Filling out a rental application for a new apartment isn't what it used to be. With the availability of more information online, property owners now have access to more than what you write on the application.
This is valuable in establishing what kind of tenant you'll be and can play a critical role in whether you get the apartment. “According to SmartMove data, more than 95 percent of landlords believe that tenant screening is beneficial and helps them to get a higher-quality tenant into their rental unit," says Andrea Collatz of SmartMove.
Understanding what's in a standard report and how to check rental history before you begin filling out rental applications can save you from having any unnecessary delays in the process. This allows you to sign your lease that much faster.
“Most rental history reports go beyond just looking at your past as it relates to housing," according to the site, My Rental History Report. Besides checking that you pay your rent on time, today's rental reports include information about your credit, criminal record and more.
A good credit report has no major blips. What property managers are looking for is whether you pay your bills, and rent, on time and are without any large, outstanding debt.
If your credit score is in a good place, you'll pass this part of the test. All credit scores fall within a range between 300-850. According to Experian, a good score is anything at 700 or above, and anything at 800 or higher is excellent. “Most credit scores fall between 600 and 750."
If you're curious about your credit score, you can check it with the three major credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. You can either go straight to them or use a service like Credit Sesame, Credit Karma or FreeCreditScore.com. Using a service has other benefits like identity theft protection or credit monitoring.
Any eviction filed in court becomes a part of the public record. Property managers can verify whether they occurred during a rental history check. Unfortunately, this information will lack context, and you'll need to stay on top of any evictions you have in your past to address them head-on.
Make sure you forewarn a property manager about an eviction and share the details, especially if you've paid off what you owe and your previous property owner is going to lift the eviction.
Having a criminal record raises red flags for property managers for two reasons. First, they don't want to bring criminal activity into their community. Second, they don't want to compete for your money to get rent when you're dealing with expensive legal issues.
Again, this is something good to get in front of when you know your rental history is under review. Let the property manager know exactly what's going on, whether this is an old charge, something you're in the process of getting removed from your record, etc. Any circumstantial evidence you can share to decrease concern can help.
Back before technology could provide such detailed accounts of one's personal information, property owners relied on your credit report to tell them if you'd make a good tenant. They could see you're responsible with your money and assume that level of accountability applies to the rest of your life. If you pay your bills on time, you must treat the property well, have a regular source of income (a job) and be a good tenant.
Getting one perspective on who a person is, though, does not complete the picture which is why property managers are widening their scope to really understand what you're like as a renter. Today's rental history report has those extra details. It can support your persona as the perfect renter or confirm that there are some cracks in the facade worth exploring further.
Once rental history reports trigger some red flags, the property manager may go a step further and begin contacting the property owners of previous places you rented to get some first-hand details on who you are as a tenant. This can bring even more issues to light, so preparing in advance is best.
You have a right to know why a landlord or property manager has denied your application.
Armed with that information, you can go straight to the source and try to repair any problems. If you're interested in addressing issues on your rental history before you begin filling out rental applications, run an official rental history report from a trusted site.
Some sites offer this service for free, but if you're paying, plan for somewhere between $30-$35. Seeing your own report can help you target exact problem areas, so make sure to check the entire report for red flags, including:
Make amends and address liabilities with any previous property owners to clear up your rental history. See if there are ways you can increase your credit score by paying down existing debt.
If there's a gap in your rental history, make sure to write a letter explaining why. It will impact your renter profile. Document everything. Your actions may not make it to the official report by the time you want to fill out a rental application. Having backup records for verification will positively impact your rental history review.
As a first-time renter, you won't have a rental history to review, but you do have a credit score. A credit report will get pulled and may end up carrying more weight without past tenant behavior to back things up.
Instead of a rental history report, consider providing your own documentation to help qualify yourself as a good tenant. It's helpful to provide property managers with:
If the property manager still hesitates, offer to bring in a co-signer on the lease or to pay an extra month or two upfront if you can. This demonstrates your willingness to work with them to get that apartment. They'll also appreciate your flexibility in dealing with their concerns.
When all is said and done, who you are on paper, isn't who you are. Your rental history doesn't have to speak for itself. Don't hesitate to interject and clarify where necessary, or to highlight the good against some of the not-so-good.
If you had one bad experience with a previous property manager that led to an eviction, but you've always paid your rent on time, focus on that. Money is still a key factor in proving you're a good and reliable tenant, which helps build your reputation up positively for when you move on to your next place.