Moving and renting can be extremely exhausting. This is especially true for those attempting to rent in big cities that have very competitive rental environments, such as New York City and Los Angeles. The good news is that you can certainly find your dream rental or at least be on the path to one if you understand the logistics of the rental game. There can be many obstacles preventing someone from renting in their desired unit. These obstacles include, foreigners with lack of credit or individuals with bad credit, lack of sufficient income to meet the minimum threshold, no job, prior evictions, and even discrimination. But once you understand how the rental market operates, it makes the task much more bearable.
There are many avenues to take when deciding on your search platform. You can use popular sites and applications such as StreetEasy, Trulia and many others. These platforms have pretty good filter functionalities which can really help narrow down and tailor the search to your specific needs. You can filter for things such as location, price points, pet friendly options, public transit proximity and more so, who deals with the rental unit(broker, owner, management,etc). I will explain why this is important shortly. You can also use Craigslist to find some pretty good options as well but that also comes with risks. Avoid sending anyone any money for any reason. Security deposits are always given via certified check AFTER you have examined the unit and during the contractual lease signing between you and the landlord. So be mindful when using Craigslist or even any of the major realty sites for applications. You can even search the old fashioned way and look for buildings with “For Rent Call XXX-XXX-XXXX”. Some of these buildings are not listed on any commercial platform. They still acquire their rental applicants from people that pass by and pass on the contact.
After you have established how to search and have fished through the sea of scams, you finally come across a great selection of places to live and are ready to apply. But…. they required a minimum credit score of 700! As discussed in our previous article, life hits hard and it can really hurt your credit score. This can be a nightmare for those that are looking for a decent place. The reality is that owners in big cities get so many applicants that they can afford to create these thresholds and maintain a steady flow of “better” applicants. But as we know a credit score does not at all reflect the actual applicant. An individual with an 850 credit score can lose their job tomorrow and completely default on rent. Credit scores simply do not always indicate financial stability. The best way to approach the situation as a renter would be to look for listings that were listed by the landlord. Landlords tend to be a little more forgiving of your situation as opposed to the management companies that follow strict guidelines.
If your credit is truly bad but you have good cashflow, it would be best to save a few months of rent so you can provide the landlord that money upfront. This incentives the landlord to trust that you will in fact pay your rent. This may not be realistic for someone who is tight on money. If money is tight and your credit score is not good but also not horrible, you may consider using a lease guarantor or cosigner. This is someone who vouches on your behalf, and will also become liable on your behalf as well. This can be a family member, friend or a guarantor service. Most big cities have dedicated services like these. If your credit is horrible and you have no funds available it would be best to assess your credit situation and save some money before sending out applications.
Application fees…..ugh. As you search you will notice that many buildings will require an application fee ranging from 20 dollars to 80 dollars for a standard non-luxury unit. This is a fee just to be considered for the building. Although part of the fee does in fact contribute to credit checks and background checks, most of the time it is very highly inflated. Unfortunately, every management company and landlord can set their own rules, so if you really want that specific unit, you must pay the fee. This can be good if you have decent cash flow because the fee will naturally cause less people to apply, which increases your chance of getting the unit. However, if you are trying to save money at any cost you can always filter and search for “No fee” apartments. There are always large amounts of No Fee units available. It would be ideal to have a mix of both. Apply for a couple of dream rentals with fees and many no fee rentals.
If you have a prior eviction, you will have to take the same route as if you have bad credit but even more so! Evictions are court orders that affect your rental record quite negatively. You can argue that credit does not always translate to how good of a tenant you are but an eviction literally says you were a bad tenant in the eyes of a landlord. It would take a very heartfelt reason to persuade the landlord to give you a chance but it can be done. Think about the reason and prepare to explain it to the owner in person.
One of the most important things you can do is research the area before you start to send out applications. The reality is discrimination is still a very real issue. Learn the demographics and safety levels of the neighborhood and make sure you would feel comfortable moving you and your family there. The more subtle discrimination that occurs after you meet the landlord face to face can not be easily proved unfortunately. You will have to just accept that as a risk of the rental search. People will deny you for superficial and discriminatory reasons and you may never know. You must take it and move on. Never dwell on rental rejections (don't wear that ugly sweater!).
After you have settled on a unit and you have met the person(s) in charge, it is very important to get everything in writing. The lease should be read over before signing and the terms should clearly be understood. Many people have issues in the future that could have been avoided had they read the and understood the lease terms beforehand. Issues such as whether the unit is pet friendly or smoke friendly, etc. Always make sure all terms are understood.
Obtaining a rental is a mentally draining task, especially after consecutive rejections. It is important not to let that discourage you. It is just the reality of the rental game. The good thing is that you only need to find 1 you like. No matter the situation, you can obtain a rental of your liking as long as you know how to play the game.