be as excited as you about the idea of a puppy on the property. Puppies can cause substantial more damage than an older pet.
You can ask about a pet policy to make sure that pets are allowed in the future but don’t tell your landlord you plan to get a puppy the second you move in. Check the rental agreement about conditions for the pet policy and introduce the idea of new pet after you have gotten the chance to get know one another.DON’T TALK ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP
If you are planning to be the only person on the lease, do not talk about your boyfriend, girlfriend or partner.
A significant other who is not on the lease is a red flag to the landlord that the partner will be staying at the property, a lot. Most lease agreements have a clause or conditions regarding a long-term guest policy.
Even if your partner has their own place, a landlord will automatically assume a partner is living on the property if he sees them there too often. Reinforce that you are the only person living on the property and keep your relationship to yourself during your first couple of meetings.AVOID EVEN CASUAL MENTIONS LIKE, “MY BOYFRIEND WORKS IN THE BUILDING ACROSS THE STREET”.
Remember, a landlord is not legally allowed to ask you any questions about your familial status (as protected by the Federal Fair Housing Act). That means it’s none of his business if you are married, single, or dating.GO TO THE SHOWING ALONE IF POSSIBLE
A lot of people may want to bring a friend with them to look at an apartment but be careful – this could be a red flag to a landlord that the “friend” may actually be a secret roommate.
A landlord wants to collect an application from all adults living on the property, so he will want to know if the “friend” needs to submit an application too.
If you feel unsafe traveling to showings by yourself, make it clear to the landlord or property manager that the friend is not going to be living there and is purely there for moral support. Don’t be taken aback if the landlord asks you point blank if the friend is planning to live in the rental as well.DON’T HESITATE OR COMPLAIN ABOUT PROVIDING YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER
With all the hype around identity theft these days, some paranoid individuals are extremely resistant about providing their social security number. Experienced renters, however, understand that credit checks are part of the rental process and credit is only verified with a social security number.
A qualified tenant should be pleased with a manager’s thorough screening criteria as it demonstrates the owner’s value in finding the best renters and maintaining a great property.
Not all rentals are created equal, and sometimes applying for an apartment can seem as competitive as getting into an Ivy League college. Landlords with rentals that are located in trendy areas, accept pets, or are subject to rent control often receive dozens of applications.
So, how do you distinguish yourself from everyone else who’s vying for the same rental? Although being able to pay rent is important, landlords who can be choosy look for other characteristics in prospective tenants. Here’s some advice on how to impress a potential landlord.
Most landlords with hot properties will require you to fill out a written rental application. Being able to submit it quickly will give you a competitive advantage. Bring the following information to your meeting with the landlord or property manager so you can fill out your application on the spot:
- References. Have a written list of at least three references. Prospective landlords will want to see past landlords listed as references, but if that’s not possible, use employers, colleagues, and friends. Be ready to provide their full names, phone numbers, and email addresses. It’s always a good idea to alert references to expect a call—and make sure they’ll speak well of you.
- Past rental or residence information. Many applications ask for the addresses of where you’ve lived for the past five years or so. Have the full address, the dates you lived there, and the reason why you left each residence at your fingertips.
- Proof of ability to pay. Landlords will often accept a recent pay stub showing your current income, the prior year’s tax return, or a current bank statement as proof of your ability to pay the rent. If you’re about to start a new job, bring a copy of your offer letter reflecting your anticipated start date and income.
- Financial information. Be prepared to provide account numbers for your checking, savings, and other financial accounts—the prospective landlord might ask for your permission to run a check on your deposits. Know your social security number in case you have to provide it for a credit check.
- Pet data. If you’re going to be moving in with a pet, bring a vet’s letter showing the pet is up to date with all its vaccinations. Know your pet’s breed, size, and weight. If you have a pet reference—someone who can vouch for the fact your pet is house-trained, friendly, and has been a good resident in the past—bring that person’s contact information.
- Liquid funds. Arrive at the meeting with your checkbook (and the funds in the bank to back it up). This way, you’re prepared to pay any application fees and put down a deposit. (Make sure you ask for a receipt.)
It's also a good idea to bring a current copy of your credit report (although the landlord might still want to order one—and will charge you a fee for doing so). You can order your credit report from any of the major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion), or get a free copy at AnnualCreditReport.com. Be sure to review the report before you go apartment hunting—dispute and correct any incomplete or inaccurate information you find.
If you’re renting with roommates, it’s best to have everyone who will be living in the unit attend (and be prepared for) the meeting with the potential landlord. If that’s not possible, bring the information listed above for the absent roommate.
DEMONSTRATE YOU WILL BE AN IDEAL TENANT
Be on your best “good tenant” behavior when you go to see a rental. Show up on time, dress neatly, and present yourself as someone who is both conscientious and agreeable. If you’re attending an open house, arrive at the start (but not too early), if possible.
Because landlords hate dealing with overly demanding or fussy tenants who complain about trivial things, don’t start off asking for a long list of improvements and special favors before you’re even offered the place. You can—and should—ask questions, but realize that the landlord might interpret pointed or negative-sounding questions as signs you’re going to be a difficult tenant.
OFFER SOMETHING EXTRA
To stand out from other applicants, consider offering something extra to show that you have what it takes to be an ideal tenant—one who pays rent on time, stays for the long term, and treats the property with respect. For example, you can offer to prepay rent, put down a larger security deposit, carry renters’ insurance, have the rental professionally cleaned when you move out, or sign a long-term lease. If you have the financial means, you could even offer to pay a higher monthly rent. Be realistic, though, and don’t make promises you won’t be able to keep.
Tenants have been known to barter all kinds of deals, including the offer of airline or sports tickets and attractive merchandise. Engaging in this type of creative bribery can backfire, though:
Waiving your rights might set the stage for having them trampled in the future. If you offer a higher security deposit than the law allows or agree to under-the-table rent in violation of a rent control ordinance, you’ve sent a signal that you are willing to overlook the law. If you later want to assert other rights (such as your right to basic repairs and maintenance), don’t be surprised if your landlord ignores your wishes—if you were willing to waive legal protections once, you can be talked out of these, too.
Offering carrots now might make the landlord expect more. You obviously don’t want to continue to bribe the landlord every time you make a reasonable request. But by sweetening the deal, you’ve set a precedent.
Choosing tenants based on the quality of their gifts is no way to run a business. Be wary of a landlord who chooses tenants for personal gain instead of legitimate business reasons.
In other words, be sincere and smart about what you offer. Legitimate landlords will appreciate applicants who offer to make their job easier, but will be turned off by applicants who try to game the system.
DO NOT GIVE UP
If you find out you didn’t get the apartment, ask the landlord why. Use any constructive feedback you receive to improve your next rental application.
"How to Ensure a Landlord Chooses You" (https://www.zumper.com/blog/how-to-ensure-that-a-landlord-chooses-you/)
So, you’ve found the perfect apartment. You’ve even verified that the landlord exhibits all the qualities of being a great landlord. Now, the only thing left to worry about is competing against other interested renters. Often, having good credit and a clean rental history are two easy ways to convince a landlord that you’re the best choice. But what if you have bad credit? Or a not-so-perfect rental history? We’ll break down what you can do to make up for those and get yourself to the top of the list.
GO ABOVE AND BEYOND
All landlords want tenants who pay their rent on time and have a reliable source of income, but not many tenants will surpass these basic expectations. If a landlord asks for a one-year lease, consider signing on for a year and a half or even two years. It’ll show the landlord you’re serious about the apartment and plan on staying there for a while if they choose you.
If you can afford to pay a few months of rent upfront, offer that, too. Landlords appreciate when they don’t have to worry about collecting your rent on time. And, combined with the promise of you staying beyond a standard, one-year lease, the landlord may be more inclined to offer you the apartment.
MAKE SURE YOU PASS ALL OF YOUR BACKGROUND CHECKS
There are a few checkpoints your future landlord will want you to pass before they ask you to sign on the dotted line. These include your rental background check, a credit check, and an employment or proof of income verification check.
To ensure that you pass the rental background check, ask a previous landlord to vouch for you. This is especially helpful if you’ve ever dealt with an eviction process before. Ask a former landlord (one who did not evict you) if they’d be willing to vouch for your behavior as a renter. This will help reassure your future landlord that you’ll be a good tenant, regardless of what your rental history might show.
If your credit is low, put your future landlord at ease and speak openly about your finances. Explain any high credit card balances, student loan debt, or big purchase payments you that may show up in your credit check. Remember, even if you have a low credit score, you still have other options before you need to resort to no credit check apartments.
In terms of employment verification, if you have a freelancing gig or work multiple jobs, see if one of your clients will vouch for you or give your future landlord all contact info for each job. You can also consider having a parent, guardian, or friend co-sign the lease if you don’t think you meet income requirements.
GET IN THE DOOR FIRST
Being the first to see an apartment as soon as it becomes available is a huge benefit over the others. You can even apply to Instarent properties and reserve an apartment so no one else can snag it before you do.
If applying to an apartment and a landlord sets an appointment time for a tour, make yourself available so you can be one of the first ones in the door. Try to arrive a few minutes early; it’ll show the landlord you’re treating the process professionally and seriously.
Treat your apartment hunt the same way you’d treat a job hunt. Arrive early, look presentable, and have any required forms filled out. Doing this will send a message to the landlord that you take this experience seriously and are prepared to sign a lease if given the opportunity. In addition, rental references can go a long way. If you can, ask an employer, former landlord, or another trusted reference to write a letter on your behalf using this sample rental reference template.
SET YOUR SIGHTS ON WHAT YOU CAN AFFORD
We all want the apartment with amazing views, an upgraded kitchen, and a master bedroom with a walk-in closet, but that doesn’t mean we can afford it. Do your research and know what you can afford when factoring in the monthly rent, any pet fees, and utilities. That way, if the landlord asks what your budget is, you’ll have an answer for them. If you’re planning on splitting rent and living with a roommate, make sure your future landlord knows; two incomes are better than one.
BEFORE YOU SIGN A LEASE
When the landlord chooses you, don’t forget to ask the important questions. And, don’t sign on the dotted line before getting some answers. At the end of the day, there are plenty of great apartments out there. If a landlord isn’t answering your questions or seems to be dodging them, it’s okay to politely decline the apartment. Renting from a respectful, honest, and transparent landlord can make all the difference, so don’t settle until you’ve found the right fit.
ESTABLISHING A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR LANDLORD
John Burton Advocates for Youth improves the quality of life for youth in California who have been in foster care or homeless by advocating for better laws, training communities to strengthen local practices and conducting research to inform policy solutions. It was founded in 2005 by progressive champion John Burton, a former member of Congress, the California State Assembly and President Pro Tem of the California State Senate. John Burton Advocates for Youth works in three areas: education, housing and health. The content below was pulled from the "Young Adults Guide to Housing", developed by the John Burton Foundation.
MEETING THE LANDLORD
If you need to meet with the landlord, he or she will be assessing whether you are likely to be a good tenant not just from what is written on the application, but from your behavior and appearance as well. It is important to make a good impression and you should keep a few things in mind when meeting a landlord.
- Arrive at interviews on time. Lateness will probably count against a prospective tenant; not showing up at all is pretty much the same as giving up the apartment.
- Dress for success. While you don’t need to go overboard, you should dress in a way that conveys that you are a responsible and thoughtful person. Avoid overly casual attire or torn or dirty clothing and be aware of personal hygiene.
- Turn off cell phones. Do not take or make calls or send text messages while viewing the apartment or talking with the landlord.
- Wait your turn. Let the landlord lead the interview without interruption. If invited to ask questions before the interview is over, you can go ahead—but if not, wait until the end, then let the landlord answer each question fully before moving on.
- Arrange childcare. If you have children, you should arrange to leave them with friends, family, babysitting or a daycare; you should not take them to interviews unless the landlord asks to meet them.
SAMPLE INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
It is helpful to give some thought to the questions that you may be asked by a landlord or prospective roommates ahead of time. Some landlords or current tenants may ask some preliminary questions over the phone, so callers should be prepared with answers to common questions even before calling to inquire about a unit.
- How many people will be living in the unit, even if temporarily? (Make sure that you do not intend to exceed occupancy standards. Landlords are required to allow 2 persons per bedroom.)
- What's your current living situation? Where are you renting now?
- Why are you looking to move?
- When are you looking to move?
- Have you ever been evicted?
- Do you think your current or previous landlord would give you a good reference?
- Have you been convicted of a felony?
- Have you been arrested and charged with a crime, but not yet convicted?
- Do you have any pets? If so, what kind?
- Do you or does anyone who will live with you smoke? (Landlords are allowed by law to prohibit smoking on the premises, even in a tenant’s own unit.)
- How is your credit?
- How long do you plan to stay here?
- How much do you make per week/month/year? How about the other applicants? Is this "gross income" or "take home" income?
- What type of work do you do and where do you work or where are you going to school?
- Do you have funds available for first month’s rent plus the deposit?
- Are you comfortable committing to a one year lease?
Tip: It can be helpful to practice interviewing in advance by doing a “mock” interview with a friend, family member or case manager.
HOW TO ANSWER THE HARD QUESTIONS - BAD CREDIT, EVICTIONS, AND CRIMINAL HISTORY
Landlords may ask about events from the past that they believe will provide information about how a person will be as a future tenant. This can include questions about prior evictions, credit history and/or criminal background. It is important to be prepared for these questions before speaking to the landlord. You should know their responses even before making the initial phone call as some landlords will do preliminary screening on the telephone.
SOME HELPFUL TIPS TO KEEP IN MIND WHEN PREPARING ANSWERS
- Be prepared – Know what is on your credit and background reports and have explanations prepared before going to meet with a landlord so that they are not caught by surprise. Determine whether any juvenile convictions will show up on a criminal background check. It can be helpful to practice responses out loud before meeting with a landlord. This will help you to be confident when the time comes to explain any negative history.
- Be honest: Even if you have a good explanation for prior incidents, if you lie about them and are found out, in almost all cases this will result in an automatic rejection.
- Be concise – It is important to be truthful and explain what happened, however it is not necessary to go into great detail about the circumstances of unpaid bills, evictions or criminal convictions.
- Be positive – Determine what has changed since the negative incident(s) occurred. What is different now that gives you confidence that a similar incident wouldn’t happen again? What could be said that has been gained as a result of the consequences of previous actions? How have your goals and priorities changed? You should emphasize the ways in which you have demonstrated financial responsibility and positive behavior recently.
- Be proactive - Compile written letters of recommendation or have the names and phone numbers of references that can be presented to the landlord as evidence that the applicant will be a good tenant. Letters can come from former landlords, employers or places that you volunteer, or case managers. (References from personal friends are not generally as helpful).
MAINTAIN A GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR LANDLORD
Maintaining communication with the landlord is key to maintaining housing. Here are some examples of situations that should prompt you to get in touch with the landlord:
MAINTENANCE ISSUES IN THE APARTMENT
If something breaks or stops working, or there are other problems with the unit such as mold, plumbing problems or pests, contact your landlord right away. While tenants are responsible to change a light bulb or unclog a toilet when necessary, never try to make complex repairs without discussing it with the landlord first. If a landlord is unresponsive, document requests by writing a letter to the landlord. Make sure to keep copies of all letters sent and received. If the landlord continues to be unresponsive contact a tenant assistance agency.
Tip: Never stop paying rent because a landlord is not making necessary repairs unless advised to do so by an attorney or advocate who specializes in tenant/landlord law.
IF YOU NEED TO CHANGE THE LOCK
The landlord is entitled to have a key to the unit in case they need to enter the unit due to an emergency or to make repairs. If you need to change the lock for security reasons or add an additional lock, alert the landlord before making the change and be sure to provide the landlord with a key to the new lock.
MAINTENANCE ISSUES IN COMMON AREAS
If there are repair issues in common space such as burned out light bulbs in hallways or a broken intercom system, these are the responsibility of the landlord and you should alert them of the problem right away.
PROBLEMS WITH YOUR NEIGHBORS
If you have a problem with a neighbor such as excessive noise, visible trash or other issues, and feel comfortable doing so, try to resolve the issue directly with the neighbor. If it cannot be resolved or the neighbor is particularly problematic, alert the landlord to the problem. Always avoid getting in a fight with a neighbor or responding to a problem by doing something to get back at the neighbor. This will likely make the situation worse, and could result in a loss of housing.
If for some reason you are late with the rent, inform the landlord and let them know when you expect to be able to pay. If the landlord knows what is going on, they are more likely to give some leeway, whereas if you make the landlord chase you down, the landlord is less likely to be willing to work with you. If you are unable to pay your rent you should consider moving out of the unit in order to avoid an eviction. If you end up getting evicted, this will go on your record for the next seven years and will make it harder to get housing in the future.
Tip: If you ever receive any type of legal paperwork from your landlord, do not ignore it. Take it to a tenant assistance agency right away to determine how to respond. Waiting even a few days can mean the difference between keeping and losing housing.
IF YOU WANT TO MAKE CHANGES
If you want to make changes to your unit such as painting walls a different color, always consult the landlord before making them. If you don’t, you may lose you deposit when it comes time to move out or could be evicted for violating the lease.
WHEN THINGS CHANGE
If there are any significant changes that affect a household such as someone moving in or out, you should alert your landlord.
PROBLEMS WITH THE LANDLORD
If you feel like the landlord is not treating you fairly, breaking the law or is not responding to requests there are a number of agencies that can assist tenants with this. You can often find information about local tenants’ rights agencies by dialing “211”. Tenants should never withhold rent from their landlord without consulting with one of these agencies first. Living with a landlord who is not making necessary repairs can be very frustrating, but not paying rent is more likely to get a person evicted than to get the repairs made.
Whether or not a landlord has a right to evict you varies depending on what city you live in. In some cities, a landlord can only evict a tenant for certain specific reasons. In other cities the landlord does not need a reason to ask a tenant to leave who is under a month to month rental agreement or whose lease has expired.
EVICTIONS FOR CAUSE
If you live in a city that requires “good cause” to evict, the landlord can generally only evict you if you don’t pay your rent or if you violate the terms of the lease (such as creating a nuisance, not keeping the unit clean, disturbing other tenants, engaging in illegal activity, etc.). In either of these cases the landlord can give a “3-day Notice.” At the end of the three days if the tenant has not addressed the problem (either paid the rent or stopped the problematic behavior), the landlord can serve an eviction notice, known as an “Unlawful Detainer.” If you have damaged the property, substantially interfered with other tenants or used the apartment for unlawful purposes (such as selling drugs) the landlord does not have to offer a chance to stop the behavior. If you get served with an Unlawful Detainer, this will go on your record for the next seven years and will make it harder for you to get housing in the future, so it is very important to try to avoid this happening.
If you receive an eviction notice you can attempt to fight the eviction or you may want to consider moving out. As mentioned above, having an eviction on your record could have serious consequences for the future. The landlord may be willing to work out an agreement with you where the landlord will agree to give you 30 or 60 days to move out if you agree to leave by the agreed upon deadline. This will give you some time to find a new place and avoid having to go through an eviction process.
EVICTIONS WITHOUT CAUSE
If the landlord is not required to give a reason, they still have to give written notice. If everyone living in the unit has been there for more than one year, the landlord must give 60-days notice. If the tenants have been there for less than a year or in some cases if the landlord has sold the property to someone who plans to move in, they only need to give 30-days notice. If you believe the landlord is trying to evict you illegally you should contact a local tenant’s rights organization.
Tip: If you receive any type of legal notice saying that you need to move out take it to a tenant referral agency right away. Waiting even a few days can mean the difference between keeping and losing housing.
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