Some landlords don’t want to rent to someone with a criminal record. Sometimes they fear liability; sometimes they’ve been burned. In addition, the rental market is tight. That's the reality, but this doesn't mean you can't or won't find a place to live. This section is to help you look in the right places, avoid where it's a waste of time, and best present yourself to a landlord.
First, many large corporate-owned apartment complexes ask for an application fee and also have a blanket policy to not rent to people with a criminal record. Before you pay the fee, ask if they have a policy. If they don’t rent to people with a record, you’re wasting the application fee. Your application may also be rejected because of your credit record or if you’re unemployed or “under-employed.” Ask before you pay an application fee.
Focus on finding a place where a landlord is more likely to take a chance on you. Mom and pop landlords, small property owners, landlords with a social conscience--these are the people more likely to rent on a case-by-case basis. Watch Craigslist and Zillow postings and for-rent signs in yards.
Make a good first impression. Arrive on time for an appointment and dressed like you would for a job interview. Be prepared by bringing everything you need to fill out a rental agreement, such as your credit report, proof of employment, and contact information for personal references. If a landlord is leaning toward renting, it might help to offer a larger security deposit than the landlord is asking for if you can afford it. You should also be prepared to tell why you're going to be a good renter, especially if your rental history is sketchy.
Landlords want to make sure they get the rent on time, every month of the year. It could help to have a budget prepared that demonstrates how your income covers your rent and other expenses.
1. Before you decide on a place, shop around. Don’t settle for the first thing you find.
2. Do the math. Can you afford the place? The rule of thumb is to not budget more than 30% of your total income for rent, but that also depends upon your situation and budget.
3. Make sure you can afford the utilities. Ask the landlord for a history of this cost. Drafty houses can have huge utility bills in the winter.
4. Try to live as close to your work as you can, or make sure public transportation's an option for getting to work if your car breaks down.
5. Read the lease. See Understand Your Rental Lease for info.
6. Call the utility companies.
7. Make an address change with the post office.
8 . Save your rental paperwork in a file folder. This way you can always find your lease when you need it. Write your landlord’s name and number on the file folder.