It might seem like it’s not a big deal for some to rent an apartment, however, the process can get overwhelming especially if you don’t know the requirements needed to qualify.
Before you start searching make sure you know your budget, credit, make sure you don’t have evictions or criminal record, ask how long is a lease, what is the deposit and other requirements, if pets allowed if you have one, if laundry is in the apartment or on site, if there is parking assigned, and make sure to call, text, email inquiring about the apartment you like to see and apply as soon as possible.
It is very common to overestimate your budget. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, you shouldn’t spend more than 30% of your gross (before tax) monthly income on housing and many landlords state on rental applications that they want an applicant’s gross income to be 3 times greater than the rent. Just as if you would buy a house, your income is major factor when you rent. It has to be steady consistent for at least the last two months.
Before you start searching for apartment or a house, make sure to check on Rent Calculator (www.Calculator.net) that will help you determine the right amount for your future rent.
Once you have established how much rent you can afford, find out what your credit is. This is one of the major problems I find in new renters. The credit score requirements for rent are way lower than if you would have to have to purchase a home but it is still a very important factor that can deny your application. Some landlords require your credit score to be as low as 600 but will accept even as low as 580 credit as long as you don’t have previous evictions and no collections. Some of you might not be aware that you have collections and if you do know about them, you might don’t know how to get rid of them.
Recently I went through a lot of applications that got denied because of the collections. Let’s touch briefly what is a collection on my account?
For example, you were late on your department store payment of $80 and you did not pay it for a long time, the store could not collect from you, so they sold it to collection agency. This agency will send you a letter to pay this debt and put this collection on your credit. Now your credit has a collection. When landlord see it on your credit, it indicates that if you don’t pay your bills, you might not pay your rent either, so the application gets denied.
What can you do? Make sure you get rid of that collection. How? Simply call that collection agency and offer to pay your debt. Do you know that you can actually negotiate your debt with the collection agency? When you call them, tell you really would like to take off that collection you have from your credit and ask what is the minimum you can pay to make it happen. You will be surprised that you might be offered to pay less that the amount you owe. There are some credit repair companies who will do it for you but be careful because they might charge you monthly without substantial results. In your situation, I suggest you do it yourself. Don’t be afraid to call your collection agency and negotiate.
Besides your income and credit score, you will need to have small savings to show with first month rent and deposit. Typically, deposit is the same as first month rent but, in some situations, when apartment is furnished or comes with appliances it might be more. It may have pet deposit if you have pets.
You also need to factor in additional cost such as utilities. Some leases in A type apartment, which are luxury apartments that are going now for $4000 / month, will include all the utilities in your rent and offer fitness club, pool, club house, but if you rent type B or C, average rentals that are going for $1500-$2000/month may include water and trash, and you will still need to pay for electric, gas, internet, cable.
This is not an exhausting list, but a good guide for documents you will almost always need to submit with your application to qualify.
· Photo ID (driver’s license or passport)
· Verification of current employment and salary
· Copies of your last two pay stubs
· Copies of your last three bank statements
· Copies of last two W-2 forms
- Contact information (your social security number, email and current address)
- Personal and/or professional references
- Co-signer application (if applicable).
Along with your application, you will need to:
- Authorize a credit check including your credit score (the renter typically covers the cost)
- Give consent for a background check
- Pay an application and/or processing fees
Now you are ready to search for your perfect place. Because a lot of rentals are offered by property management, or landlords themselves, realtors do not always have them all on MLS that is why many realtors are not able to help you. You can search for your ideal place on Apartment.com, Rent.com, Home.com, Realtor.com, Zillow.com. I find that Facebook Marketplace is very popular today and many other online searches you can find. Or walk in to lease offices if it’s a big apartment complex and ask if there are vacancies. You may be able to put yourself on the list, if lease office is open to it.
It is frustrating with some online searches you may say, since many times it’s so hard to get a hold of someone or get response to your email. Usually, when there is no response, it means a few things, the apartment has been already rented or your email was simply missed, that is why its very important for you to find out who listed the place and find their phone number to call. If you call multiple times, you will get an answer. It will show that you do really want the apartment you are inquiring about and you are responsible. Communication is key. When you email or text your inquiries, show your interest by asking more details, not just: “Is it available?”
When you finally scheduled a viewing of the apartment, please show up or reschedule if you can’t make it.
Do not wait to apply if you like the place. You should understand that if an apartment is vacant, the owner wants to rent it immediately because he/she is losing money every day its vacant, so the applications are checked immediately upon receipt and once an application gets approved, they want you to sign the lease agreement the next day.
That is why it is so important to have everything ready before you start your search.
This is the time when you need to check the functionality inside the apartment. It is perfectly normal to test faucets, appliances, doors, locks, take measurements for any furniture that has to fit. Check if apartment has laundry, parking, security. Check on the neighbors you will be living with, drive around the neighborhood, see if you are comfortable, stop at the local grocery store, check on the shoppers there.
Make sure to be clear how to apply. Read all the requirements and qualify yourself first before you spend application fees. If you think you won’t qualify with at least one requirement, ask if that can be compensated somehow, maybe with pre-paid rent, for example, you may offer to pay a few months in advance if you have the money and if it will help to compensate for low credit score. I had one renter who paid 6 months in advance to compensate for a few small collections on his account and owner accepted it. Don’t be afraid to ask.
Make sure you ask the term of the lease right away. Most of the leases are 12 months but some I see require a 2-year lease. Be clear in the terms. Read requirements.
Fill out the application for every adult 18 yr. +, sign and include all the documents from step 4 and email or mail to the agent or management office and then follow up with the call or text saying you applied and are now ready to pay the application fees. Obtain instruction to whom and where to pay those fees.
There is so much scam in rental market, so I highly recommend to be careful paying any money upfront. Do not pay deposit before signing the lease and receiving your key. Verify if owner is legit by googling or if you have an agent helping you who you know, ask the agent to verify for you. Verify if agent is legit. There was a situation on craigslist, the person was pretending to be an agent and rented vacant home that actually was for sale and that person collected money and disappeared. So be careful. If something looks too good to be true it might be not true.
Before signing your lease, make sure you understand the length of commitment. Is your lease month-to-month or year long, rules around pets, parking, storage, security deposit, what are you responsible to maintain, what the landlord will take care off, who is your contact if you need to get something fixed, where do you submit requests, or notices, what are the house rules, who do you pay your rent to, when is your due date to pay rent, what are your late payment fees and when rent is considered late.
After your lease is signed, you will walk with the agent, or manager, or owner through your apartment with Move in Move out form and note everything inside the apartment you are receiving. This form is very important as your deposit refund depends on it. If you return apartment in the same condition as noted in that form, you will get full refund of your deposit at the end of your lease when you move out. So, if you see a big nail hole in the wall, note that on the form, if you see a crack in the tile or the floor, note that, if something is broken, note that so you don’t get blamed in a year when you are moving out. Make sure to leave your apartment and appliances clean because if the owner has to clean after you left, they will deduct it from your deposit. One more thing, do not change locks without notifying the owner. Per your lease agreement, the owner must have the key for your place. Let say you did change the lock, make sure to give one key to the owner. You will be in a contract violation if you do not.
Always ask questions if you do not understand the lease agreement. Ask your family members, friends or the internet to clarify any terms you don’t understand. Remember, your lease is a legally binding document, so read every word!
To summarize, before you start searching make sure you know your budget, credit, make sure you don’t have evictions or criminal record, ask how long is a lease, what is the deposit and other requirements, if pets allowed if you have one, if laundry is in the apartment or on site, if there is parking assigned, and make sure to call, text, email inquiring about the apartment you like to see and apply as soon as possible.
Now, you are prepared! Go get your perfect place!
Bogdana Dees (Your Real Estate Adviser)