In some ways, there are a lot of similarities between looking for rental housing and beginning to date someone. You have those first-date jitters, perhaps, and try to imagine yourself with this person for a while. You make yourself look as pretty as possible, and try to figure out if the person you're dating is also that pretty when they're hanging out in their jammies. (Or if that rental home is as warm in the winter as it is in the springtime. Or if it has mold, that the landlord just bleached off.)
There's a lot to think about as you prepare for your housing search. Here's our guide for being a sassy and fabulous renter.
Step 1: Make Yourself Look Pretty
Or, Make Yourself Look Like a Desirable Tenant
A. Clean up your credit:
- Credit reports can be wrong. It's important to know what's on your credit report, and get rid of the things that are not correct. Even though it takes time and effort, it's free to fix these things, and can save you a bunch of money in the long run (in making you more eligible for affordable rentals). More info here about cleaning up your credit. More info here on debt collection.
B. Clean up your CCAP Record, as much as you can.
- CCAP is the public online court record system that shows records of public court events. It shows past eviction records, and can have records of things that are surprising or incorrect. Before you start applying for housing, you should make sure that your online court records are accurate. More info on CCAP is here.
C. Explain yourself before someone else explains you: Past landlord references are a weird game. Prospective landlords want references from past landlords, but many times those references are inaccurate, for a variety of reasons. The same goes for odd things in your credit, and on CCAP - when a prospective landlord looks at all that stuff, it tells a story about you. Is that story the one you want to be telling? Is it the one that will help you get housing? If not, your best bet is to write a letter to go with each rental application, where you tell the story of why they should rent to you.
Step 2: Make Sure Your Date Isn't a Serial Killer
Or, Research Your New Home, Landlord & Neighborhood
Research Basics: we have a bunch of information for things you should look at before renting - checking out the building, the area, your landlord. And you should. Really. On our Preparing to Rent page.
- The Springtime Pitfalls: when looking for housing in the Spring, you should know these things. Apartment Searches in the Spring. Includes tips on making sure the heat won't be ridiculous, and figuring out the whole will-this-place-have-mold issue.
Step 3. Know the Landscape
Or, Know Your Rights
Application Fees and Earnest Money. http://www.tenantresourcecenter.org/earnest_money
Renting with Disabilities. A lot of these rights are ones that you need to assert when applying or at the beginning of your tenancy. http://www.tenantresourcecenter.org/renting_with_disabilities
Can My Landlord Ask Me to Renew My Lease Already? Why, yes. http://www.tenantresourcecenter.org/lease_renewal_already
Notice When Ending a Tenancy. More info about your landlord telling you that they don't plan to renew your lease. http://www.tenantresourcecenter.org/notice_when_ending_a_tenancy
- Breaking a Lease. If you hope to stop living where you are, even if your lease isn't over. http://www.tenantresourcecenter.org/breaking_a_lease_for_tenants