You found the perfect apartment – a five-story walk up in the prettiest part of town – and there’s a dog park nearby for Fido. You applied with the rental or property management firm and you’re waiting to hear. It’s only been a few days, but every time you pass by your erstwhile new home, you silently wish the Apartment for Rent sign weren’t still evident.
It already feels like “home” to you and you don’t want anyone else to rent it.
Before long, you realize you had nothing to worry about: the apartment is yours! You only have one more hurdle to get through: the credit check. You know your credit score isn’t perfect, but it’s decent, and you breathe a little easier. All you can do is hope that a “better” applicant doesn’t come along.
But what exactly DOES qualify as a “better applicant”? In fact, what makes for an ideal renter in the eyes of a rental management company? Here are a few pointers from rental management specialists, to help you stay renter-healthy and renter-desirable, from their point of view:
- Property management companies, or rental managers, make a living selecting good tenants for their clients. They’re going to examine your background with a fine tooth comb. If you are applying through one of these firms, be prepared for a credit check, a job history check and, in some cases, a criminal background check. Either way, the personal evaluation will be in-depth and will ensure that the rental management company feels they are dealing with a reputable, responsible individual. You’ll be asked to pay a modest amount for the background check.
- Keep in mind that this company has seen plenty of applications and won’t be unrealistic in its expectations – they have a pretty good idea of the pool of renters out there in your neck of the woods – but they WILL be picky.
- You will be asked for references, so, in anticipation, draw up a list of business colleagues and personal contacts. You may want to touch base with your contacts, first, to alert them to the fact that they’ll be getting a call or an e-mail about your application. Your contacts will appreciate the heads up: it will help them prepare what to have on hand to say. Make sure you know in advance that your contacts have solely positive recommendations about you to impart. If you’re not sure…ask!
- Don’t have much experience renting apartments? If you haven’t established yourself as a renter with a sterling reputation simply because you haven’t yet rented, have someone in mind for a co-signer. The rental or property management company may ask for one. What makes for a good co-signer? A co-signer will have a history of rental payments or will have their own home. Importantly, they are the go-to source in case you default, so this person will have a legal obligation to pay your rent, if you can’t.
- Be ready with a security deposit. What’s a reasonable amount? Depends on the market. Check nearby listings, but, in the main, it is usually one month’s rent. If your credit score isn’t that great, the security deposit may go up, as a hedge against your not being able to pay the rent. In fact, if you know going in that some of your financial background will look iffy…Chapter 13 that is still active, collections, delinquencies…why not be up front and explain this is the case, and offer to pay several months’ rent, as an added assurance of your good intent? We all make mistakes and we all need to juggle finances on occasion; chances are the rental or property management company will value your honesty and will appreciate the opportunity to work with someone whose rent will be “guaranteed” in this manner.
- Can you show proof of income? Pay stubs should do. Even if you have recently relocated, you’ll need some sort of documentation of employment. What the rental property is looking for is what you’ll be earning, and whether you’ll be working on a steady basis. Also, be ready to provide bank statements. Additionally, some companies require a list of expenses. Why? They want to be sure you fall safely into the 75% of expenses-to-income bracket.
- Finally, remember that first impressions do count. In representing the landlord, the rental management company is going to rely on that first handshake and on the way in which you ask questions to determine if you’ll be a good fit. And, of course, your appearance—neat, clean, presentable – can’t be overstated. Dress as if you were meeting your girlfriend or boyfriend’s parents for the first time. In other words – dress to impress!
One final note: express interest in the property in no uncertain terms. Then, having done your homework and prepared your paperwork, just sit back and wait for the verdict…but maintain a confident, positive attitude throughout. Even if you don’t qualify, remember that every “no” brings you closer to that “yes”…and take the opportunity to ask for the reason you were turned down. It’ll help you prepare for the next time.