So, you took a gap year, you moved back in with Mom and Dad or you couch surfed for a while in Spain. There's nothing wrong with this and in today's digital nomad world, it's not unusual to travel or stay in temporary accommodations for a while.
However, if you're planning on looking for your own apartment in the near future, your landlord may want to know what happened and why there's a gap in your rental history.
Today's rental market is not only expensive — rents rose each year by an average of 4 to 5 percent in 2018 — it's also more competitive. So, if you want a fighting chance at getting the apartment you have your eye on, it's best to come to the table prepared.
When applying to rent a home or apartment, it's a common practice for landlords to ask for your rental history, which includes former addresses, late payments, evictions, criminal history and credit score. They want to know if you're a reliable tenant or how risky it would be for them to rent a property to you.
Make sure you're able to convey why you have gaps in your rental history. More than the breaks in your actual rental history (i.e. moving from apartment to apartment), your future landlord may be more concerned about gaps in your income and why and if you've had any evictions. He or she will also want to see your credit history blemishes and any negative marks.
Unfortunately, a gap in your rental history may indicate to a potential landlord that you're trying to hide a negative reference from a former landlord. If you were living with family or friends, explain this to your potential landlord. It might be a good idea to provide a reference letter from the people you were staying with.
If you were evicted from your former lease or suspect you'll have a negative reference from a former landlord, don't try to hide this from your landlord.
Many housing agencies and landlords use services that collect information available from public records and court filings, so they will likely find out if you omit this information. Most landlords also have agreements with software providers so they can easily pull and access all of your pertinent information to decide whether or not to approve you as a tenant.
These programs allow landlords to quickly and easily pull reports, with the tenant's permission. Failure to provide complete information about your rental history to a potential landlord can lead to the denial of your housing application.
Despite what the reasons are, your best bet is to be honest about the situation and tell them what happened and why.
It's a good idea to see what your rental history looks like before your landlord does. This helps you jog your memory or reveal mistakes you didn't expect to see.
You can do a quick Google search to find reputable sites that will provide your rental report. Most likely you'll have to pay to use these services. For example, MyRentalReport.com charges a one-time $30 fee to pull your report.
Carefully analyze the report to make sure that everything is accurate. While rental history reports and credit reports are not the same thing, it's worth noting that up to four out of every five people are estimated to have some sort of error on their credit report.
Correct any mistakes that might've been made before the landlord sees them. Since it may take a few weeks for it to get fixed, show your landlord any relevant emails or documentation that show you've taken proper steps to solve the issue.
When pulling your credit history, you should also check your credit score. Plenty of banks and financial institutions offer it for free, such as Chase Bank or Discover. You can also use Credit Karma or Credit Sesame.
According to one study, the average credit score for renters was 650. A good to excellent score falls somewhere in the 700 to 800 range.
If you notice it's below 700 or in poor shape, start taking the necessary steps to raise your score, since landlords also check your credit score before you rent from them.
Even if you have issues that you need to address about your rental history, come prepared with reasons why you're a responsible tenant. If there are circumstances that prevented you from paying on time, for example, provide an explanation of why you were unable to pay during that time frame. Then, explain how you would ensure your payment would be on time for this new lease.
Besides giving a well-thought-out speech, print out the following:
Some landlords may overlook gaps in rental history or an otherwise poor history if they're guaranteed their rent payments. You can do this by:
Keep in mind all landlords are different, so this may or may not work. Also, if you have poor credit, consider holding off on renting until you raise your score to at least 700.