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Getting a lease with an unpleasant background
December 7, 2005 1:42 PM   Subscribe

MetaFilter landlords: Please help me aquire a lease...

Three friends of mine & I are looking for a new place to live. They all have low paying jobs, but great credit. I have a high paying job, but atrocious credit and no recent rental history (I've lived in houses for the last 5 years without being on a lease). My friends keep getting rejected because they're poor, so I need to apply with them. A few questions to those of you who rent property out:

1) Is there anything that I can do to convince a landlord that, regardless of my poor credit and missing rental history, I am actually a good tenant with a stable job who has never once paid rent late or destroyed a house? Any bribes that would work?
2) What services do you use for background checks? I'm curious what's in mine.
3) If a place says "no application fees" does that mean that they don't do background checks?

(This is a followup to this question, thanks for your help!)
posted by cmonkey to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
(1) cash in advance is marvelously persuasive. In my neck of the woods people with no credit / bad credit often pay as much as six months rent up front. A stack of W2s and bank statements might also be persuasive.

(2) the credit bureaux have a variety of landlord-grade credit check services, and they're quite straightforward: a history of your borrowing (amounts and performance) and notations of any foreclosures, judgments, or bankruptcy filings. You can and should order a copy of your own from the credit bureaux.

(3) not necessarily -- the bulk purchase cost of landlord credit checks is trivial, maybe they just absorb it themselves. It might be an indicator that the landlord is working a little harder to sell tenants, and thus might be more flexible on credit.
posted by MattD at 2:00 PM on December 7, 2005


I'm not a landlord, but I have pretty miserable credit and have been in your situation. My boyfriend and I rented a house in Los Angeles even though our credit was terrible. What we did was warn our landlord before he ran our credit that we both had poor credit, and when I submitted my application, I wrote a cover letter when I faxed it to him, which outlined why we'd be excellent tenants, that we'd never paid rent late, that we'd be interested in getting co-signers if he'd be amicable to that, and that we could provide references of former landlords. I also faxed over pay stubs to prove our income, which seemed to lend comfort.

Some landlords simply will not rent to you no matter what you say or do to prove you'd be a good tenant, while others care more about the person and are receptive to your attempts to prove to them that you're a good tenant.
posted by pazazygeek at 2:03 PM on December 7, 2005 [1 favorite]


Oh, sorry, posting again to back up MattD's suggestion about offering rent up front or a larger deposit. I forgot that we also did that, which was probably the largest deal-sealer, in retrospect.
posted by pazazygeek at 2:04 PM on December 7, 2005


Getting a co-signer would almost definitely mean the landlord wouldn't give a crap about YOUR credit, while still allowing you to accrue rental history.

But make sure your parent/whomever you talk into cosigning is comfortable co-signing for a group of 4 guys, some of whom may have cash-flow problems in the future (i.e. co-signing a lease is for-reals, yo)
posted by misterbrandt at 2:35 PM on December 7, 2005


Larger security deposit, or first/last+security will do it
posted by growabrain at 2:38 PM on December 7, 2005


I check credit/background. Depends on how poor your credit really is. I typically look at scores and current past dues. Other responses are spot on when it comes to higher deposit and references from previous landlords. Problem with the latter is that landlord references are easy to fake (have a friend pose as a landlord). I have been lenient on those with poor credit as long as they show they're getting their act together (e.g. no recent past dues on any accounts). Also have looked the other way on medical judgements. Doctors bills can be a real budget breaker.

OTOH, I'm not at all hip to the cosigner idea. Yeah they're on the lease but if I have to evict someone because of non-payment, the process is long and painful and not likely to involve the cosigner until the very end when I slap a judgement on them. I cannot report them to the credit agencies. Oh yeah, #3, application fees are illegal in my neck of the woods.
posted by toomuch at 2:51 PM on December 7, 2005 [1 favorite]


A few years ago I brought three months worth of rent payments with me. In cash. The landlord didn't take them the money, but he also didn't care as much about the credit check. I moved in the following week.
posted by bh at 4:54 PM on December 7, 2005


take the money
posted by bh at 4:55 PM on December 7, 2005


Get references from previous landlords who will verify prompt payment of rent, low hassle, and treating the place well. Warn the landlord that you have imperfect credit. Have documentation of living circumstances - utility bills, whetever. I always check previous landlord and employer references.
posted by theora55 at 7:41 PM on December 7, 2005


1) Is there anything that I can do to convince a landlord that, regardless of my poor credit and missing rental history, I am actually a good tenant with a stable job who has never once paid rent late or destroyed a house? Any bribes that would work?

Caveat: I am in BC, Canada, and I work for a property management agency, not a private landlord.

- be up front about poor credit so the landlord isn't surprised by your credit check. Briefly explain why it happened, why it is no longer happening and what steps you have taken to straighten out your finances.
- we won't take bribes
- give us a copy of your employment pay stub. A reference from your employer that you're reliable, responsible etc. wouldn't hurt
- a guarantor might help - co-signer, if you will
- personal references, to back up your...
- good previous landlord references. Dig 'em up. In the future, ask for a letter of reference from your landlord. Every bit helps, especially if you find a place you really, really want to live.

2) What services do you use for background checks? I'm curious what's in mine.


- we use Equifax. You should be able to see what's in your credit report, and you should not have to pay for this. (In Canada, anyway.)
- the credit check is part, but not the entirety, of what we look at on an application to rent
- R1 good, R9 bad

3) If a place says "no application fees" does that mean that they don't do background checks?

Not necessarily. We in BC cannot charge a potential tenant a fee to merely apply for a property, and we used to charge a $15 processing fee if their application was approved. We can't do that, now. We most definitely do background checks.

What pazazygeek did are all steps that would make a property manager look more favourably on the application.
posted by Savannah at 11:28 PM on December 7, 2005


We managed to find a fairly lax rental company that really didn't care so much. So now I'm on my way to fixing my credit and rental history. Thanks, all!
posted by cmonkey at 11:46 AM on December 27, 2005


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