Michael Alarcon
what tenants look for

After 20 years of paying several weighty mortgages, I started renting again – this month to be exact. I’m currently in a place built in the ‘50s with three bedrooms, two baths and a nice backyard that will hopefully see its fair share of barbecues this summer.

But finding my new place to hang my hat wasn’t easy considering how competitive hunting for apartments is, especially if you’re renting in a highly populated area. If you can cover these five things potential landlords look for when renting apartments (and be one of the first to get your application to the landlord), your odds only increase.

A little professionalism and common courtesy

While your credit score will ultimately make or break you getting pretty much any rental you’ll ever apply for, your appearance and demeanor is what your potential landlord is going to see first, even before your credit is run.

Every interaction you have with your future landlord should be professional – from your initial meeting (firm handshake, pleasant smile, eye contact) to when you hand back the keys on the last day of your lease. If a landlord has to make a decision between you and someone else with an equal credit score and background check, it doesn’t hurt to have this edge.

Bonus points if you send a complimentary email to the landlord after your initial meeting. A note stating a little something about yourself and how much you liked the place can't hurt.

Your credit – it doesn’t have to be great, just good

As I mentioned above, credit is still king in the apartment rental game. After all, landlords want to protect their investment; they want to ensure that you can reliably pay your rent on time and hassle-free, if possible. Expect your future landlord to call your current employer and run your credit score – that’s the industry standard credit check.

A criminal history … do you have one?

If your potential landlord really wants to dig in, they’re also going to do a deep criminal background check on you. Don’t worry, they don’t care about the speeding tickets you should’ve paid off by now – they’re looking through court systems and criminal databases.

If you were recently in the “system,” it’s good to tell that to your potential landlord before you get to the “Lemme just run your credit and I’ll get back to you” stage of the game.

What’s the people-to-bedroom ratio look like

A potential landlord is going to want to know just how much wear and tear his or her apartment will endure with each renter. Are you going to stuff three people into each bedroom? That’s a red flag when it comes to renting to groups and large families. Barring state and local laws, landlords favor a two person per bedroom ratio.

Your rental history – it counts

Remember how I mentioned you should be nice to all of your landlords in my first point?

Well, this is where being a cool renter pays off. If your credit score is respectable but can use some work, your potential landlord can, and very likely will, check your rental history. They’re going to want to know if you paid rent on time, why you moved and other details – basically if you were a good tenant.



About The Author

Michael Alarcon

Michael Alarcon has been a writer for over 23 years. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Long Beach's Press-Telegram, Citysearch, the Orange County Register, SPIN online, AOL News, Village Voice and Ranker, among other smaller regional publications. Raised in San Dimas, California, he has lived in Long Beach, California for the last 20 years.