can people really live in storage lockers? because that's the only application i'll get accepted.
September 21, 2012 7:18 PM   Subscribe

How can I find a place to rent when I'll almost definitely fail a rental application and I'm a terrible risk?

I am unemployed. I have an overdrawn credit card and about three things in collections (each debt in collections is under $500). I will theoretically be employed by december. I will (sort of) have enough money to be able to pay first and last and another month on top of that. (If i pay rent and don't pay my collections debts); I am not going to default on my rent. I know this, but a landlord doesn't.

The only part of this that matters on a rental application is that the "employer" section of the application will be blank, and that my credit is... well, I always pay my phone bills and rent at least...

I can only find apartments in my price range in managed buildings. I highly doubt if I could handle living with roommates. (I am incredibly noise sensitive and normal human noises make me insane and prevent me from ever sleeping or even relaxing... it's part of why I need to leave this place). I have to be out of here by november 1 and staying is not an option. There is nobody who can cosign for me. So what, if anything, can I do? Do people actually get away with living in storage lockers?
posted by windykites to Work & Money (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A few thoughts... a) What about house-sitting? b) Since you're a masseuse, couldn't you claim to be self-employed? c) For that matter, could you run a Craig's List ad proposing to trade massages for rent (or partial rent)?
posted by carmicha at 7:28 PM on September 21, 2012

I would try to get a temporary job in the meantime. Especially since you may or may not actually have work in december. That should be a priority. Then you will be able to get accepted.
posted by photoexplorer at 7:29 PM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh, I am for sure looking for something in between... but I don't have anything now, and now is when I need to start doing applications.

Claiming self-employment is a really interesting and possibly good idea. Does anyone know more about how/if this works?
posted by windykites at 7:34 PM on September 21, 2012

What about a short-ish term sublet? If you can find something for two or three months, then you really only need first, last, plus one more.
posted by ambrosia at 7:36 PM on September 21, 2012

Your profile doesn't say where you are, so if it's a place like New York then you're going to have a tougher time.

If you claim self employment you will need to provide some proof, possibly a bank account record or tax return/something similar.

Could you look for a live-in nanny/housekeeper setup that comes with board? Being an apartment manager (an apartment usually is included) or even a super?

Can you sublet from someone who only cares about whether you can pay rent and won't bother with a credit check?

Overall I can say your best bet is to line up any good references you do have (the people you have paid rent to in the past, past employers who will vouch for your trustworthyness, your pastor, whoever) and use that to counteract the negative stuff. An approach like that will work better with a family/individual owner than with a management company.
posted by emjaybee at 7:42 PM on September 21, 2012

I claim self-employed, being self-employed. They usually want to see a few years of tax returns and/or a bank statement. How "corporate" the place is tends to influence how much they care and how much paperwork they want.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:51 PM on September 21, 2012

I would aim for a sublet/temp roommate situation. Alternatively, is it possible you can save up just one more month's rent so you can pay a few months up front instead of just one month up front? That will give you better standing.

And I don't recommend advertising massage services in exchange for rent on craigslist, because, well, I would say 99% of people looking on craigslist for "live-in masseuse" would have something else in mind.

Lastly, I would claim self-employment and offer as many past landlord references as possible to prove that even if you don't look like a perfect tenant by the numbers, that you are one.
posted by greta simone at 7:53 PM on September 21, 2012

Not sure if this would work for you, but I have rented from places that were very informal and did not require a rental application or background check. These are the sorts of places you find with handmade posters on bulletin boards somewhere or maybe on Craigslist. For example, a homeowner (who is not a very savvy/experienced landlord and hasn't been burned before) who is renting out an extra room in their house.

In my experience, such informal arrangements can be significantly cheaper than managed apartments, with the caveat that you may have to do things like share a bathroom or share a kitchen. I think to be a good candidate for something like this you have to be able to make a respectable first impression (because people are very prone to stereotyping) and you have to be able to give them the deposit up front, if not the first and last month's rent.

There are also places for rent on Craigslist which are again, informal in nature and could involve living in someone's basement for cheap or even free if you can help by doing all the yardwork, and stuff like that. Then again I am the type of person who likes non-traditional living arrangements like this, but you may not be.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:04 PM on September 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

A number of years ago, Mr. Upatree and I rented an apartment with pretty skimpy qualities in our favor. A friendly attitude and being up-front about our situation helped, and we were able to get a place, and we paid an extra few hundred in our security deposit. It was somewhere in the middle, not really corporate but not really shady, just a small-ish apartment complex with an on-site manager who made most decisions.
posted by upatree at 8:23 PM on September 21, 2012

Don't just claim that you are self-employed, actually become self-employed as a way to increase your income. Maybe contact local businesses that you will come and give all the employees a massage. Show how it can help morale, productivity, etc. You could offer a decently discounted rate since you would be making it up in volume and convenience. Also you would be making for repeat customers - either the business or the individuals.

Learn to deal with people and the noises they make. Presumably you don't want to live in isolation your whole life, might as well learn to tolerate other people.

A lot of landlords won't really care too much how you paid Capital One and what not. As long as you don't have rental collections and if you supply references you may very well be okay.

Also if you aren't working or have low income check out supplemented rental units. Don't know where you live but in many places there is government assistance available which supplements the rent the landlord will charge. Your rent is based on your income. The government pays the landlord. The landlord knows he'll get his rent and he is renting to low income tenants so he is used to renters with credit issues. Of course there is often long waiting lists for such apartments but it is something to look into.

Doesn't sound like you have terrible credit. Sounds like you have very little credit and what is on your credit is negative. Try to improve your credit so that landlords can see that you can pay your bills on time.

One of the easiest ways to improve your credit is to get a credit card - even if you have to get a secured credit card. With a secured credit card you give the bank $300 (or whatever amount) and they give you a credit card with a $300 limit. You are in effect borrowing your own money. Set up your electric bill (or some other similar bill) to be paid automatically by the credit card. Then SHRED AND THROW AWAY the credit card. You can't use it, your brother who is visiting can't use it, it is gone. Every month the credit card will pay the electric bill. When the credit card bill comes in, PAY IT IN FULL just like you would have your electric bill.

This way your credit will build up fairly quickly. You can't get into trouble because you are only paying your electric bill. The electric bill is usually the one bill that gets paid every month even if no other bill gets paid. You can't get into trouble because you don't have your card. You are paying it in full so you also don't care what interest rate you are paying.
posted by 2manyusernames at 6:18 AM on September 22, 2012

You may want to investigate what housing assistance is available in your area (example of a Toronto resource). Short and medium term housing assistance significantly reduce a huge barrier to self-sufficiency: they're a hand up, not a handout.
posted by thatdawnperson at 7:57 AM on September 22, 2012

Have you tried applying anywhere yet? I personally have never had trouble getting an apartment, even when I had awful credit. I suspect a lot of landlords, especially the small-time ones, just pocket the application fee and don't worry about actually checking your credit.
posted by Jess the Mess at 10:06 AM on September 22, 2012

Look for sublets on craigslist where someone is going away for a few months and is leasing out their apartment. You might have to hop between them until you have steady income, but it's better than nothing.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 4:26 PM on September 22, 2012

+1-ing the concept of looking for landlords who are individuals instead of companies. Many have caught up to the idea of checking credit, but there are still a ton who don't do that. The only way you'll know is by applying and finding out for yourself.
posted by Blue_Villain at 5:03 PM on September 22, 2012

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