Not all rentals are created equal, and sometimes applying for an apartment can seem as competitive as getting into an Ivy League college. Landlords with rentals that are located in trendy areas, accept pets, or are subject to rent control often receive dozens of applications.
So, how do you distinguish yourself from everyone else who's vying for the same rental? Although being able to pay rent is important, landlords who can be choosy look for other characteristics in prospective tenants. Here's some advice on how to impress a potential landlord.
Most landlords with hot properties will require you to fill out a written rental application. Being able to submit it quickly will give you a competitive advantage. Bring the following information to your meeting with the landlord or property manager so you can fill out your application on the spot:
It's also a good idea to bring a current copy of your credit report (although the landlord might still want to order one—and will charge you a fee for doing so). You can order your credit report from any of the major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion), or get a free copy at AnnualCreditReport.com. Be sure to review the report before you go apartment hunting—dispute and correct any incomplete or inaccurate information you find.
If you're renting with roommates, it's best to have everyone who will be living in the unit attend (and be prepared for) the meeting with the potential landlord. If that's not possible, bring the information listed above for the absent roommate.
Be on your best "good tenant" behavior when you go to see a rental. Show up on time, dress neatly, and present yourself as someone who is both conscientious and agreeable. If you're attending an open house, arrive at the start (but not too early), if possible.
Because landlords hate dealing with overly demanding or fussy tenants who complain about trivial things, don't start off asking for a long list of improvements and special favors before you're even offered the place. You can—and should—ask questions, but realize that the landlord might interpret pointed or negative-sounding questions as signs you're going to be a difficult tenant.
To stand out from other applicants, consider offering something extra to show that you have what it takes to be an ideal tenant—one who pays rent on time, stays for the long term, and treats the property with respect. For example, you can offer to prepay rent, put down a larger security deposit, carry renters' insurance, have the rental professionally cleaned when you move out, or sign a long-term lease. If you have the financial means, you could even offer to pay a higher monthly rent. Be realistic, though, and don't make promises you won't be able to keep.
Tenants have been known to barter all kinds of deals, including the offer of airline or sports tickets and attractive merchandise. Engaging in this type of creative bribery can backfire, though:
In other words, be sincere and smart about what you offer. Legitimate landlords will appreciate applicants who offer to make their job easier, but will be turned off by applicants who try to game the system.
If you find out you didn't get the apartment, ask the landlord why. Use any constructive feedback you receive to improve your next rental application.