Renters: You Need to See What the Landlord Sees When Evaluating You
Remember the suggestion to avoid making judgments before walking a mile in another’s shoes? Renters should keep this adage in mind by putting themselves in landlords’ soles. Yet most don’t, and they pay the price for not having a better perspective on how the process really works.
For instance, a Millennial couple in Canada recently lamented not being able to rent. They assumed it was because of generational discrimination. They also blamed it on their income level. Their reasons are understandable; it can be tough to endlessly put in applications, only to get rejected. But their tale also illustrates the point that far too many individuals simply don’t understand how renting really works. Show me a polished and prepared Millennial, and I’ll take her over a struggling Baby Boomer with a pattern of old habits any day!
Statistics prove that people are getting rental properties. Rentec Direct’s information from January and February 2017 shows that it takes an average of 3.54 applicants to find great tenants. But what separates the wheat from the chaff? That’s what would-be renters need to figure out.
To change the narrative and boost their odds of hearing “yes,” all renters — regardless of the generation they’re born in — should understand how they’re going to be judged by landlords. And that starts with breaking down some misconceptions.
Renting Myths That Kill Your App
What’s the top myth swirling around the rental scene? The one heard ‘round the world is that application fees are profit centers for property managers and landlords. It’s completely untrue, of course. The application fee covers plenty of costs, including the price for credit, criminal, eviction, and other background checks.
Another misconception is that even if background checks cost something, the rest of the application fee is simply pocketed. Again, that’s not the full story. It takes time to verify applications, and tons of them come in incomplete. The hourly or commissioned employee can’t generate new revenue if he’s chasing down renters for information. That’s money lost and time wasted.
Finally, another fallacy is that rental processes take too long. In most cases, landlords go as fast as they can. After all, the quicker they can get awesome renters, the sooner they can glean a return on their real estate investments.
Instead of staying mired in misunderstandings, it’s time for all renters to proactively and pragmatically get prepared by understanding the rental process and their role in it.
How to Clean Up Your Side of the Street
Reducing rental application frustration starts with transparency and accountability. If you’re planning to rent a unit, take these 10 steps seriously:
1. Read and understand your credit — often.
You weren’t taught how to read a credit bureau report? Learn. Roughly 12 percent of people never check their credit scores — which are free, by the way — and 74 percent don’t check their scores every month. That’s too bad, because more than half of Americans have bad credit. Get in the habit of seeking out your credit report and scores regularly so you know what a potential landlord is going to see.
2. Dispute any credit problems that aren’t yours (or that you don’t understand).
Notice something on your credit report that looks amiss? Speak up immediately. Studies indicate about one in five credit reports includes a mistake. And those mistakes can land you in the rejected pile when you’re looking for a rental property. Get in touch with creditors or the credit reporting agency if you see issues on your report.
3. Own your past.
We can point our fingers at others, create stories, and riddle our lives with excuses. Or we can own up to our part of the equation and work past the messy stuff. So you fell for those credit card offers and got into some debt that whacked apart your credit score? Don’t hide or deny it. Instead, do your best to rectify your credit score by taking steps like keeping zero balances on your cards and limiting your credit cards to only one or two.
4. Lose the blame, shame, and fear.
Your past is a part of your history, but you don’t have to carry guilt. If you know landlords are going to find something out when they perform a background check, be upfront about it. That includes any incarcerations or job firings that could creep up.
5. Provide proof that previous derogatory items are being addressed and are under control.
You can cast yourself in a far better light if you add proof that you are in control of a past negative situation and approaching it in a calm, businesslike way. For instance, you could add several months’ worth of paid bills — you’ll need proof, not the invoices themselves — and income records to your application to indicate your trustworthiness. This helps landlords and property managers see you’re not as risky as you might appear from your credit or background reports.
6. Present yourself in the “now.”
Once you have a grip on your finances and credit, specialty platforms can teach you how to package yourself as a value add, not just a discriminating number. Looking to rent with a limited income? See things from a landlord’s position. An apartment that rents for $2,000 is akin to an interest-free $24,000-per-year loan in the eyes of the landlord. How can you prove you’ll pay off that “loan” annually and without fail? The answer could be to have a parent with a steady, reliable income and good credit score co-sign the application.
7. Trust the process.
The process of applying for the correct rental properties works, but only if you find partners who empower you. Seek out assistance from those who can give you the smartest advice (not to mention a heavy dose of honesty).
8. Ask as many questions as you need to feel comfortable and in the know.
The most foolish thing you can do is repeat the same mistakes over and over again. Sent out a dozen rental applications, only to get rejected? Something is very wrong. Get educated so you can figure out how to stop the cycle.
9. Cut away if something doesn’t feel right.
You know that gut feeling? Let it guide you throughout the whole renting process. The more in tune you are to the process, the better you can navigate it to see whether it’s right for you. If you come from a place of lacking knowledge or weakness, you are sure to be gobbled up by the less-than-stellar deals, landlords, vendors, and friends.
10. Build a tribe of professionals you trust for future housing needs.
Sadly, some people want to help you stay stuck. Instead, raise your standards, set new boundaries often, and re-evaluate your interactions regularly to ensure you’re being positively promoted and well-received. Once you’re standing in a place of power through the process of self-actualization, no situation can ever take away opportunities. After you get your next rental unit, remember to stay in touch with the professionals who helped you along the way. Eventually, you’ll have other housing needs, or you’ll be in a position to assist someone else. It’s always good to have numbers plugged into your phone!
Ready to tackle the rental world with renewed vigor? Start by arming yourself with knowledge, and the keys will fall into place — and hopefully into your hands.