Help! I can’t get approved to rent a house! 😬
Okay, so you’ve applied to twenty houses and still can’t get a landlord to accept you as a tenant? Try approaching renting the same way as you would buying: just look at it like you are making the landlord an offer as opposed to filling out an application.
When you buy a house, you tell the seller what you are willing to give them. They then either accept, reject, or re-negotiate your offer. Well, you can do the same thing when renting. Restructure your offer to compensate for your weaknesses or pull out some strengths that other applicants might not have.
Low Credit? No Problem
So what does that look like? What if the landlord adamantly announces that you must have a 650 credit score, but yours is a 600? I’m telling you right now that he will take your 600 if your offer is right. Maybe you can prove that you are gainfully employed and have adequate funds in the bank. If so, your credit score might not matter all that much. Let’s face it, all the landlord really wants to know is that you can and will pay your rent. Also, don’t get too tripped up by the number. Maybe your score dropped 40 points because you paid off a mortgage or had a huge medical bill go to collections. Even though the landlord will more than likely run their own credit check on you, you should send them a report ahead of time and highlight the reasons your score is a little low. There are lots of gray areas in the credit world, so maybe you can paint a nice picture for the landlord of your credit history. At the end of the day, if the report shows you always pay your bills on time, the landlord might not be too bothered by the score itself. Just make sure to highlight the good parts of your report to avoid them being overlooked.
Providing a written explanation for your score can also show that you are being proactive and are taking responsibility for your record. In addition to sending your own annotated report, you could add extra money to the rent payment to compensate for a lower credit score. Can you afford to pay $50 extra a month in rent? Offer to do it! If the rent is $1300, you can offer to pay $1350 and you will immediately move your app to the top of the list.
Income Issues? You can fix that.
Another one of your weak areas could be your income. Don’t make enough monthly documented income but you have wads of cash? You could either offer to pay several months (or the entire year) of rent in advance, or you could include copies of your bank statements to show that money is regularly deposited into your bank account. Maybe you don’t earn a traditional paycheck but you do earn regular money. Just get in the habit of putting it in the bank so you can prove it. But what if your income isn’t enough? Most landlords require 3x the amount of rent in gross monthly income. What if you don’t have that?
Get a roommate! A whole bunch of people can’t afford to live alone. Find someone you can live with who can split the rent with you. If they are living with you, then you can combine your incomes. Don’t have anyone you can live with? Find a co-signer! Maybe someone will agree to be on your application so that you can use his/her income even though that person won’t actually be living in the home.
Shady Record? Eh, we all make mistakes.
What about evictions or spots on your record? Letters of explanation can work wonders. Just like the credit report annotation, provide reasons for your eviction or that spot on your record and explain how that situation won’t happen again. This shows responsibility. Landlords love responsible tenants. Taking ownership of your mistakes can go a long way in a future landlord’s eyes. I mean, after all, the landlord is human too, right? Who hasn’t messed up in their past? Your job is to put the landlord at ease and prove that you are good for the rent.
So what should a rental offer look like? Make a nice little package of information to send to the landlord. Even if they have online applications, send an email with supplemental information.
That supplemental information should include an annotated credit report, income documentation (pay stubs and/or bank statements), an explanation of your eviction/criminal record if necessary, and a brief statement of your offer (how much rent you are willing to pay, how many months in advance you could pay, how long of a lease you are willing to sign, what type of maintenance or work you are willing to take off of the landlord’s hands, and anything else you think might sweeten the deal). Applying to rent a house is very similar to applying for a job: you want to show yourself as the best
candidate. All candidates have weaknesses, so just do what you can to compensate for those weaknesses and make yourself stand out. 😉