Not a deadbeat but I play one on TV
January 30, 2009 10:18 PM   Subscribe

Rentalfilter: Would you rent to me? I'm not a complete deadbeat, but I am paranoid about looking for a new place to live in the coming months.

Anon because I'm revealing a little more than I'd like publicly linked to me, especially the finances bit.

This might be tl;dr, but I'll try to keep it concise.

It's me, my SO and our kid. We have an apartment but would like to move, and before I hire a Realtor and start the process in the coming months I'd like to get a feel for if this will even happen. We'd like to rent a 3 or 4 bedroom townhome and most of those in our area are done by individuals or smallish companies with a lot of paperwork and manual checking. (Ergo I won't be able to "sneak by" having a credit freeze like was done with our current complex; when they saw the freeze, they just asked for paystubs and rental verification. I did the freeze when I lost some papers with identifying numbers on them, but it can be easily lifted). Our budget for this is ~$1500/mo, and making 3X rent is not a problem, nor is job stability (7+ years at the same company). I have no issue paying a larger deposit (not too large; savings account isn't THAT big), but I have no one to act as guarantor so it's just the two of us as joint tenants. My SO has no credit, but also no bad housing debt either.

The good: Right now we're paying a little under $1200/month for our three bedroom apartment. The year lease will be up in summer and we have paid every month on time, in full and have had no problems with the complex. It is professionally managed, for whatever points that may bring. Prior to this we rented a house from an individual for $800/month and were there for about 14 months, again with no late payments or problems. Our landlord there was happy to sign a form for our current complex verifying all this. We have a couple bills (no credit, obviously) that have also been paid on time--electric and car insurance--and I can hopefully get letters from them showing this. Water is through our complex, so no go there.

Now, the bad news: I have two bankruptcies, and both are chapter 13. My SO has a chapter 7 from the same time as my first one (mid-2002) that's discharged. My first was discharged in 2005 and will drop from my credit report later this year, but before we go to rent anywhere else. The other was started in early 2008 and is ongoing. The first bankruptcy was from a lot of debt racked up early on; the second was to try to save our house. That failed so the house was foreclosed upon at the beginning of January 2009. I remain in the bankruptcy to keep our vehicles and clear other debt.

"But wait," you cry, "I thought you began renting in mid-2007. What gives?" We did. Initially we tried to sell (both traditionally and short-sale) our house and moved out in 2007 on the advice of our then-Realtor who said it'd be easier to sell with it vacant and "staged," and who was confident a sale would happen quickly. (Why did we move? Maintenance and upkeep; it needed a lot of work from before we bought it and we were over our heads) We kept paying on the mortgage until September 07, and then stopped to try to "force" a short-sale. That didn't work, so I filed bankruptcy (house in my name only) in early 2008 to work out a deal and let us short-sale the house under court protection. Our lender wasn't willing to play ball, so it went to foreclosure. During that time, we've been renting.

If you've made it down here, thank you. My questions are from the beginning: Would you rent to me? How difficult should I expect the process to be? My thinking is that there will be more renters as a result of the housing bust, so my/our application won't warrant even a second look; am I too paranoid about this?

Oh, all of this is in Texas, Fort Worth area.

Throwaway e-mail:
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It really varies. Bankruptcies will generally not be a serious problem except for barring you from a lot of upper-range apartment complexes. The best thing to do is make out a list of property management companies that you might be shopping from and just call one after the other to scope out the policies on bankruptcies. Individual landlords are a different story; requirements differ widely. Some will not even bother with a credit check if it's obvious that you're a professional, and others will not care as long as you have no evictions. You'll probably be fine as long as you own up about your situation right after you make a good impression. A lot of this will depend also on the state of the rental market in FTW, which I don't know.
posted by crapmatic at 10:57 PM on January 30, 2009

As a landlord, I might be skeptical of your credit history, but then we check. A lot of mom-and-pop landlords just don't, or only check for criminal history.

Almost all rental impediments can be solved by a larger security deposit.

(I think the market varies somewhat. Around here I think it's a renter's market; because of auto industry unemployment and such, people who rent are doubling up or staying with family. In other areas there may be an oversupply of houses in foreclosure, or an undersupply of multi-family.)
posted by dhartung at 11:30 PM on January 30, 2009

before I hire a Realtor

Huh? Why would you "hire" a realtor if you're just looking for an apartment to rent?

we have paid every month on time, in full and have had no problems with the complex

All that means is that you don't have people coming after you. As far as any new place is concerned it just means you were able to pay your rent once every 30 days. Woohoo, welcome to the big leagues.

I have two bankruptcies

Er... yeah, that's a blemish, but it's a little over the head of your average rental agent. I mean you're trying to find a $1,500 a month apartment, not buy a yacht.

Would you rent to me?

Someone will rent to you.

How difficult should I expect the process to be?

Dude, it ain't a crossword. You fill out the application. Pay your $50 processing fee. Maybe they take you, maybe they don't. Maybe they say, "Gezz... this guy has been a flake in the past, maybe we can milk the poor sucker for two months security deposit? Heheheh..."

My thinking is that there will be more renters as a result of the housing bust, so my/our application won't warrant even a second look;

Actually the opposite would be true. If the market is flooded with renters, rental agencies can be more selective about who they take on.

am I too paranoid about this?

Yes. We're talking one-too-many-bong-hits, "Oh my god was that the door bell or did I just drop my keys?!?" paranoid here. You're really over thinking this.

all of this is in Texas, Fort Worth

To your benefit, Forth Worth is actually overbuilt with tons of sprawling apartment complexes. You'll find a place, but you have to do two things:

1.) Be prepared to be turned down (and loose your non-refundable processing fee.)

2.) Don't fall in love with any place you see. That way you won't be so crushed if you get denied.

Rather than focus on an apartment, focus on a neighborhood or region of the town. Where does the kid go to school? Where do you work? What amenities are there nearby? Are there parks, cafes, bars? Pick a place and keep applying until you get in - that way, even if you're not 100% happy with the apartment, you'll be happy with the neighborhood...

... then again it is Fort Worth. Do they even have neighborhoods there?
posted by wfrgms at 11:50 PM on January 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Not quite sure what you mean by hiring a realtor. Are you talking about those apartment finder businesses in Texas strip malls? Generally, they don't charge you a fee. At any rate there's no need to hire a realtor to do what you are proposing.

That doesn't directly answer your question, but the rental market in Texas is glutted with half-empty complexes. Someone will certainly rent to you. In fact, I bet you'll find something suitable for a lot less than what you've budgeted. $1500 sounds really, really high for DFW, especially if you are trying to get your finances in order. If it were me, I'd go for the cheapest decent option in the area of town best for my family. Drive around that area and see what's for rent and what places are advertising "specials."

... then again it is Fort Worth. Do they even have neighborhoods there?

Erm, yes? Fort Worth has paved roads, underground sewage... and a highly sophisticated art scene.
posted by vincele at 6:36 AM on January 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Having horrendous credit myself, and recently gone through an apartment search in L.A.'s highly competitive rental market, I'm going to second everything wfrgms said (but sans the snark about Ft. Worth, which I know nothing about).

When I was looking last year, I actually got the first apartment I fell in love with, despite the "must have good credit" clause that was in the listing. Here's what I did:

1) Faxed a boatload of stuff to the potential landlord along with my rental application, including pay stubs, a letter from my employer detailing the stability of my salary and my employment, and a thoughtfully written letter of introduction, in which I briefly explained why my credit sucks and why I'm a great tenant (I *am* a great tenant, as I'm rarely at home - basically I'm the "invisible tenant!").

2) Offered him an additional one month's rent as a deposit.

3) Offered to put him in touch with my then-landlord, who could assure him that I had never missed or fallen behind in the rent.

The end result of all this? I got the apartment, and the landlord took only a small additional deposit rather than 1 month's rent, with the provision that if I had paid my rent on time for a year he'd refund it to me. Fast forward 10 months - he refunded the extra deposit early, and sent me a nice email thanking me for being one of his best tenants ever.

BTW, said landlord has given me some bits of info from a landlord's perspective: he claims that bankruptcies are far preferable on a credit history than defaulted debt, and when he sees a tenant has a chapter 7 or 13 on their record it's perceived as a sign that they took responsibility for their credit mistakes, rather than being a deadbeat.

Good luck to you!
posted by chez shoes at 7:16 AM on January 31, 2009

I've rented from several small landlords before and some cared about that stuff and some didn't. In the one case, the landlady didn't want to rent to us because there was a small ding on my SO's report. In the end she did rent to us (after we practically begged) but it was a nightmare experience for all involved because she turned out to be an anal, controlling bitch - which we should have picked up on at the beginning, but we were a bit desperate.

The place we rented after that was great, though. I don't think they even checked credit, but they were nice people and we never had any issues with them.

I'm not saying that people who do check credit reports are bad or anything like that. I guess I'm just suggesting that you should pay attention to who you are trying to rent from especially in the small landlord situation because there's not the anonymity of the large complex. Don't let desperation make you ignore warning signs that might lead to an uncomfortable tenancy. Someone who doesn't care at all about your credit history could be a nice guy who wants to give you a chance or could be a totally inattentive jerk who won't fix your heat when it goes out in January.
posted by cabingirl at 9:34 AM on January 31, 2009

The problem may not be being outright denied, it may be losing out to more competitive applicants. To mitigate this, try to find places that have multiple available units. If you apply for places like a townhome owned by an individual, they may choose better applicants.
posted by fructose at 10:01 AM on January 31, 2009

It depends. Different property management companies have different methods to qualify applicants. Bankruptcies will not automatically disqualify you. Decisions are typically made on a combination of credit score, income, rental history, and so forth. Find a place you want to live, and apply. The worst thing that will happen is you'll get turned down. Application fees are usually only about $25 (which the property manager pays to the applicant screening agency).

Don't worry about fructose's advise about looking for places with a lot of vacancies. It doesn't matter, and most property management companies won't even share that kind of info. If you're a qualified applicant (or are accepted with conditions like a higher deposit) you will get a unit. They don't hold a bunch of approved applications, then pick the cream of the crop. Of course, less desirable apartments (in bad neighborhoods, et cetera) will likely have lower thresholds.

IANYL (I am not your landlord), and am not familiar with the market in Forth Worth. No guarantees. This statement does not reflect the opinions of my employers.
posted by paulg at 11:11 AM on January 31, 2009

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