Before you go searching for your dream apartment, it’s important to understand that your rental applications will be reviewed closely by landlords and property managers.
Landlords are particular about the people they rent to, especially during the competitive months of May through September, when apartments are in greatest demand. That’s because rental units represent substantial investments. Owners need to secure a steady stream of income from reliable tenants in order to pay their mortgages, property taxes and maintenance costs.
Here are five tips for improving your chances of securing the apartment you’re looking for.
1. Establish a Solid Credit Score
Credit scores reflect your history of paying bills on time. According to credit reporting company TransUnion, for a rating range of 300 to 850, a score of 700 or above generally is considered good. To see where you stand, federal law allows you to get a free copy of your credit reports annually. The largest credit reporting firms, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian offer their reports through a shared website, AnnualCreditReport.com.
It can take time to build up a good credit score, especially if you’re a recent college graduate or have never used a credit card in your own name before. Depending on where you live, and how expensive your potential new place is to rent each month, the landlord or management company may require a guarantor to secure the lease, so they’re covered in case you’re unable to pay rent for some reason. It’s a good idea to find a parent, relative or someone else who lives in close proximity that is willing to sign on as a guarantor in case this is required in your lease agreement.
2. Make Sure You Have Renters Insurance
It’s important to have renters insurance, which may be required by your landlord. Many renters don’t realize that their personal property isn’t protected by their landlord’s insurance policy. In fact, a 2016 Insurance Information Institute poll found that only 41 percent of tenants had insured their belongings. That means if they are robbed or experience a fire, they could be at risk of losing everything they own.
Your renters insurance policy can also provide personal liability protection, so if someone else is hurt in your rental property and they choose to file a lawsuit, any medical or legal defense costs will likely be covered.
3. Be Prepared to Pay a Security Deposit
In order to protect their investments, landlords often require tenants to provide security deposits in case of damages. These deposits can range from as little as $100 to the equivalent of several months of rent. You’ll have to pay these funds up front, but you can improve your chances of getting a security deposit back if you use a camera to record the condition of your apartment before you move in.
4. Ask if Pets are Allowed
Pets are great companions, but they can pose challenges when you’re searching for an apartment. Pet owners should make sure that any apartment they’re interested in welcomes animals before they schedule a visit. You can increase your likelihood of finding an appropriate rental unit if you search online for animal-friendly apartments. Locating a rental home that accepts pets may take extra time, so plan accordingly.
5. Screen Roommates Carefully
If you decide to rent an apartment with one or more roommates, make sure you choose people who are responsible. Landlords may hold all tenants responsible for the actions of one roommate. In such cases, two tenants could be evicted if only one of them caused damage or otherwise violated their lease agreement.
It’s also a good idea to sign a roommate agreement with anyone you choose to live with. This is a signed contract between two individuals that could formalize how you choose to split the rental payments, pay for utilities, divvy up the security deposit, or what length of notice is required before moving out, plus any other house rules you’d like to establish.
When you find your dream apartment, there’s no guarantee your application will be accepted. But your chances will greatly improve if you demonstrate that you are prepared, trustworthy and financially responsible.