Where do I start looking for housing?
On the private rental market, you can use the following resources to find available units:
- Websites: Look for housing on Zillow, Craigslist, AffordableHousing.com, Apartments.com, or Roommates.com.
- Word of mouth: Ask for ideas from friends and family or, if you have a good relationship with your landlord, ask about recommendations or other properties they have.
- On foot: Walk around your desired neighborhoods and look for “For Rent” signs.
How should I narrow down my housing search?
Things to consider during your search:
- Rent: Many private landlords require your income to be 3 times your monthly rent. Narrow your search to apartments where the rent is close to one third of your monthly income.
- Size: Consider the number of people in your household and the number of bedrooms they need. You can think about sharing rooms or looking for a roommate to save on rent. You can use Facebook or Roommates.com to look for a roommate.
- Neighborhood: Begin your housing search in a neighborhood close to family, friends, work, or other locations you frequent. Looking for housing near family and friends also allows you to get recommendations and ideas from people you know.
- Pets: Some units will allow pets, others will not. Many require an additional fee (flat or monthly) for pets. If you have a service or support animal, you can request that the landlord allow your animal as a reasonable accommodation to their policy. Please see the Reasonable Accommodations article for more information.
- In-Person Showing: Submitting applications can be expensive and time-consuming. If you find a unit that you are interested in, consider scheduling a showing with the landlord or property manager. This also gives you an opportunity to meet them and present your strengths as a tenant in person.
- Accessibility: If you have a disability and specific accessibility needs, it is important to have a list prepared to review with prospective landlords. Accessibility features may include: accessible parking, flat / no-step entry, ramps, wide doorways, lower light switches or counter tops, a walk-in / roll-in shower, or a T-Turn radius kitchen or bathroom. Many housing search engines provide the option of filtering results by accessibility needs. You can also find a list of vacant accessible housing units through the Housing and Disability Technical Assistance Program Home Finder tool.
What challenges will I encounter during my housing search and what can I do about them?
Landlords often have a list of things to check about a tenant when reviewing applications.
However, landlords may have different requirements, so it’s important to understand your potential landlord’s screening criteria. Some landlords may be more flexible than others, so you should be prepared to advocate for yourself by presenting your strengths as a tenant and explaining things that may be flagged on your application. Local landlords who own a few properties are often more flexible than corporate landlords.
Landlords are required to follow the Renters’ Access Act, which limits what they can and can’t consider during the application process.
Income: Many landlords require applicants to demonstrate income that is at least 3 times the monthly rent. They may ask for proof of income, including pay stubs or benefits statements.
- If your income does not meet your landlord’s requirements, you can ask a family member or friend to act as a cosigner who will guarantee your rent payments.
Credit: Landlords will often run a credit check. However, under the Renters Access Act, they cannot use your credit score as the only reason to deny your application. Many landlords use credit checks to see whether you have a history of on-time rental payments.
- If you know your credit score is low, but you have paid rent on time, communicate that to your landlord and be ready to provide proof of on-time rent payments.
- If you are not sure why your credit score is low, reach out to Clarifi for a free credit consultation. They can tell you why your score is low and provide advice on how to raise it. Once you know why your score is low, you can better explain to landlords why it is not relevant to your ability to pay rent on time.
Eviction History: If you have an eviction on your record, landlords cannot deny your application under certain circumstances under the Renters Access Act. You should be prepared to explain the circumstances of your eviction. Survivors of domestic violence have additional rights surrounding evictions. Please see our article on domestic violence and evictions for more information.
Criminal History: Landlords can check your criminal history and use criminal charges as a reason to deny your application. You should be prepared to explain the circumstances of your charges. See our Renting with a Criminal Record Article for more information.
Negative Landlord References: Landlords will often ask for a past landlord’s contact information as a rental reference.
- If you are trying to move out of a property and have a tense relationship with your current landlord, you should ask them to give you a neutral reference so that you can move out quicker.
Security Deposits: Most landlords will ask for the first and last month of rent up front, along with a security deposit, so your initial payment will be about three times your monthly rent. Some landlords are open to negotiation about security deposits. You can also see our Rental Assistance Article for a list of organizations that can help you meet your deposit.