Looking to rent in a tight, competitive market or even a specific apartment community? A renter cover letter may not be required, but it could set you apart from the other potential candidates, increasing the odds that you’ll be the one signing that coveted lease.
Approaching the rental process as though you were vying for a coveted job — with a renter cover letter and resume — will leave a lasting positive impression and match the standards and criteria landlords have in place.
What to include
Much like the cover letter you’d send to a potential employer, a renter cover letter should showcase your best attributes for the landlord or property management company and let the decision makers know you’re the best choice among those presented, showcasing your professionalism and responsibility, two qualities landlords prize among tenants. It’s important to understand that a cover letter is supplemental to your required rental application, so only include information not listed in the application.
Property managers have a vested interest in choosing the most qualified applicants for their rental units, increasing the odds that the community rules will be adhered to, that the apartments will be well taken care of and that rent will be paid on time. Keep this in mind when writing your rental application cover letter, bragging and explaining your best qualities and attributes as a tenant is encouraged.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords from discriminating against potential tenants on the basis of things such as race, religion, gender, disability, national origin and sexual orientation. However, they will pore over other criteria, including credit and employment history and the references they furnish, to make their decisions when filling vacancies with the ideal tenant.
If you have great credit and have been steadily employed, include it in your rental cover letter, along with things such as a positive rental history. Tell them who you are, but also who you aren’t. For example, if you’re applying with two other college students, you might be seen as irresponsible, inconsiderate or loud. Include in your cover letter — if it’s true — that you’re study-centric, not the type of people who would throw wild parties or play loud music. Showcasing hobbies that lend themselves to such traits like reading, gardening or volunteering for a local organization won’t hurt, either.
Renter cover letter template
Check out the below template as a baseline for your own renter cover letter, a foundation on which you can build. Simply fill in the information for sections in parentheses ( ), while the section in brackets [ ] is for your information, not to be included in the letter.
Download a Word document of the rent cover letter template
(Your Name) (Address) (City, State Zip)
(Landlord or Property Manager Name) (Address) (City, State Zip)
Dear (Name of landlord or property manager),
My name is (Your name) and I have a keen interest in renting the apartment you have available at (Property name or address).
I currently live at (Your current address) and have lived there for (XX) years. I am looking for a new place to live because (reason for moving: closer to home, closer to family, downsizing, etc.). I find your (apartment community/available unit/rental home) particularly appealing because (list specifically why you want to live in this property).
[The next two paragraphs apply only to potential tenants who will be utilizing an assistance program; omit if not applicable.]
While my current monthly income is $(X,XXX), I have been approved for rental assistance through the (name of your program). This program is funded by and administered by (the organization funding the program). A brief fact sheet about the program is attached to this letter.
Per the plan, I will pay (XX percent) of my monthly adjusted income toward rent, enabling me to make rent, in full, each month with no problem. (Program name) pays the remainder of my rent each month.
I believe I’d be a wonderful addition to your rental community — and here’s why. I am employed at (Your employer) and have been working there for (XX) years. In my free time, I (list some interests here and other things about yourself. For instance: play on the company softball team, coach your daughter’s soccer team, volunteer at specific organizations and enjoy hiking and baking. My current neighbors will miss my banana bread when I make the move to your community!)
I am quiet and friendly, a good neighbor who always pays bills on time. Attached you will find my renter resume, along with several references from neighbors and co-workers, as well as staffers from my current rental community.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call or e-mail me at (Your phone number) or (Email address).
Thank you very much for considering my rental application. I look forward to hearing from you.
Have everything ready to go
In addition to having all your paperwork in order, be sure to show up to view the rental property and furnish these documents on time and dressed appropriately. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, or answer them. First impressions count!
With these tips, tricks and templates, you’re ready to write your rental application cover letter to successfully prove you’re an ideal tenant who will pay rent, take care of a rental unit and keep a steady income. Good luck and happy renting.
Breaking a lease can be a daunting task, but circumstances may arise that necessitate early termination of a lease agreement. Whether it’s due to a job relocation, changes in personal circumstances or dissatisfaction with the rental property, understanding the process and your rights is crucial. This guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview of everything you need to know about how to legally break a lease, ensuring you navigate the complexities with confidence.
Understanding lease agreements
A lease agreement is a legally binding contract between a tenant and a landlord, outlining the terms and conditions of the rental arrangement. It typically includes details like rent amount, lease term and responsibilities of all parties. Breaking a lease involves terminating this contract before its specified end date, which can have legal and financial implications.
Lease termination options
Early termination clause: Some leases include an early termination clause that allows tenants to end the lease before its expiration date, usually for a fee. Review your lease agreement to understand the terms and conditions of this clause.
Negotiating with the landlord: Communication is key. Discuss your situation with your landlord openly and negotiate the terms of breaking the lease. Some landlords may be willing to work with you, especially if they can find a new tenant quickly.
Subleasing: In certain situations, subleasing might be an option. Ensure that your lease agreement permits subleasing and follow the necessary procedures outlined by your landlord.
Subleasing can be a viable option for tenants looking to break a lease early. In a sublease arrangement, the original tenant finds a replacement tenant to take over the lease for the remaining duration. However, it’s crucial to check the lease agreement to determine if subleasing is allowed, as some leases may explicitly prohibit this practice.
If permitted, the tenant must follow the specified procedures, which may include obtaining the landlord’s approval and ensuring the new tenant meets certain criteria. Subleasing can provide a way for tenants to fulfill their lease obligations while offering flexibility in changing life circumstances.
New lease agreements
In some cases, tenants may negotiate with their landlords to break the existing lease and enter into a new lease agreement. This approach requires open communication between the tenant and landlord to discuss the reasons for the lease termination and the terms of the new lease.
Landlords may be willing to accommodate tenants’ needs, especially if there is a valid reason for the lease break. However, both parties need to formalize any changes in writing to avoid misunderstandings and ensure that the new lease agreement clearly outlines the terms, conditions and responsibilities of all parties involved.
Leases are often structured with fixed terms, specifying the duration for which the lease is valid. Breaking a lease with a fixed term typically incurs additional challenges, as the agreed-upon timeframe binds tenants. Early termination may be allowed by most landlords under certain conditions, like the inclusion of an early termination clause in the lease.
Tenants must carefully review the lease agreement to understand the implications of breaking a lease with a fixed term and work within the parameters outlined in the contract. Communication with the landlord and, if necessary, legal advice can help tenants navigate the complexities of breaking a lease with fixed terms.
Giving written notice
Most leases require tenants to provide written notice when intending to break a lease. This written notice typically includes the reason for the lease termination, the intended move-out date, and any other relevant details.
It’s crucial to follow the specific notice requirements outlined in the lease agreement, which may specify the notice period and the method of delivery. Providing written notice establishes a clear record of the legal reason for the tenant’s intent to break the lease and helps both parties navigate the process in accordance with legal and contractual obligations.
A tenant’s rental history can significantly impact the process of breaking a lease. If a tenant has a positive rental history—consistently paying rent on time, maintaining the property, and adhering to lease terms—it may positively influence the landlord’s willingness to negotiate or provide flexibility.
On the other hand, a history of late payments or lease violations may make the process more challenging. Communicating openly about the reasons for the lease break and demonstrating a commitment to fulfilling any outstanding obligations can help mitigate potential issues related to rental history.
Understanding the landlord’s responsibilities is crucial when contemplating breaking a lease. Landlords are generally obligated to properly maintain the property in a habitable condition, address repairs promptly, and adhere to health and safety codes. If the landlord fails to fulfill these responsibilities, tenants may have legal grounds for breaking the lease.
Documenting instances of neglect or code violations and communicating these concerns to the landlord in writing is essential. If the issues persist, tenants may need to seek legal advice to navigate the process of breaking the lease based on the landlord’s failure to meet responsibilities.
Harassment by a landlord can be a challenging situation for tenants. If a landlord engages in harassment tactics to force a tenant out, it may constitute a breach of the lease agreement. Examples of harassment include unwarranted and repeated entry into the rental unit, threats, or creating an environment that interferes with the tenant’s right to peaceful enjoyment of the property.
In such cases, tenants should document instances of harassment, keep written records, and seek legal advice. Breaking a lease due to landlord harassment may require demonstrating that the harassment has created an uninhabitable living situation for new tenants.
If the rental property changes ownership while a tenant is still under lease, it may impact the lease-breaking process. In many cases, the new owner is obligated to honor the existing lease agreement.
However, tenants should carefully review the lease to understand any provisions related to changes in ownership. Communication with property management and the new owner is essential to ensure a smooth transition and clarify any concerns or questions regarding the lease terms and conditions.
Landlord-tenant laws: Familiarize yourself with the landlord-tenant laws in your state. These laws govern the rights and responsibilities of both parties and may affect the process of breaking a lease.
Written notice: Most leases require tenants to provide written notice before breaking a lease. This notice period varies by state and is often 30 days, but it’s essential to check your lease agreement for specific requirements.
Early termination fees: Be aware of any early termination fees specified in your lease agreement. These fees are intended to compensate the landlord for the financial loss resulting from the early termination.
Security deposit: Understand the conditions under which you may be entitled to a full or partial return of your security deposit. Failure to adhere to the terms of the lease could result in the forfeiture of this deposit.
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA): Military personnel may be protected under the SCRA, allowing for lease termination under certain circumstances, such as deployment.
Domestic violence and family violence: Some states have provisions allowing victims of domestic or family violence to break a lease without penalty. Check your local laws to determine eligibility.
Constructive eviction: If the rental unit becomes uninhabitable due to the landlord’s negligence, you may have grounds for constructive eviction, justifying the termination of the lease.
Seeking legal advice
If you are unsure about your rights or encounter challenges during the lease-breaking process, seeking legal advice is crucial. Consult with an attorney who specializes in landlord-tenant law to ensure you make informed decisions and protect your interests.
Handling the lease breaking process
Lease breaking steps: Follow the specific steps outlined in your lease agreement for breaking the lease. This may include providing written notice, paying any applicable fees, and adhering to the agreed-upon timeline.
Replacement tenant: If your lease allows for subleasing, actively search for a replacement tenant. Ensure that the new tenant meets the landlord’s criteria and follows the necessary application procedures.
Rent payments: Continue paying rent until the lease termination process is complete. Failure to do so may result in additional fees or legal consequences.
Document everything: Keep detailed records of all communication with the landlord, including written notice, emails, and any agreements reached during negotiations. This documentation can be crucial if legal issues arise.
Understanding the fine print
Lease terms and conditions: Read the fine print of your lease agreement thoroughly. Understand the consequences of breaking the lease, including any financial penalties or legal actions that may be taken by the landlord.
Credit report impact: Breaking a lease can impact your credit report. Be aware of this potential consequence and take steps to mitigate any negative effects by fulfilling your obligations as outlined in the lease.
State and local laws
Local laws and regulations: In addition to state laws, be aware of local laws and regulations that may impact the lease-breaking process. Some cities or counties may have specific requirements or protections for tenants.
Health and safety codes: Familiarize yourself with health and safety codes that may affect the habitability of the rental unit. If the property violates these codes, it may provide legal grounds for lease termination without penalty to the tenant.
Job relocation: If you’re breaking the lease due to a job relocation, check if your employer offers any assistance or resources to help with the relocation process.
Health issues: In cases of severe health issues, consult with your landlord and provide any necessary documentation to support your need for early lease termination.
Knowledge is power
Breaking a lease is a significant decision that requires careful consideration and adherence to legal obligations. Understanding your lease agreement, state and local laws and exploring all available options for legal action are essential steps in the process.
By approaching the situation with transparency, communication and knowledge, you can navigate the complexities of breaking a lease while minimizing potential legal and financial consequences. Remember to seek legal advice when needed and always act per the terms outlined in your lease agreement to protect your rights as a tenant.
The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. Readers are encouraged to seek professional legal or financial advice as they may deem it necessary.
A native of the northern suburbs of Chicago, Carson made his way to the South to attend Wofford College where he received his BA in English. After working as a copywriter for a couple of boutique marketing agencies in South Carolina, he made the move to Atlanta and quickly joined the Rent. team as a content marketing coordinator. When he’s off the clock, you can find Carson reading in a park, hunting down a great cup of coffee or hanging out with his dogs.
Screening tenants, especially their financial situation, is the most critical part of operating a rental property. To make sure tenants can pay their rent on time each month, you should run an employment and credit check. Then, you might have to decide whether you’re open to renting to tenants with bad credit.
As a rental property owner, you expect tenants to pay their rent on time each month. Even if a tenant doesn’t have a stellar credit score, that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t rent to them, particularly if other aspects of their application are a good fit. Here are a few things to remember when renting to tenants with bad credit.
Do I have to rent to someone with bad credit?
It’s up to property owners to pick their tenants. So, you may want to require tenants have a minimum credit score. In many ways, a good credit score signals that an individual is creditworthy and financially responsible, which likely means they can afford to pay rent. However, you might not want to completely avoid renting to a tenant with bad credit.
People have bad credit for many reasons. It doesn’t always mean they haven’t paid their bills in the past or that they’re irresponsible with money. If the renter applicant otherwise looks perfectly suited for your home, you can require a higher deposit or a co-signer to compensate for the poor credit score.
Do most landlords do credit checks?
As part of the tenant screening process, it’s essential to run a credit check. The reports offer a glimpse into the individual’s financial history, including their bill-paying past and whether there are any financial judgments against them.
If someone has a good credit history, they’ll likely consistently pay their rent on time. If someone has a history of late or missed payments, this behavior may continue. In these cases, property owners should dig a little deeper before renting to tenants with bad credit.
What is the lowest credit score to rent a house?
Credit scores range from 300 to 850, according to the credit bureau Experian. Here’s what’s considered a good and bad credit score:
Very good: 740-799
It’s up to you to decide the minimum credit score that’s acceptable to you. But many landlords set 600 as the lowest score to rent a house.
Things to remember when renting to tenants with bad credit
Even if an applicant has a negative credit score, that doesn’t always mean you shouldn’t rent to them. Here are some things to remember when renting to tenants with bad credit:
1. Understand the reason for the bad credit score
Credit scores come from various factors, including payment history, account balances, length of credit, types of credit accounts and recent activity on these accounts. But, many different things affect these elements.
For example, if someone is a recent graduate or just moving out on their own, they likely haven’t built up a solid credit history, which could show up on their credit report as a low score. Financial changes from getting a divorce, incurring large medical bills or being a victim of identity theft can also ding someone’s credit.
Communicating with the applicant about why their credit score is low is crucial. It will help you understand their situation and build a trusting relationship. The more information you have, the more informed decision you can make.
2. Get proof of income
The screening process should include verifying the applicant’s income. If someone has a steady job with a decent salary, it could overshadow their poor credit score and set your mind at ease about their ability to pay rent.
Ask for pay stubs and contact information for their employer to find out how long the person has worked there and to verify their salary. Make sure their income is at least three times the monthly rent to ensure they can afford it.
3. Check rental history
An applicant’s behavior with previous landlords are a telling sign of how they’ll be with you. If the individual is renting somewhere else, ask for rent receipts showing that they’ve paid on time each month.
Contact previous landlords, as well, to learn more about their rental history. Find out what type of tenant they were, whether they followed the lease, paid rent on time and if they got evicted. If past landlords don’t have good things to say, it’s a good idea to move on to another renter.
4. Charge a higher deposit
Banks often charge people with lower credit scores a higher interest rate to protect themselves against the risk. So, you might want to consider doing something similar.
Increasing the deposit amount could lower your risk of tenants defaulting on their rent payments. If your typical deposit is one month’s rent and a security deposit, increase it to two months’ rent and a security deposit. Make sure whatever you charge aligns with local landlord-tenant laws, which may set caps on security deposits or other fees.
5. Require a co-signer or guarantor
Another option for renting to tenants with bad credit is to ask them to have someone with good credit to co-sign or act as a guarantor on their lease. If you’re not sure of the difference between a co-signer and guarantor, here’s an overview:
A guarantor is usually a family member or friend who agrees to take on the responsibility of paying rent or covering property damage if the tenant can’t. Guarantors sign the lease but usually don’t live in the home.
A co-signer is often a roommate and signs the lease with the right to occupy the home. The co-signer agrees to share the responsibility for the rent, fees and damage. They may contribute to the monthly rent and are responsible for paying when the tenant can’t.
If you allow a co-signer or guarantor, you’ll need to check that person’s credit history and proof of income, as well.
6. Use a shorter lease
The term for most rental lease agreements is one year. Offering a shorter lease term, such as three or six months, is an option for renting to tenants with bad credit. A shorter lease gives the tenant the opportunity to prove they can pay rent on time and protects you in case they can’t by ending the tenancy within a short timeframe.
If everything works out after the shortened lease ends, you can ask the renter to sign a year-long lease.
Renting to tenants with bad credit
Renting to tenants with bad credit is risky. You’re not sure of their financial situation and whether they’ll pay rent. But automatically discounting these tenants because of their poor credit might be a mistake.
If the individual meets all your other requirements and seems like a good fit, consider charging a higher deposit or relying more on proof of income. The tenant will appreciate your willingness to work with them since renting a home with bad credit is challenging.
As a landlord or property manager, securing the best possible tenants for your apartment is crucial. You want someone who’s not only going to pay rent in full and on time but will also be a model tenant. No noise complaints, no property damage beyond normal wear and tear, perfect. The screening process to find this ideal tenant all begins with the rental application form. Not only should this document be comprehensive, but also effective in helping you weed out applicants who just won’t fill those perfect tenant shoes.
While there are a lot of templates out there to help you draft a rental application form, you may want to create your own. If you do, make sure these essential elements come together to paint a complete picture of every person interested in renting your property.
Things to include in an apartment rental application form:
Start with the basics
It’s best to get the basic, essential information out of the way first. It’s an easy section to knock out when crafting a rental application form.
Begin this section with the day’s date. This is important because it lets you manage the first-come-first-serve style that most rental applications get reviewed. You can easily keep everyone in order if you have multiple viewings and multiple applications. You may even consider adding a timestamp once an application comes in for further organization.
The rest of the basics are all about the applicant themselves. Each person interested in renting a single apartment should fill out a separate application, so this area should focus on one person only. Include sections for:
Applicant’s full name
Home phone number, cell phone number and/or work phone number
Date of birth
Social security number
Driver’s license number (or any government-issued ID)
These last three pieces of information are necessary to run a background check on the applicant. You can explain that to them as they’re filling the form out if there’s concern about sharing this type of information upfront.
Include apartment information
Also within this section, or immediately above or below it, you’ll want to include a few bits of key information about the rental property. You want to add not just the address and unit number, but also details on fees and rent. Provide a space to write in monthly rent, security deposit fee, upfront costs and pet fees (if applicable.)
You can also insert the date the unit will become available or even allow the prospective tenant to fill in their estimated move-in date.
Putting this information here means no surprises for whichever applicant you decide to rent the apartment to. The information on the lease will match what they have here.
Dive into their employment history
The next section should focus on employment. Hopefully, your applicant is currently working somewhere, or at least can confirm a steady stream of income from some source. How else will they afford rent, right? You’ll collect information on their finances in more detail later on, but for now, establishing a work history and monthly income gives you a good snapshot.
In this section, you’ll want to ask for:
Name and address of current employer
Supervisor’s name and phone number
Applicant’s job title
Monthly income (after taxes)
Get all this information for their current position and ask for it all for their previous employer, as well. Just go one job back to establish a history of employment. It’s also OK if the applicant doesn’t have a previous employer. A first-time renter hasn’t had time to establish a job history, or they worked for the same company for a long period of time. You can look at each individual application to decide whether only having a single, current employer is OK with you.
Other sources of income
It’s also best to leave a space where the applicant can note other sources of income. You don’t need totals at this point, but it’s good to know what to research when doing a credit check. Other sources of income can include:
A complete list of what types of additional income the applicant has coming in is helpful for you to total up whether they make enough to afford rent.
Gather rental history
Equally important to their finances is the applicant’s rental history. You want to know about their current and past landlord or property manager. You also want to know if they have any evictions on their record.
Collect the name and contact information from the current and previous landlord or property manager in addition to the monthly rent they paid/are paying, the date they moved in and the date they moved/are moving out.
Sometimes, the best resource to learn about a prospective tenant is to talk with other landlords or property managers who they’ve rented from before. You’ll get the inside scoop.
Ask for references
While it’s not a necessary section on your rental application, it’s a good idea to put in one asking for personal references. Your applicant can share names of friends, family or professional contacts that can vouch for their character.
This section should ask for reference names and contact information, although you can also allow your applicant to attach signed letters of reference directly to the application. You can also allow prospective renters to attach a rental cover letter or renter resume to add a little more depth to their application. If you decide to do this, add a note to the reference section that you’ll accept supplementary material.
Get a few extra details
Not all rental situations will need these extra bits of information, so you don’t have to include these sections in your rental application form if they’re not relevant, but it’s good to consider them.
Having an emergency contact on file for your tenants is never a bad thing. While you don’t really need it this early in the process, it’s easy to work the question in here so it goes into the applicant’s file.
Ask for an emergency contact’s name, phone number and relationship to the tenant.
To make it easier to batch review applications, you should have people list any other occupants who will live in the apartment. This includes roommates and partners. This way, you can double-check you have applications for everyone.
If you have a property that allows pets, you’ll want to collect this information early. If you have any breed restrictions or limits on the number of pets, you can weed out applicants who don’t fit the bill.
Ask for pet type, breed, weight and age. Leave enough blanks for the total number of pets you allow, as well.
If your apartment has on-site parking available with the unit, you’ll want to know what vehicles will get parked on the premises. Ask for the make, model, color and year of each car, in addition to the license plate numbers.
Request permission for a credit and background check
This part of the application gets you to the next step in the screening process. Here, you’ll need to ask the applicant to give you permission to look up their personal information to run both a credit check and a background check.
Within this section, you can also collect relevant information such as:
Bank address and phone
Checking account number
Credit obligations (loans) with a monthly payment
To get ahead of running these checks, also ask whether the tenant has ever:
Been convicted of a crime
Broken a lease
These are all potential red flags for renting, but don’t always mean an immediate “no.” Having a heads-up they’ll appear on the background check you’ll run is helpful. It also shows you this applicant is being honest about their past.
Sign on the dotted line
Rounding out any rental application form is the signature section. Start the section with a list of fees associated with completing the form and then both you and the applicant should sign and date it. The signatures will validate the document, but also serve as proof you’ve received the accompanying fee.
The application fee should cover specific costs — those of running both the credit and background check, as well as any administrative costs you’ll incur processing the application. This is not a way for you to make a profit on someone’s interest in the apartment for rent.
This section wraps up the application and confirms the applicant’s interest in the apartment. Now you can dig deeper to find out if they’re the right tenant for you.
A rental application form template
Just in case you want a ready-made rental application template, we’ve got you covered. Simply download our PDF or download our word document template and make edits as you need. Anything in italics is an optional section that might not apply to your property.
Are enough rental applications coming?
Now that you’ve got the right rental application form ready to go, the next thing to do is draw in prospective tenants. Make sure you’re finding the best potentials by listing your property in the right location. Go where the renters are looking!
By listing your property on Rent. you get access to in-market renters along with helpful reports to expedite your screening process.
The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. Readers are encouraged to seek professional legal or financial advice as they may deem it necessary.
Can you negotiate rent? The short answer is yes. After all, you never get anything unless you ask for it.
So, how do you go about negotiating rent? Rental negotiations can be tricky, so it’s always in your best interest to be strategic when talking to landlords. Here are different ways to negotiate rent, gain bargaining power, take action and (hopefully) get a lower rent from your property manager.
1. Understand the rental market
The first step in negotiating rent is to do your research ahead of time. Look around and understand what surrounding apartment rates are. Compare apples to apples. If you’re interested in a new development, then look at other new developments.
Make sure you have a clear understanding of the amenities that are available and how they compare to the unit you’re considering. For example, if one neighboring apartment complex offers covered parking, a gym and a pool, you’ll want to compare that to an apartment complex with similar offerings. After all, those amenities increase the price of rent. Make this info known to your property manager.
Rental rates are not a secret, but they can change from day to day. Get a competing rate in writing if you can, and if it’s lower than the one being offered, have it with you when you go to negotiate. A lower rate in a similar apartment is a great tool for negotiating a lower price on your own apartment.
2. Consider the time of year
For property managers, timing is everything and there are seasonal trends in the moving and rental industry. In other words, think about the broader supply and demand trends during any given season.
If it’s the end of the month, vacancies are high and you’d be willing to leave if you don’t get what you want, that could be a time when a manager is more likely to be amenable to your offer. However, if you don’t have an alternate place to move ahead of time, you may not want to start negotiating rent until something else is lined up.
As a rule of thumb, winter is usually a good moment to broach the topic of cheaper rent, as it’s harder to find tenants during that time of year. Summer is peak rental season, so you’ll need to be a little more persuasive if you’re trying to negotiate rent during the peak moving season.
3. Sell yourself as a good tenant
Looking for another lesson on how to negotiate rent? If you’ve never rented in that particular complex a few letters of recommendation from personal references will go a long way toward convincing a manager you’d be a tenant worth having, even at a lower rate.
Think of it as a resume for your living situation. Get a letter from previous landlords or apartment managers that says you make on-time rent payments and cause them no problems. Get letters that speak to your character from a former boss, neighbor, or someone in a non-profit organization or church. Just like in a job interview, these professional references can help you negotiate rent and sell yourself as a good tenant for your potential new landlord.
If you’re trying to renew your existing lease at a better rate, remind the manager that you’ve always paid your rent on time and anything else that’s positive. Have you kindly alerted them to maintenance concerns? Have you helped in an emergency? Have you assisted during holiday parties? These situations can go a long way and help you lower the cost of rent on your upcoming lease.
4. Exchange value for price
What’s a lower rent price worth to you? Would you consider doing something above and beyond paying rent that offers tangible value to your property manager?
Think of jobs or tasks around the property — maintenance, cleaning, administrative, marketing — that would increase the underlying value of the owner or manager’s investment. Helping with some of these activities could cut down on expenses and thus, justify the price reduction you’re looking for.
Another “how to” negotiate your rent tip is to bargain with amenities and other things of value. Are you willing to give up your parking space to reduce rent each month? Or, can you pay six months of rent upfront or in cash? Would you be willing to sign a longer lease at a lower rate?
Think like a manager. Everything has a value and most everything is fair game to negotiate or trade with. Don’t be afraid to ask what your manager needs. If he or she has flexibility in pricing (and they usually do), then you might be able to help each other.
5. Experiment with the lease terms
Offering a different move-out date, extending your lease term or reworking the end of your lease term to fall during high season (spring or summer) are some of the ways you may be able to play with lease dates and terms that might be attractive to a leasing manager.
Get your negotiation in writing
As with many things in life, you can ask for and negotiate anything — including rent. If you’re a good tenant, can be persuasive and ask for what you want and need, you can negotiate the terms of your lease and rent prices and walk away with a lower rental rate.
After you’ve worked out a reduced rate with your landlord, make sure you get the new deal in writing so you have a paper trail and proof of your newly negotiated rate.
FAQs around rent negotiations
Rent negotiations are tricky and require a wealth of knowledge and understanding.
How can I negotiate rent for a rent-controlled apartment?
Negotiating rent for a rent-controlled apartment is different. In these cases, research local rent control laws and regulations to understand your rights and limitations. While you may not have as much room for negotiation on the base rent, you can explore negotiations on other aspects, like utilities or improvements.
How can I negotiate rent if I have a low credit score or a poor rental history?
If you have a low credit score or a poor rental history, you can still negotiate rent. Tips to overcome this include offering to pay a larger security deposit, providing a co-signer or demonstrating your commitment to improving your credit and rental history. This can help build trust with the landlord and potentially secure a lower rate.
What if my landlord refuses to negotiate the rent?
If your landlord is unwilling to negotiate the rent, consider proposing alternative terms, such as a longer lease or prepayment of rent. If negotiations remain unsuccessful, you may need to decide whether you’re willing to accept the current rent or look for another rental property.
Can you negotiate rent? It’s worth a shot!
Negotiating rent is not only possible but also a valuable skill for renters. By following these steps, you can strategically and effectively negotiate your rent with confidence. Understanding the rental market, considering the timing of your negotiation and presenting yourself as a desirable tenant are essential elements in the process. Remember, communication is key in this process, and being prepared, courteous and persistent can lead to a mutually beneficial agreement with your landlord.
The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. Readers are encouraged to seek professional legal or financial advice as they may deem it necessary.
Wesley is a Charlotte-based writer with a degree in Mass Communication from the University of South Carolina. Her background includes 6 years in non-profit communication and 4 years in editorial writing. She’s passionate about traveling, volunteering, cooking and drinking her morning iced coffee. When she’s not writing, you can find her relaxing with family or exploring Charlotte with her friends.
Screening tenants is the only true way to know that the people moving into your rental are the best fit. Make a list of questions to ask tenants so you can streamline the process and ensure that you’re treating all applicants fairly.
Tenant screening questions can reveal a lot, such as the applicant’s track record as a renter, their ability to pay rent on time and whether they’ll adhere to the lease agreement. Discuss each of the questions to ask renters before conducting a background check or checking references to save you time and money.
Top questions to ask tenants
Tenant screening questions to ask renters should revolve around a potential renter’s income, their rental history and how they’ll maintain the property’s condition. So, what should (and shouldn’t) you ask? Here are 10 questions to ask tenants during the screening process:
How long have you lived in your current residence?
This question gives you a sense of the applicant’s stability as a renter and you should ask it early. If the applicant has skipped out on a lease or moves every year, that’s something to think about. Ideally, you want a tenant who will live in your rental for as long as possible. Having to fill a vacancy after the lease ends, usually just a year later, will be a headache and cost you rental income as the property sits empty.
Why are you moving?
Finding out why someone is moving out of their current home also offers a glimpse into their rental history. It could reveal past evictions or issues of where they broke a lease. But, most renters have a legit reason for moving. The cost of rent inspired 27 percent of renters to move in the past year, while 24 percent needed more space and 18 percent simply wanted a change, according to a survey by Entrata.
Have you ever been evicted or violated a lease?
You don’t want to rent to someone with a history of evictions or breaking leases. Asking about past evictions or lease agreement breaches gives renters the chance to come clean about past infractions. They might have experienced a rough patch and struggled to pay rent but are now more stable, or maybe they had to move out of a home unexpectedly due to an unforeseen event. Tenants might not answer this question truthfully, so that’s why it’s a good idea to talk to previous landlords.
What’s your monthly income?
This is an important question to ask tenants because you need to ensure they can afford the rent and pay on time. Generally, renters shouldn’t spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent. If you charge $900 a month for rent, the tenant should earn at least $3,000 a month. Property managers and owners can ask for pay stubs and contacts for their employer and conduct a credit history. But, make sure you know what you’re allowed to ask in regards to income in your area — some state rental laws let you ask about total monthly income but not how the tenant earns income.
Can I contact your employer and past landlords?
With rental history and income such important topics when screening tenants, it’s a good idea to ask for references. Contacting past landlords and the renter’s current employer will provide you with the information you need. Ask employers to verify that the tenant works there, how long they’ve worked there and how much they earn. Ask previous landlords if the tenant was reliable, if they paid on time and if they’d rent to them again.
How many people will live in the home?
You have the right to know everyone who is living in your rental. So, it’s a good idea to ask how many people will live there and who will be on the lease. This question is especially crucial if your state sets occupancy limits for a rental property or requires a home to have a certain number of bedrooms per person. Just don’t ask for too many details about family status, such as how the relation of tenants or how many children they have, which could violate fair housing rules.
Do you smoke?
Smoking is a source of property damage. As a property owner or manager, you have the right to set a no-smoking policy or designate certain smoking areas. When you ask applicants if they smoke, remind them of this policy and be sure to also include it in the lease agreement.
Do you have any pets?
Whether to allow pets in your rental is up to you. But keep in mind that most households have pets, so not allowing them automatically reduces your tenant pool. If you do allow pets, you can and should set parameters. A pet policy stipulates the type and size of pets allowed and if you’ll charge pet deposits or monthly pet rent. Asking tenants this question lets you determine if their pets adhere to your policy and give you a chance to remind renters of what’s allowed. Fair Housing laws don’t allow you to prohibit service or emotional support animals.
Do you agree to a background and credit check?
A few other questions to ask tenants involve their criminal and credit history. First, ask them if they consent to a background and credit check (and get written permission). If someone won’t agree to a check, you don’t have to rent to them. Ask, too, if there’s anything you should know before running the reports. Credit reports will show past bankruptcies and other issues, so this gives tenants a chance to explain what happened and how they’re working to improve past mistakes.
You can’t deny applicants for committing a crime or having been arrested. But you can deny someone if they’ve been convicted of a crime that potentially puts you, your property, others in the tenant’s household or the neighborhood at risk. Burglary, arson, illegal manufacturing of drugs or violent crimes are things you should note.
When do you want to move in?
Another critical question to ask tenants is when they would like to move into the home. Knowing their moving timeframe helps ensure you and the renter are on the same page. If you’re looking to fill a vacancy immediately and they’re not planning to move for a few months, it’s not a good match. Once you establish that the timing aligns, be sure to let them know about the security deposit and other fees that you charge and ask if they’ll be able to pay everything when they sign the lease.
What you should not ask tenants
When crafting your list of questions, be mindful of the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in housing based on sex, race, color, national origin, disability, religion, disability and familial status. Some states extend Fair Housing laws to other protected classes, including sexual orientation or marital status. So, there are several topics you should not bring up with renters, including:
Where they were born
Their race or nationality
Their sexual orientation
Which languages do they speak
How many children they have — or, the ages and gender of their children and where the kids go to school
Whether they’re interested in nearby religious congregations
Do they have a service dog or a disability
If they’ve ever been arrested
If they receive public assistance
The best tenant screening questions to ask tenants
Screening tenants and learning more about their rental history and monthly income will help you choose someone who’s likely to pay rent on time and take care of your home. Listing your property on Rent. lets you accept applicants and screen tenants online. Creating a standard list of questions to ask everyone will ensure that you’re being as fair as possible.
Erica Sweeney covers real estate, business, health, wellness and many other topics. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Good Housekeeping, HuffPost, Parade, Money, Business Insider, Realtor.com and lots more.
You can get an apartment with bad credit, but it may take some strategizing. Apartment applicants with low credit scores can boost their odds by applying with a cosigner, paying more upfront, offering references, or changing the type of units they apply to.
In today’s housing market, you want every possible advantage on a rental application. While letters of recommendation and a solid rental history will get you far, more and more landlords want a high credit score. As a result, it isn’t uncommon to ask if you can get an apartment with bad credit.
While it takes some strategizing, you can get an apartment with low credit. To help you along, we’ll explain how credit impacts your application, explain steps you can take to compensate for low credit, and share tips on boosting your score.
How Credit Impacts Getting Approved for an Apartment
Many landlords and renters run a credit check as part of their rental application process. Like lenders, landlords check your credit to see if you can pay your bills on time. Because renting is an investment, property owners want to minimize risk. So, they assume tenants with high credit are more likely to pay their bills on time.
Remember that your credit score isn’t the only factor on a rental application. While a high score helps, the details on your credit report matter, too. How you got a high or low score can sway property managers one way or the other.
What Credit Score Do You Need to Rent an Apartment?
The score you need depends on the unit. Some rental companies provide an ideal range for their listings. A score of 620 or higher will generally keep landlords from denying your rental application. However, some landlords will expect more, while others don’t look at your score at all.
What Do Landlords Look for on a Credit Report?
Renters may treat your credit score like a headline, but there’s more to a credit report than a number. Credit reports tell a story about your spending habits and income. To help landlords pick reliable tenants, a rental credit check includes:
Rental history: Some landlords report rent payments to credit bureaus. As a result, evictions, broken leases, and late or missing payments may appear.
Employment history: Current or past employers may show up on a credit report. Typically, they only appear if you listed them on a credit card application or loan.
Payment history: Credit reports show your history of payments to lenders. Late or missing payments will lower your score and work against your rental application.
Debts: Current and past debts show up on your credit report. By providing payslips, landlords can calculate your debt-to-income ratio. If you make enough to repay your debts responsibly, that improves your application.
Delinquent or collections accounts: An account is delinquent if you miss a payment due date. If you miss enough payments for lenders to transfer your account to a collection agency or sell it to a debt buyer, it becomes a collections account. Both of these hurt your credit score.
Bankruptcy status: Bankruptcy filings will affect your credit score. Landlords may take recent bankruptcies as a sign that you’re a high-risk tenant.
Derogatory remarks: These remarks refer to negative items on your credit report. They include auto repossessions or foreclosures. They hurt your score and hamper a rental application.
Landlords gauge the risk they pose by looking at how applicants spend their money. Someone with a high income but a history of late payments may not make the cut. On the other hand, someone who filed for bankruptcy years ago may be more responsible now.
How to Get an Apartment with Bad Credit
While a low score sets you back, you can learn how to get approved for an apartment with low credit. By following these methods, you can get a leg up in rental applications:
Make an Upfront Payment
Putting down more money upfront can give you an edge on rental applications. Landlords will usually request a security deposit or the first and last month’s rent upfront. To sway a landlord’s opinion, offer the first three months’ rent or put down a higher security deposit.
At the end of the day, renting is an investment. If you can show your landlord that you’ll give them a reliable ROI, it’s all the more likely they’ll accept you. As a bonus, paying more in advance saves you a financial burden for the next few months.
Find a Guarantor or Cosigner for Your Apartment
If a landlord can’t trust you to make payments, you can get someone to sign your lease with you. Someone with a great credit score who signs on with you can assuage a property manager’s worries. However, remember that the person who helps you takes on financial risk. You have two options for this approach:
Cosignerssign a rental agreement with you and share the financial responsibility for it. They must do so on your behalf if you can’t or won’t pay rent.
Guarantors share cosigners’ responsibilities, but they have fewer rights. More specifically, they vouch for you and can make payments on your behalf. However, they aren’t entitled to reside in your unit.
Offer References and Supporting Documents
While credit reports outline your financial history, you aren’t the sum of your spending decisions. You can offer other documents to show your responsibility in an apartment application. Additionally, these documents can prove you can pay rent each month. Some examples of supporting documents include:
Payslips: Offer pay stubs that show you make enough money to pay rent each month.
Letters of recommendation: Reference letters from a friend or employer can attest to your character and responsibility.
Proof of reliable rental history: Account statements and landlord testimonials can prove you always pay rent on time.
A snapshot of your savings account: If all else fails, you can show landlords you have the money to make rent. Be sure to censor sensitive information on your snapshot.
Utility payments: A history of on-time utility payments shows your trustworthiness.
Find Apartments to Rent with No Credit Check
While credit checks are common, not all landlords require one. While these properties aren’t the most competitive, that isn’t always a problem. Apartments with no credit check tend to cost less than ones with one.
If you’re looking for another option, some landlords advertise units with low credit requirements. Again, these properties set a low credit requirement for a reason. That said, if you inspect the unit and it looks good, this route can save you a headache. As you live in low-credit apartments, you can build your score for future applications.
Adjust Your Expectations
If you can’t get around a credit check, reassess the kinds of apartments you can apply for. This isn’t to say you should only apply to units in poor condition. Instead, consider what you’re willing to compromise on. You may have an easier time qualifying for an apartment:
Farther away from your work or downtown area
Without amenities like a gym or pool
That doesn’t include parking
With less square footage than you’d prefer
If you apply with a roommate
Bear in mind that compromising on these points means the apartment may cost less. While living in a less-than-ideal unit, you can save and rebuild your credit while renting. When it comes time to look for a new apartment, you’ll have better odds of getting the one you want.
Tips to Raise Your Credit Before Renting an Apartment
If you plan to send rental applications down the line, you should work to improve your credit. Bear in mind that increasing your credit score takes time. To see a major change, expect months or even a year of work. In that time, follow these tips to improve your credit:
Pay Your Bills on Time
A person’s payment history can make or break their credit score. Central to that payment history: whether you paid your bills on time. Making timely and consistent payments plays a big role in improving your credit score. On top of that, timely payments prove your reliability to a landlord, boosting your chance of getting approved.
Pay Down Any Debt
Paying down debts is one of the best ways to improve your credit score. For this reason, someone who takes on and pays off debt won’t get punished for the debt they take on. Paying off debts shows your fiscal responsibility and proves your finances are on an upward trajectory.
Paying off any kind of debt can improve your score. The main ones to look out for include:
Credit card debt
Become an Authorized User for Credit Piggybacking
If you don’t have the resources to boost your credit alone, you can try credit piggybacking. Credit piggybacking lets you benefit from a friend or family member who pays down their debts. By becoming an authorized user on their account, your credit report reflects their payoffs.
You can break the process into a few steps:
Find a friend or family member you trust to spend responsibly.
Become an authorized user on one of their credit cards or lines of credit.
As they pay down their debts, this will show up on your credit report.
By piggybacking on their credit payoffs, your score will improve.
Dispute Credit Report Errors
Sometimes, a low credit score isn’t your fault. Credit reporting errors can come from major credit reporting agencies or the companies giving them information. Credit reporting errors aren’t uncommon, so you should review your report for issues.
Credit reports may contain errors related to:
Accounts held by another person with a similar name to you
Accounts opened by fraudsters who committed identity theft
Closed accounts that still read as open
Accounts incorrectly labeled as delinquent or in collections
Payments that don’t get reflected in your report
Multiple listings of the same debt
Accounts with inaccurate balances or credit limits
To dispute credit report errors, contact the credit bureaus and the company that reported inaccurate information to them. You want to provide supporting documentation that proves the report contains errors. While you can send a dispute by phone, this doesn’t leave a paper trail. Instead, mail a dispute letter or use an online form.
FAQs on Renting an Apartment with Bad Credit
You may still have questions about getting approved for an apartment. To help you out, we’ve answered FAQs on renting apartments with bad credit.
Is 500 a High Enough Credit Score for an Apartment?
You can rent an apartment with a credit score of 500. While it might take you out of the running for expensive units, you should still have a good chance of renting:
Apartments with low credit requirements
Apartments with no credit requirements
Apartments you apply to with a cosigner or roommate.
Can I Reapply for an Apartment After I Get Denied for Bad Credit?
You can apply for the same apartment after getting denied on your first attempt. That said, some renters may throw out your application or ignore it. If you reapply, try to improve your credit and finances between applications.
Do Landlords Need Permission to Run a Credit Check?
Landlords need your permission to run a credit check. The Fair Credit Reporting Act calls rental applications a “permissible purpose.” This gives them the right to view your credit. However, that doesn’t mean landlords can check your score without your consent.
Improve Your Credit for an Apartment with Credit.com
Managing apartment applications is hard enough, even without a low credit score. However, you can get an apartment with bad credit by following the right steps. You’ll see more housing opportunities by learning how credit works, reviewing strategies for getting an apartment with low credit, and following tips to boost your score.
If you’d like a way to streamline raising your credit for rental applications, Credit.com can help. Our rent and utility reporting services ensure that your on-time payment gets reflected on your report. Even if your landlord doesn’t report payments, our tool helps build your credit with every rent payment reported.
If you’ve been living in the U.S. these past few years, you know that rental rates have skyrocketed. Because of this, many renters cannot avoid spending more than the recommended 30% of their gross monthly income. This makes it all the more aggravating to find out your monthly rent has been raised by your landlord before your contract is up.
Raising rent can make sense in certain cases such as the market value going up. However, in other circumstances, a rent increase may be unnecessary or downright illegal.
It’s important to be educated on what can and can’t be done when it comes to your lease. Here is what you should know about your tenant rights and what you can do about it.
Can your landlord raise the rent?
The short answer to whether or not your landlord can raise your rent is yes and no. The city you live in, rent control laws and your lease will determine if it is legal or not. These are the circumstances when your landlord can and can not raise the rent.
If you signed a month-to-month lease, landlords are within their rights to raise the rent at the end of each month. Similar to a 12-month lease, a monthly lease is still a binding contract. So your landlord would still be required to give you advance notice (generally about 30 days) and can only raise the rent at the end of the month.
Typically, rent increases occur when your lease is up. So if you signed a year-long lease and your landlord tried to raise the rent six months in, that is not acceptable. Rent increases are only legal once the 12-month lease has finished.
The terms and conditions of your rent should all be laid out clearly in the rental agreement you sign at the beginning of your tenancy. Unless stated otherwise in the lease agreement, yearly and monthly rent increases are only allowed under the above conditions. That’s why it’s important to thoroughly read through and understand your rental agreement.
Keep in mind that a rent increase can also impact your security deposit. Since the rent is now higher, you may have to up the amount of the deposit as well.
There are some circumstances under which your landlord legally cannot raise your rent. The first is without providing adequate notice. This is generally is about 30 days ahead of the proposed increase. It’s also illegal for a landlord to increase rent for discriminatory reasons or in retaliation for previous conflicts.
If you believe the rent increase is in response to a past conflict you had with the landlord or because they are discriminating against you based on your race, gender, sexual orientation or other reason, those are grounds to possibly have the increase overturned.
What to do if your landlord raises your rent
Receiving a rent increase is jarring and upsetting for anyone, especially since rent is already inflated. Finding out you may have to pay more or move is bound to trigger some strong emotions.
But you’re not without recourse and options for how to handle the situation. If you receive a rent increase notice and are unsure what to do, there are a few steps you can take.
1. Know your city’s laws
Renter’s rights can vary widely at both city and state levels. What’s legal in one city in your state isn’t always legal for other cities you may live in. This is why it’s crucial that, if you learn of a rent increase, you check your local laws.
This can pertain to whether the timing of the notice is legal, or if the increased amount is legal. Some states or cities don’t have set or maximum amounts for rent increases, leaving it up to the landlord’s discretion. So if there are no laws that set a cap or limit, your landlord can hike up the rent as much as they see fit.
2. Get it in writing
In most states, it’s required that any rent increase notice be served to the tenant in written form. This could be as a letter or email. If your landlord verbally told you they will raise the rent, that is not legal. If your landlord is trying to raise your rent and doesn’t provide written proof, that’s evidence you may use in case the situation goes to court.
3. Double-check your lease
Read through your lease to make sure that the rent increase notice is legal. This includes checking that the notice arrives in an appropriate time frame and adheres to any other relevant clauses.
4. Report any illegal actions to the proper authorities
If you determine that the rent increase is unlawful for whatever reason, you should report your landlord to the respective authorities in your area. This could be a local government agency or department related to housing or a housing and tenants’ rights advocacy group. They can point you in the right direction.
5. Speak with your landlord
Assuming the rent increase is legal, you still may not want to pay it. Maybe you are unable to afford the new proposed amount. Maybe you feel that based on your good rental history in that unit, it’s unnecessary or unjustified. Whatever the reason, you can try to negotiate with your landlord. You can do this in two ways.
The first would be to send them a rent negotiation letter. In the letter, you should describe in clear terms why you can’t or don’t think you should pay the increase.
You can detail your financial situation, or make reference to your rental history. Have you always paid the rent on time and in full? Are you a model tenant? Highlight those reasons the landlord will want to keep you on as a renter.
You can also arrange a meeting or call your landlord to negotiate the rent increase. When doing this, make the same points as you would in a negotiation letter but are able to have a straightforward conversation.
6. Organize with the other tenants
If all other attempts to negotiate with your landlord have failed, you may find strength in numbers. Check with the other tenants in your building to see if they are OK with the rent increase.
Collective action is a powerful tool. If the majority of the building opposes the rent increase and the landlord moves forward, they could be facing multiple people moving out at the same time. This gives them more work to suddenly try to fill the empty units. Having reliable, trustworthy tenants makes their job easier. This incentivizes them to work in good faith with the tenants they have.
7. Pay the increased amount
Unfortunately, if your landlord won’t budge and they are within their rights then you will have to pay the increased rent or find a new apartment to rent.
Getting a rent increase notice isn’t the be-all, end-all
Unless you live in a city with rent control, occasionally dealing with rent increases is, unfortunately, a necessary part of a renter’s life. Sometimes they can also feel very unfair. But by using the above resources, you can fight or even stop a rent increase.
The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. Readers are encouraged to seek professional legal or financial advice as they may deem it necessary.
Ashley Singleton is a writer who loves following and writing about current lifestyle, DIY and home improvement trends. You can read some of her other work on the Lady Spike Media website. In her spare time, she performs stand-up comedy in Los Angeles.
Whether you’re moving out of your parent’s house or leaving the dorm life behind, becoming a first-time apartment renter is a big and exciting step. However, if you don’t know the ins and outs of the rental process, the task can seem overwhelming. Luckily, we at Redfin put together a list of 8 key tips to help first-time renters find their perfect first apartment and make the transition as smooth as possible. Whether you’re renting an apartment in Los Angeles, CA, or in Brooklyn, NY, these tips will be invaluable in your journey to securing the ideal rental space.
1. Your budget needs to cover more than just rent
If you’re a first-time apartment renter, knowing how to budget for your first apartment is crucial. Your monthly rent will, of course, be the most considerable expense you need to account for, but there are other one-time and ongoing fees that you should be able to pay. Let’s take a look at these costs more closely.
Initial, one-time costs
Before moving into your new apartment, you should save enough money to pay for the following upfront costs:
Once you’ve moved into your first apartment, there are several ongoing expenses you’ll need to cover every month:
Utilities, such as electricity, garbage, water, sewage, etc.
Internet and phone
As a first-time apartment renter, this might be the first time you’re responsible for these types of expenses. The last thing you want to do is misjudge what you can afford because you forgot to factor in these essential components of your cost of living.
2. Make a list of needs, then prioritize them
Start with your dream apartment – what is your ultimate living situation? While you may not end up with everything on your list, it’s essential to understand what you value in your home. Some common needs for first-time apartment renters are:
Balcony, patio, or other private outdoor space
Closet and storage space
Proximity to work, nightlife, dog parks, or other amenities
Natural light and direction of exposure
Building amenities, such as a gym, rooftop, or business center
Once you have your list, prioritize the items from most to least important. This will help you narrow down your choices and choose between similar properties.
3. Ask a lot of questions during apartment tours
There are some things you just need to know when you’re shopping for apartments. You may direct these questions to your prospective landlord, or you might have to do some research on your own. Here is a list of must-ask questions, but you may choose to add others depending on your needs.
How much is the rent?
Are utilities included? If not, how much do they usually cost?
How much is the security deposit?
How do I pay rent and utilities?
Is there a parking fee?
Is the apartment pet-friendly, and if so, what are the associated fees?
Are any deposits or fees refunded at the end of the lease?
Do I need proof of renters insurance?
What’s the application process, and is there a fee?
How long is the lease term?
How often does rent increase and by how much?
What alterations can I make to my apartment?
How is apartment maintenance dealt with?
Is there a property manager?
Am I responsible for any maintenance?
What amenities are available nearby?
Are there any particular policies I should know about?
These questions are just the beginning. You likely have special needs or preferences that should inspire additional questions. Keep a list of these questions with you when touring, along with a way of recording the answers.
4. Know the rental application requirements
Each apartment will have a different rental process. Generally, your process will include some or all of the following:
Fill out an apartment application
Show proof of income
Complete a credit check
Complete a background check
Provide rental history with the landlord’s contact information or a personal reference
Add a co-signer if you have a low credit score or no credit history
Include an optional cover letter
To show proof of income, you’ll likely need to provide your most recent pay stubs. You can also use an offer letter or letter from your employer if you’re moving for work. Many landlords or property management companies want to see that you have a reliable monthly income appropriate for the rent payment. While it depends on the apartment, there is often an income requirement that the renter needs to make 2 to 3 times the monthly rent amount.
5. Clarify the parking situation
Some rentals come with a designated parking area or parking spot(s). If you plan to live with a roommate and you both have cars, are there enough parking spaces to easily accommodate both of you? When there are not enough parking spaces or tandem parking, roommates will often switch off week to week or find another acceptable compromise. If the apartment complex does have parking spaces, be sure to ask if this comes at an additional cost. Parking fees are becoming increasingly common at rental properties.
On the other hand, many apartments don’t come with parking, especially in bigger cities like New York City or San Francisco. In this case, pay close attention to the street parking. The street parking signs will tell you which days or times of day parking is limited or prohibited (usually for street-sweeping or snow plowing). But you should also note how many parking spaces are free on your street— is there plenty of room or are cars packed bumper to bumper? Streets with cars parked close together usually mean that parking is difficult to find.
6. Know the best time of year to rent an apartment
You can’t always control when you need to move, but if you do have flexibility, choosing the right time of year to rent an apartment could have a large impact. If your main concern is price, you’ll want to look for an apartment during the winter months. Typically, most people move in the summer months (college students moving away from home, etc.), so demand and prices are typically highest during this time and lowest in the winter. Keep in mind that while rent prices may be lower, there might not be a large selection of apartment complexes with availability.
On the other hand, if your ideal apartment is your top priority, then moving during the summer may be a better option. Most renters sign 12-month leases in the summer. Therefore, most leases usually also end around that time. This means the highest number of new apartments are coming on the market, so you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. The main downside here is that rent prices will typically be higher, and you’ll need to act fast before the best apartments are off the market.
7. Thoroughly read and understand the lease agreement
As a first-time apartment renter, reviewing your lease agreement is one of the most important steps to getting your apartment. Though the lease may contain complex language, it will outline the most important agreements you’re making by signing it. Here are a few things you should make a note of:
The length of your lease
The pet policy and any special terms (like additional fees)
Deposit requirements and how your deposit is returned
Liens or claims to your property if you don’t pay rent
When in doubt, having your lease reviewed by a landlord-tenant attorney is a great idea. The attorney will be able to catch any illegal provisions, explain how provisions work, point out unfavorable provisions and their consequences, and suggest changes that provide you with a more favorable lease.
8. Get renters insurance
In many cases, carrying renters insurance may be required by your landlord, especially if you’re a first-time apartment renter. Even if it isn’t, it’s still a good idea to have it – regardless of if you’re a long-time tenant or a first-time apartment renter. A renters insurance policy protects you in three significant ways:
Personal property protection: If someone steals, damages, or destroys your personal belongings, you will receive a payout (minus the deductible).
Personal liability: If someone gets hurt in your home, renters insurance will pay for medical bills and lost wages, depending on the terms of your policy. You may also be covered if you end up in a lawsuit.
Loss of use: If your apartment becomes uninhabitable, loss of use coverage pays for your expenses, up to coverage limits, while you live outside your home.
Always be sure to review your policy carefully. It’s a good idea to create an inventory of your personal belongings so that you both have a record of what you own and ensure your coverage limits are high enough to protect you in the event of a total loss. If you are unsure about any part of your insurance policy, speak with your agent.
A final note on renting your first apartment
Searching and finding a perfect apartment rental requires some diligence, patience, and preparation. By following these tips, you can avoid possible pitfalls and make your apartment hunting process as seamless as possible, especially if you’re a first-time apartment renter.
Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) completed its acquisition of Black Knight Tuesday, making the combined company the biggest player in the mortgage tech space. I sat down with Tim Bowler, president of ICE Mortgage Technology, a business unit of ICE, to talk about the company’s mortgage automation strategy — and what keeps him up at night.
Sarah Wheeler: ICE’s acquisition of Black Knight just closed today. What is top of mind for you moving forward?
Tim Bowler: We’re incredibly excited about what we will be able to bring to our customers, to borrowers, as well as to other stakeholders across the mortgage ecosystem. We’ll accelerate our focus on delivering value and efficiencies with the combined ICE and Black Knight entities so we can continue the journey of helping more people into homeownership.
SW:ICE Mortgage Technology is known for its focus on automation. What parts of the mortgage loan process have been the most resistant to digitization up to this point?
TB: It’s hard to say because there are so many different kinds of transactions between borrowers and lenders. What we’re trying to do at ICE is break down the various transactions where a borrower and a lender might interface and figure out how we can deliver a set of technology tools and solutions so that the borrower can get their loan — for purchase or refinance — as fast as possible with the least amount of cost.
That mindset of knowing that mortgage transactions vary depending on the borrower’s circumstances is an important lens for us because it helps us actually get to the solutions that make the most sense for each one of those discrete transactions.
SW:How does ICE determine the right balance between automation and the human element?
TB: The reality is that the mortgage process, particularly in today’s purchase market, is still a deeply human process. We realize that we are providing the appropriate set of tools and solutions to those humans who are helping those borrowers through the most important financial transaction of their life, so that the processcan be as efficient, seamless and pleasant as possible. The right technology can help you achieve faster approvals and faster closing, while also giving greater comfort and certainty to that borrower.
It’s also helping those borrowers find the right products. Those will inevitably flow through a lender, so we make sure that the lenders have as much information as possible around what might be the best, most appropriate alternatives to present to borrowers.
SW:The FHFA recently held a tech sprint for the mortgage industry and part of the goal was to find out why adoption was low on some of the tech solutions that have been available for years that could really benefit lenders, servicers and borrowers if they were adopted. What do you see as the key obstacles to tech adoption now as, as opposed to in the past?
TB: It seems like each mortgage process should be relatively standardized because we’re manufacturing loans — the vast majority of which will be purchased by the two GSEs or insured by FHA, VA or USDA.
But in the midst of that process is an individual or family and it ends up being a very human-to-human experience. Maybe in the past, the industry looked and asked how we could just industrialize everything associated with the mortgage underwriting approval and funding process too myopically. We think taking a step back to look at that origination process through a human lens will be helpful to increase the uptake of some of the tools that are out there to make the process work.
SW:The cost of origination has been front and center for mortgage banking executives. How are the most successful mortgage executives prioritizing their resources right now?
TB: In this purchase market, it’s the ones who are identifying borrowers they can work with on purchasing that first home. Or, if they are selling and then buying another home, the lenders getting them approved as fast as possible. It’s so important in this market that when a buyer puts an offer on a home, it’s 100% clear that financing is available and ready to support the purchase. And then closing as fast as possible because we’re still in a tight housing market with tight inventory.
SW:We know that homeowners who locked in low mortgage rates might stay in their current home for years. And that’s just building on a trend that’s just been going on even before we got to these really low mortgage rates. What’s the role of tech as lenders play the long game in this market?
TB: Many families and households locked in extremely favorable rates. But I think there’s a dynamism in the U.S. economy and in the housing markets that means people will still move, they’ll still buy a bigger home when the time is right.
In today’s environment, I think there are going to be more households looking to use their equity to invest in their home within the context of retaining the existing primary mortgage that they have at attractive rates. So, for us as a technology provider, it is finding solutions that make it efficient for borrowers to make important investments in their house through mortgage products that meets their needs from a pricing perspective, while also delivering a smooth experience throughout the process.
SW:Affordable housing initiatives are on the radar of more lenders this year, but your typical loan officer may not have a lot of experience there. How are lenders helping borrowers take advantage of loan product innovation and affordable housing initiatives?
TB: There’s no doubt that debt-to-income levels are going to be stressed for that first-time borrower because home prices have remained high despite higher interest rates. And I think it’s incumbent on all of us in the industry to provide tools so lending officers have the knowledge they need to help borrowers access affordable programs, so they know what’s available and how pricing works for those programs.
SW:AI has really stepped into the spotlight this year. Is this going to be a time we will look back on as being a turning point?
TB: The way I think about a lot of these new tools that are being created, whether they be generative AI or more efficient search or more efficient document recognition, is that they should be used to help buyers have a better experience. Correctly harnessed and used, AI could ultimately lead to a more efficient process where decision-making for the borrower is faster.
Our team is focused on thinking about technology in this way: How do we help our customers and partners help borrowers have a better experience through the advanced technologies and tools that are being developed?
SW:Looking out 10 years, what part of the mortgage ecosystem will have changed most in that time frame? What challenges do you think we’ll still be talking about solving with technology?
TB: There are four key aspects to the mortgage process that could be evolved. First is determining whether the homebuyer has the capacity to cover that housing cost on a regular basis. And my hunch tells me that over the course of the next decade, we’re going to develop better tools than those that exist today to be able to highlight the fact that borrowers have the ability to repay on their loan. And a lot of that will come from better mechanisms to evaluate past rental history and the borrowers’ ability to manage housing payments consistently.
As a technology provider, we want to find a better way to show the ability to repay so that the ultimate investor in that mortgage or the insurer feels comfortable with it without having to retain massive amounts of personal information on a multi-decade basis, which is inefficient for the system and puts that information at risk.
Secondly, I think the tools around how we assess the value of the property and the risk associated with that property will evolve to drive a more efficient process, particularly for that first-time borrower or that lower wealth transaction.
The third area is trying to find a way to have a better outcome with refinancing for lower loan balance borrowers than what we saw in the last period of refinancing where the frequency of higher loan balances refinances was just so much greater relative to moderate-balance borrowers, who could benefit the most.
Lastly, this is just a deeply personal point for me because I’m always shocked at how inefficient it is: We’ve got to be able to use technology so when a borrower makes that last payment on the mortgage and owns that house free and clear, the release of liens or security interests is improved.
SW:You are the head of a very large mortgage tech company. What keeps you up at night?
TB: The lack of housing supply in the country and the lack of affordable housing supply, specifically. That lack is driving the cost of housing to artificially high levels that is really squeezing so many lower- and middle-income households.
And I’m hoping and praying that policymakers can be more creative and collaborative in that regard because we have to solve it for this generation of kids and the next generation of kids to come. So that they’ve got adequate housing at fair prices that does not chew up half of their paycheck — that is absolutely critical if you want to keep this economy going.
SW:Lastly, what makes you hopeful or optimistic about our industry right now?
TB: I’m deeply optimistic about our industry. Despite the fact that we face a myriad of challenges, I wouldn’t trade our mortgage market for any other mortgage market on the planet. We’re innovative, we’re dynamic, we have the ability to fund mortgages through thick or thin. We have all the tools at our disposition to retain the best mortgage market on the planet.
It is just incumbent on everybody in the ecosystem to work hard every day and in every way to make a difference to have a better, fairer, more dynamic market.
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