Renting an Apartment While Unemployed
Landlords and property management companies routinely ask for income verification as part of the tenant screening process. They do this because evictions are expensive and time-consuming, and it is only good business sense to make sure that potential tenants have the ability to pay their rent. Unless you live in a state that makes it illegal to turn down a renter because of employment status, you may face difficulty when trying to rent a house or apartment while you look for work.
It is possible, however, to find a place to rent while you are looking for a job. It may take some time, you may have to do some negotiating, and you may end up having to settle on a home that you aren’t crazy about. Still, you’ll have a place you can call your own and you won’t have to couch surf or go back home to live with your parents.
When you start searching for a place to live, be prepared to show that you are able to pay your rent even though you aren’t currently working. Gather your documentation so that you are ready to show it to landlords or property managers when you visit a property or begin the application process.
Documentation that you might need includes:
- Bank account statements.
- Investment or retirement account statements.
- An unemployment benefits determination letter showing how much unemployment compensation you are receiving.
- Proof of alimony or child support.
If you have a good relationship with your current or former landlord, ask him or her to write you a letter of recommendation. A potential landlord may feel a lot more comfortable renting to you if he or she can talk to someone who has done so in the past and has good things to say about you as a tenant.
Many tenant screening companies and landlords routinely verify employment. While it may be embarrassing to admit that you don’t have a job, it’s even more embarrassing to have a landlord or property manager confront you about a discrepancy between your application and your background check.
When you find an apartment you like and ask to fill out an application, be direct. Tell the landlord that you are unemployed but looking for work. Then explain how you plan to pay your rent and, if the landlord requested, show him or her your documentation.
It’s usually a good idea to disclose your job status before you complete an application. Many landlords and property managers require applicants to consent to and pay for, a background or credit check as part of the leasing process. There’s no sense in your paying for the screening if the landlord already has a policy against renting to someone who is unemployed.
Being honest also demonstrates self-awareness and honesty to the landlord. If you don’t disclose important facts at the beginning of your dealings with the landlord, he or she will probably wonder whether you are concealing something else.
While many property management companies and landlords refused to work with people who don’t have a job, this isn’t true of everyone. The trick is finding a property owner or manager who is willing to work with you.
Many people have found that large property management companies are often the most inflexible when it comes to renting to the unemployed. This is because these companies have strict corporate policies that dictate tenant standards. Independent landlords, on the other hand, are often much more flexible.
Finding an independent landlord who is renting a place that meets your needs can be a challenge. In some cases, it’s a good idea to take your search offline. Larger landlords and property management companies often dominate online listings. Smaller landlords may rely on word-of-mouth or signs posted on the property and around the neighborhood.
Renting While Unemployed- Where to Look
Here are some ideas of where and how to look:
• Let your friends and family know that you are looking for a place to live. Someone may have a friend or relative who owns rental property and prefers to rent to people within his or her social circle.
• If you have an idea of where you’d like to live, visit the neighborhood. Walk around the area and take note of “for rent” signs. Bring your phone with you and call the number on the sign. The landlord or building manager may actually be living in the property and might be able to give you a showing right then and there.
• Visit local coffee shops, laundromats and grocery stores. These businesses often have bulletin boards where people can post signs and flyers, including information about properties for rent.
• If you belong to a faith community, mention your need for new housing to a clergy member. He or she may be able to connect you with someone else in the community who is looking to rent.
There’s a good chance that you may have to adjust your expectations and do some negotiating during the rental process. Keep in mind that this is a temporary situation. Within a few weeks or months, you’ll likely have a job and be able to rent the sort of place where you truly want to live.
Here are some areas in which you may have to compromise:
Lease length: Some landlords may be hesitant to give you a standard lease. This is because it can take longer to evict someone who has a lease than it does someone who has a month-to-month tenancy. If a landlord seems unsure about offering you a place to live, ask if they would be willing to be open to a month-to-month arrangement or a short-term lease of three to six months. In some cases, getting a month-to-month or short lease may be to your advantage if you end up having to take a job that is some distance away from where you are currently living.
Security deposit: While some states restrict the amount a landlord can charge as a security deposit, others allow landlords to request is larger deposit as he or she desires. A landlord may be happy to rent to you if you are able to offer a double or triple security deposit. If you do this, however, make sure that you get a receipt showing exactly how much you paid the landlord.
Prepaid rent: If you have a significant amount of cash in the form of savings, severance pay or in your retirement account, asked the landlord if he or she will accept three to 12 months’ rent in advance. As with offering a large security deposit, be sure to get a receipt and have the landlord include a statement that indicates that this is prepaid rent.
Rent amount: Sometimes landlords will rent to “high risk” tenants if the tenant can pay a higher rent amount than what the landlord would normally ask for the unit. This can get tricky because you certainly don’t want to spend more money than you have to while you are looking for a job. But if the extra amount is reasonable, it may be worth it if it means you have a place to live.
Apartment features and amenities: Unemployment often means downsizing. You may have to forgo some of the amenities that you’re used to, such as a swimming pool or in-unit laundry until you find a new job. This doesn’t mean that you should move somewhere that is unsafe, but it does mean that you should be willing to compromise.
Get a cosigner: Having a friend or relative cosign a lease or rental agreement is sometimes the only way to persuade a landlord to rent to you. Just keep in mind that if you end up in a situation where you cannot pay your rent, the landlord will try to collect from the cosigner. This can affect the cosigner’s credit and your relationship with the cosigner.
Unemployment is often a stressful time, and the last thing you want is to be in a situation where your housing is insecure. By being prepared and flexible in your search, you’ll have an easier time finding a place to live while you work to rebuild your career and finances.