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11 Steps On How To Rent An Apartment

Prepare to Apply

Decide what you need from your apartment. Consider the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you need before you start your search. Square footage, amenities and location are also important considerations.

Gather documents that support your ability to pay for the apartment. Paycheck stubs and a verification of employment and earnings from your employer should suffice. Some property owners will also want a complete employment history. Prepare one ahead of time and bring it with you to help show your potential property owner that you are responsible.

Prepare a rental history. Give the names and addresses of your previous three to five property owners. If this is your first time attempting to rent an apartment, provide three to four references that can vouch for your dependability and character. Include at least one professional reference.

Check your credit report. This can be done at no charge through for each of the three reporting agencies. Many property owners check your credit before letting you rent an apartment. Some might make a decision solely based on your credit history. If you have less than stellar credit, bring proof of on-time payments from at least one company you do business with. Utility companies are a good option. In the event you don’t have any positive credit references, ask the property owner if you can pay a higher deposit in lieu of a good credit score.

Scout Apartments

Keep an eye on the classified section of the local newspaper. Drive around your desired neighborhood looking for “For Rent” signs. Look for rental brochures or magazines in your area. Spread the word among your friends that you are looking for an apartment.

Tour the apartment with the property owner or the agent. Keep an eye out for damages or defects. If there are any damages, be sure to have them included in the rental contract. You definitely don’t want pay for those later.

Bring a pen and paper to every apartment you visit to make a list of pros and cons. You can also ask the property owner if you can take pictures so you can use them to compare apartments when you get home.

Contact the property owner as soon as you decide what apartment you want to rent. Procrastination may cost you the apartment you really want.

Sign the Lease

Read the entire lease before you sign it. Make sure that all terms and conditions are exactly what you were told when you initially inquired about the apartment. If you are unsure about anything, ask for clarification or take the lease to an attorney or trusted friend to review.

Walk through the apartment immediately after you sign the lease to check again for damage and defects. If you notice any, contact the property owner immediately.

Arrange for your move. In some areas, you may have to coordinate the use of parking spaces or service elevators to get your belongings into the apartment.

6 Tipps For Renting An Apartment

What you pay for your apartment and how fancy it is depends on your negotiation and deal-finding skills. However, before you negotiate anything, you’ve got to decide what you’re looking for in your rented space. Read on for six steps to help you find an apartment for the lowest possible rental rate. (Are you confused about whether you should rent or buy? Read To Rent or Buy? The Financial Issues.)

No. 1: Seek Web Help in Picking Features
If you don’t know what features are available in your area, try exploring the websites of online apartment locator services. You can search for apartments based simply on whether you want a one- or two-bedroom apartment or by other features. It’s a great way to find out both what your pad will cost and what neighborhoods have the features you want.

No. 2: Avoid Choosing a Home Based on Perceived Value
You can get a great deal on an apartment with vaulted ceilings and an island kitchen, but the neighborhood may not be what you’re looking for, or it’s missing other things that topped your list of desired features. Don’t make the mistake of renting an apartment because it seems like a good deal according to someone else’s needs but not a good deal based on your needs.

No. 3: Call a Locator in Your Area
Look online or in a physical phone book for numbers for apartments in your area.
Call at least two and ask about which rental communities and neighborhoods have the most features that you want within your price range.
Ask about specials. You may be able to find an apartment that would normally go for $1,000 a month for $800 per month.
Because the locator will get a commission if you choose a property he or she recommends, make sure the locator calls ahead to see if the two to three properties you like have the best units available.

No. 4: Always Call a Community Before Visiting
Before you visit a property, call before visiting to get a quote on prices. Once you are on the property, the leasing agent may hope to wow you with features, but on the phone it’s all about the numbers. Compare the figures you received from your locator with the number you gathered from online and local apartment locator services.

No. 5: Tour Properties in Person
While virtual tours can be found on most apartment complexes’ websites, there’s no substitute for visiting a community in person. Websites will provide an idea of what the community and interior look like, and should be used as an initial screen. Walking around your potential new neighborhood and apartment will give you a better feel for the location, Also, don’t limit the search to one property; visit at least two, so that you have a comparison.

No. 6: Reevaluate Your Feature List
During the very first step of the process of finding a fabulous new place to live that’s also easy on your wallet, you developed a list of what features that are important to you in and around your new home. You should have also decided what you are willing to pay for them. Now that you have at least a couple different properties to choose, see if you still hold the same values. Adjust your list accordingly as to what each feature is worth before doing your final comparisons of cost versus home value.

Once you know what you want and what it will cost, sit down and think about your choices in the following two ways:

Look at your actual budget. Consider whether one apartment would leave you with more money left over.
Evaluate an apartment’s worth based on the sum of values you haves assigned to the features from your list. Make sure the actual rent you pay is within reason for what you can afford.

Knowing you have an actual value for what’s important to you will enable you to make a decision on where you live based on your own needs instead of a community advertisement.

How to Rent an Apartment with Low or No Credit

During the past several years, unemployment and other issues have slashed many Americans’ credit scores. At the same time, foreclosures and tighter lending criteria have also sent one-time homeowners back to the rental market and kept others renting longer. Getting approved for a rental with credit issues isn’t always easy, though, because many landlords and management companies run a credit check on prospective tenants. “This is a real problem right now because so many people got their credit trashed,” says Beverly Harzog, independent credit card expert and consumer advocate.

But there are ways for credit-challenged consumers to win a landlord or property manager’s approval. Several years ago, when Eileen Batson and her husband moved to Raleigh, N.C., after a bankruptcy filing, they housesat for Batson’s sister while exploring neighborhoods. Batson responded to a Craigslist ad for a sublet and the property manager agreed to let them move in. After that lease ended, the property manager agreed to a new lease in their name since they’d paid promptly and kept up the apartment. They’ve stayed in the apartment for several years, which has given them time to repair their credit in case they decide to move in the future.

Here’s a look at other strategies for getting approved.

1. Address credit issues before you look. Before setting up showings or filling out rental applications, Harzog suggests ordering your credit report from to check for errors and see what issues might raise red flags with landlords. If the reason for the issue wouldn’t necessarily indicate irresponsibility (for instance, medical or student loan debt), Harzog says you can add a note to your credit report explaining the situation.

Mia Melle, president of the Southern California-based property management firm, also suggests including a letter of explanation with your application. “We want to get the person in the property through methods besides looking at a FICO score, so we’ll sometimes ask for a letter,” she says. “If your explanation sounds reasonable, that could help.”

2. Be prepared to pay a larger deposit. Brittney Benson, general manager of the National Association of Independent Landlords, says paying a larger security deposit could help sway some landlords. “It offers financial security because the reason for pulling credit to rent to somebody is to make sure they’re financially responsible,” she explains. “The deposit covers the landlord’s losses in the case of damages, so a larger deposit gives them a little bit more they can put towards lost income.” However, maximum rental deposits are capped in some states, so know your rights as a tenant before agreeing to this.

3. Demonstrate strong income. In assessing a prospective tenant’s likelihood to make rent, many owners factor in the tenant’s rent-to-income ratio. According to Melle, spending 35 percent of income on rent is considered ideal for owners but in many cases, tenants apply for properties that will eat up a 40 percent or more of their income. “If their rent-to-income ratio is only 25 percent, we would consider that a positive factor,” she says, adding that sometimes applicants might be approved for a different property that’s more appropriate to their affordability range. Staying within your affordability range also ensures that you’re less likely to stretch yourself too thin and potentially damage your credit again in the future.

4. Collect recommendations from your employer or past landlords. Owners may request recommendations from your employer or past landlords, so Harzog suggests making a good impression by collecting letters of recommendation in advance. Also pay attention to details like how you’re dressed and how you carry yourself. “Sometimes these steps create the impression that you’re in good shape,” she says. “You want to do everything you possibly can to turn the situation to your advantage.”

5. Consider getting a cosigner. Having a cosigner to guarantee rent payments can help build trust with landlords, especially if you’re a recent graduate moving into your first apartment. However, as Benson points out, that person needs to have good credit or the landlord is no better off than before. If you can’t get a cosigner (or simply don’t want to impose on a friend or family member with good credit), a roommate with good credit could also give the landlord some peace of mind and help you save money by reducing your rent-to-income ratio.

6. Focus on independent landlords. According to Benson, large management companies may have preset criteria for tenants to comply with fair housing laws, but smaller, independent landlords may be more willing to work with tenants on an individual basis.

7. Suggest a shorter-term lease. Landlords hate having vacancies or evicting tenants who are behind on rent, so shorter-term leases are less of a gamble. Says Benson, “You’ll sign a lease for three to six months and then that way, you can prove that you’re able to pay. Once the lease is up, they can consider renewing the lease or if it turns out you’re not paying, they can just not renew the lease without having to evict.”

8. Offer to move in immediately. Given the choice between an applicant with good credit who can’t move in for a month or two and someone with less-than-perfect credit who can move in right away, many landlords would choose the latter. “An owner wants to start realizing revenue as soon as possible,” says Melle. “They’ll assume more risk for someone who’s going to move in quicker if they can show stability.”