Make Yourself a Renter Every Landlord Will Love: 7 Tips to Get Approved for the Perfect Apartment

Our this week’s guest blogger, Joe,  shares his tips on how to score your dream apartment.

HOW TO MAKE YOURSELF A RENTER CANDIDATE EVERY LANDLORD WILL LOVE by Joe

At one time or another most renters have experienced the angst involved with applying for a new apartment or rental property.  You may have searched for months to find the perfect new place and now comes the part where you turn in your rental application.  Fear and anxiousness set in as you begin to think of every skeleton that could emerge from the proverbial rental history closet.  Well, fear not apartment dweller…because we’re here to help with the following tips and tricks that are sure to make even the most miserable of renters look perfectly rentable in the eyes of your new prospective landlord. 

Tip #1 – Know Your Credit Report
One of the most important things a prospective landlord or leasing agent will look at is your credit report. While a less than desirable credit report isn’t always a deal breaker, having a decent credit score will go a long way in helping you land the perfect rental home or apartment.  It’s critical that you know exactly what’s on your credit report, especially if you have dents and dings in your credit history.  Be prepared to explain the circumstances that lead to those issues and prepare an explanation as to why those circumstances have changed.  Identify the issues before your landlord finds them and have answers prepared before questions are even asked.Many people don’t know their credit score or even how to check it. A landlord can check your score against any of the major three credit reporting bureaus; Experian, Equifax and Transunion. These agencies use the same formula to calculate a three-digit score based on your financial history. Your credit history on one bureau can be completely different as opposed to the others, making it important to check all three agencies.

An acceptable FICO score depends on what city and neighborhood you are looking to rent in. For most parts of the country a FICO score of 550-580 will be workable for a first time renter with a decent income. If your score is lower than this you could be charged additional deposit fees or denied the rental.   There are plenty of services that allow you to check your credit score at these different providers for a fee. The federal government also allows you to check your credit history one time per year at no cost. You can retrieve this free yearly report by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.

Tip #2 – Your Rental History is Your Rental Resume
While your credit history and credit score are important, often times your rental history is the single most impactful qualifier a landlord looks at. Your rental history is loosely defined as the history of every residence where you’ve resided as a paying renter.  Think of a chronological timeline of every lease you’ve signed and how that lease worked out from the landlord’s perspective.  It includes the dates of those leases and the amount of rent you paid.  Your rental history is helped if you consistently paid your rent on time and fulfilled the terms of your lease(s).  To the contrary, if you have a history of late payments, delinquent rent and/or moving out early it can hurt your rental history.  Most leasing agents and landlords will ask for a record of where you have lived for the past several years and will use this information to contact previous landlords.  In most states all a previous landlord can share about a tenant is if they paid rent on time, if they were evicted, and whether or not they left with any outstanding debt.  Don’t have any rental history?  Get creative and include any rent you’ve paid for a living arrangement.  Rental history can even include a room you rented from your parents or other family member.  Remember, effectively documenting and communicating your positive rental history can give you a major advantage over other less organized renters.

Tip #3 – Cash is King…When it comes to Deposit and Fees
Most apartment communities and landlords charge fees even before being approved. Make sure that you have enough money saved up to cover these expenses. Telling a landlord you’re interested in a property but don’t have the cash to reserve the place can send a very bad signal.  Advance fees can include application fees, deposits, credit check fees, pet deposits, parking permits, broker fees, and even the last month’s rent in some cases. The application fee and security deposit are the most common pre-approval charges and are charged by almost every landlord unless you’re moving in friends or family.  Most of the fees mentioned above are refundable in the event you end up not moving into the property.  Even so, some fees are not refundable including application fees and others.  It’s important you know which fees are required in the pre-approval phases and which of these fees are refundable if you decide to lease elsewhere.  Make sure you know what’s required to reserve the place you’re interested in and have that cash ready before submitting your application.

Tip # 4 – Rent Within Your Means
One of the hardest things to decide is how much you can afford to pay for your new apartment or home.  Expressing interest in a property that is above your pay grade can discourage a landlord from renting to you.  The general rule is to take your annual salary and divide that by 40.  Another method landlords often use is to multiply the monthly rent by 3.  If you’re gross monthly income isn’t at or above this number you probably can’t afford the rent.  Remember to include all sources of income including your spouse, roommate(s) and/or investments when doing the math.  Impress prospective landlords by knowing exactly what the maximum rent you can afford is and then looking only at rentals slightly under that amount. For a single person who’s net annually salary is $35,000 the maximum rent they can afford is right around $875.  Avoid approaching a landlord or leasing agent to look at properties that are out of your price range. Most professionals will do this same calculation and will be disappointed if you have been looking at homes that you simply cannot afford.

Tip # 5 – Dress to Impress
One tip most renters overlook is presentation; and we’re not talking about the apartment model.  When attending an apartment or home viewing make sure to dress nice.  For men, business casual with a tie isn’t overkill.  A nice button down shirt with clean slacks or khakis can make an excellent first impression. Ladies should wear a nice blouse and dress or nice slacks and button down shirt.  Consider an outfit you would wear to a new job.  First impressions mean just as much to your prospective landlord as they do to potential employers and on first dates.

Tip # 6 – Late is for Losers
When making your appointment to view an apartment or even sign your lease it’s important to make sure you arrive on time.  Your prospective landlord or leasing manager can interpret your punctuality as a representation of how you handle your personal affairs.  Prepare in advance to accommodate for travel time.  Remember, you may not yet be familiar with the area so be sure you’re aware of any traffic trouble spots including rush hour, construction and/or local attraction traffic. Use an online map service like Google Maps, Bing Maps or Mapquest to find the best directions and avoid possible traffic interferences. If available, program the directions in your GPS navigation or smart phone.  While it may seem basic, arriving to your appointments on time or early can make a great impression with a potential landlord.

Tip #7 – Consider a Pet Interview
If you have dog or cat it’s important to understand that Fido can be a liability when it comes to applying for your next apartment or rental.  Cautious landlords will often avoid renters with pets all together rather than guessing whether or not the pet is well behaved and house trained.  Even worse, skeptical landlords will likely dismiss your rental application without ever telling you the true source of their concerns.  Savvy renters can avoid potential problems by suggesting a pet interview.  A pet interview provides the landlord an opportunity to meet your pet and make a personal assessment of their behavior and demeanor.  This can be especially important for problematic breeds that get bad PR.  Aggressive breeds and some toy breeds of dogs raise red flags with landlords and in these cases a successful pet interview might be the only way to secure your ideal apartment.  If your pet is well behaved and house trained a good pet interview can completely eliminate any potential concerns. 

Applying for an Apartment is like Applying for a Job…Remember, applying for a new rental house, townhouse or apartment is a lot like applying for a new job.  Just like the ratio of qualified applicants to openings, in many markets there are now more interested and qualified renters than there are great rental properties to lease.  If you’re really not that interested in the job then show up late without a resume dressed like a slob.  On the other hand, if you’re genuinely interested it’s important to set yourself apart from others being interviewed.  Give yourself the best opportunity to wow potential landlords and land the new place of your dreams.  By following the simple tips above you’re sure to impress even the most discriminating of landlords.

About the Guest Blogger:
Joe Youngblood is the Marketing Coordinator for UMoveFree Apartment Locators.  UMoveFree is a free service that helps renters find the perfect apartment in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin Texas.  UMoveFree’s apartment finding service is free to use and renters that meet their criteria receive up to a Free Move or $200 Rebate.

Author My First Apartment

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Comments (8)

  1. BrooksTreadwell

    Very informative article. You have presented it in a nice way. I have really enjoyed going through all the tips you have provided. I totally agree with all your points. Thanks for sharing this.

    Reply
  2. movers Nebraska

    Searching for the perfect apartment is no longer easy these days, but applying to be the perfect renter candidate is another story. If several individuals are very fastidious with the apartment they want, certain landlords are much difficult to impress. These advices you have shared will certainly be very beneficial to those who want to have their dream apartment. Thank you for posting. Several readers will really appreciate this.

    Reply
  3. angy

    I have recently started looking to rent a home closer to my place of work. I am a server and have been for a few years. I have applied for a couple of houses that were with in my means 30-40% of my gross income. But the landlords have all told me I am denied because basically my tip don’t count as income because if I was not making tips I would only be making minimum wage, which will not pay anyone’s bills. But I am unable to receive any financial aid because my tips counts as income. I have offered to pay half my lease upfront to offset any potential income issues. What can I do so that we don’t have to rents cardboard box?

    Reply
    • Alex Alex

      Hi Angy,

      Thanks for your question; and I’m sorry to hear about your situation. My primary question is, are you declaring your tips on your taxes, etc? If so, you should be able to provide future landlords with the past years’ tax filings, which will demonstrate the amount you actually made over the course of a year. If you’re not declaring your tips (which I’m obligated to note to you that the federal government frowns upon), you may have a tough time. In that case, I would continue to search, but be upfront about the situation, so that your potential landlord knows the score. Or, you may consider having a co-signer. A co-signer is simply someone who has a secure income, who would be willing to vouch for your ability to pay (and take on the responsibility of paying, should you be unable). Many young people have their parents be their co-signers. If it’s feasible for you, having a co-signer would be the easiest work-around.

      Reply
    • Admin

      Hi Angy,
      I’m sure your situation is not uncommon for people who get most of their income from tips. Has the landlord seen some solid information (tax returns, letter from your boss) that verifies you overall income. Have you asked your co-workers how they have overcome the same situation? Have you checked your credit rating (free at AnnualCreditReport.com? Maybe that shows some things that make the potential landlord nervous. You may just have to keep on looking until you find a landlord that will accept your offer of pre-paying your rent. Finally, do you have someone who could act as your guarantor on the lease, at least for the first year, as you prove to the landlord with timely rent payments that you can afford the rent. That is often the last resort. Good luck!

      Reply