Renting as non-desirable tenant
May 31, 2015 2:05 PM   Subscribe

I’ve decided to finally move out of Madison, WI, for many reasons. I have traction now that my landlord won’t be renewing my lease, which expires in August, due to my lack of housekeeping. I’m hoping to move to Portland, OR, with Minneapolis in second. I’m aware that I’m not a desirable tenant at all for a number of reasons, and I’m trying to start strategizing now how to get an apartment of my own. More inside.

As some of you know, I am on SSDI for being bipolar II and also dealing with severe PTSD and anxiety. My income is therefore very low. My mental health has interfered often with my ability to maintain housekeeping; it’s gotten much better lately but I’m still behind what most landlords want. My mental health has also interfered with my bill paying over the years, and my credit is now terrible. I have one eviction on my record, but that can easily be explained and that landlord can confirm that I wasn’t even living there at the time (complicated roommate thing) and that I don’t owe any money. Also, I have one landlady who tried to evict me after a suicide attempt last year, and I filed a civil rights complaint against her, which was not found in my favor. I think her lawyer said not to talk to other landlords about me at all, but I truly have no idea what she might say. Finally, the fire in my apartment last fall was an accident but I had a lot of papers around, which were a contributing factor. I don’t, however, have criminal problems or noise problems.

But I still need a place to live. And I absolutely *cannot have roommates* because I have had three different totally traumatizing roommate experiences, including restraining orders against two former roommates.

My mother (in Virginia) is willing to help how she can. And I am happy to document anything, explain things as best I can, etc.

Are there any strategies or resources or organizations or whatever that I can use to make myself appear more desirable to prospective landlords?

Though I am hoping to go to one of those cities I mentioned (preferably Portland), please don’t limit your answers to resources available in those cities. Also, in the past I’ve talked with Madison’s tenant resource center, and they just advised writing a letter to explain things. Which worked once, but it’s so much to explain.
posted by mermaidcafe to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Forgot to add that I don't owe money to any landlords and I pay rent on time.
posted by mermaidcafe at 2:10 PM on May 31, 2015

Does your mother have good enough credit that she could cosign a lease? Do you have enough cash saved that you could pay a large deposit or several months rent in advance?
posted by decathecting at 2:16 PM on May 31, 2015 [2 favorites]

Are you eligible for Section 8 housing?
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 2:16 PM on May 31, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you have bad credit and a bad track record with previous landlords I don't know what you expect could improve that. What's done us done, and you're right that it will make it harder to rent. You could get a cosigner on your lease to reduce the risk for your landlord, then be disciplined about keeping up with bills from now on to slowly improve your score.

But i don't understand why moving is part of your plan right now. Moving is expensive and stressful and hard even when you're in a good place. Given your personal health issues, would it be possible to live with a relative for a while? This just doesn't add up to a situation where the stress of moving and finding work in a new city will improve your situation.
posted by deathpanels at 2:17 PM on May 31, 2015 [11 favorites]

In this area, the Independent Living Center (which supports people with disabilities) has a whole housing support section. You might try getting in touch with the local CIL in the new cities to see if they have any ideas based on their experience in working with people who may have a number of challenges.
posted by metahawk at 2:20 PM on May 31, 2015

Portland has one of the lowest vacancy rates in the country. Also, it's not as cheap as it used to be. Living alone in a decent neighborhood will require at least $800 a month, not including utilities. There may be a few studios (or SRO units) in the $650-$750 range, but they'll be in Old Town or Industrial SE.

My recommendation, if you are set on Portland, is to start getting on waiting lists for income-restricted (not low income) units. Many buildings in the Pearl, Hollywood, etc. set aside units that rent for below market rates if you earn below approximately $32,000 per year.

Many of these units will be occupied, so get on the list. You might luck out and find one with no list. That's what happened to me and I lived in a studio I loved for 6+ years and saved a bunch of money.
posted by paulcole at 2:22 PM on May 31, 2015 [4 favorites]

Live in a "bad" neighborhood. Landlords are less picky about tenants and just want their rent on time and don't care about housekeeping. If you don't think you can keep a place to most landlords' standards you should opt for housing that doesn't require it so you don't end up in more stressful situations.
posted by metasarah at 2:27 PM on May 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

Portland is going to be tough because of the low vacancy rate - landlords can pick and choose, and housing is expensive. Your best bet, if you want to move there, might be to get on a list for Section 8 and/or subsidized housing. Here is a link for the Independent Living Resources website of Portland. Here is a link with information on housing for people with disabilities. Oregon Housing Authorities link.

Minneapolis might offer you more choices as the housing market isn't so tight there. I know there are Minneapolis-based MeFites who could probably offer more information on the rental market there. You are still probably best off seeking specifically subsidized or Section 8 housing. HousingLink for subsidized and affordable housing in Minneapolis.

If you can't get subsidized or Section 8 housing, your best bet is probably for your mom to co-sign as a guarantor. Again, this will probably be easier in Minneapolis because the Portland rental market is so tight.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:45 PM on May 31, 2015 [6 favorites]

Minneapolis is ... not great. Even though property values are much lower than Portland, apartment rents are quite high, almost as high as Portland... A rental duplex from a casual landlord who doesn't check references in a lot of detail would be a good bet. You may have to start applying now and leave time to try a couple places (since it is common to request a deposit check with your application, you can't just apply everywhere).
posted by miyabo at 4:30 PM on May 31, 2015

I hesitate to come in just to say this because it sounds like you need a fresh start and Portland is a fantastic city but it very well may be a nightmare for you to find a place to rent here. All over the news here is how tight the rental market is and how difficult it is for even people with very good rental histories and credit scores to find affordable (or even not affordable) rentals.

I would strongly advise against moving to Portland unless you have already secured permanent housing.
posted by teamnap at 4:35 PM on May 31, 2015 [4 favorites]

Here's another anecdotal affirmation that landlords in Portland are a) charging more and b) becoming more picky about tenants. Maybe there are outskirts of Portland (Gresham? I dunno) that would be easier.
posted by angrycat at 4:40 PM on May 31, 2015

Plenty of landlords who are only renting one or two apartments don't require credit checks (and maybe don't even know how to do one.) Especially if they are only renting the third floor in their house, or whatever. (Although you would have to make a better impression if the landlord is in the same house, plus maybe that would be too much like having roommates.)

If you make a decent amount from SSDI, that helps. SSDI is a steady income, and landlords appreciate that. If you don't make a decent amount, I suppose you could lie and hope they don't check up on it (I worked for a Section 8 rental agency and they practically never checked up on anything.) If they ask about former landlords, you can say you've been living at home.
posted by serena15221 at 4:44 PM on May 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would suggest that moving to one of the hotist, expensive, and most desirable housing markets in the country should be removed from your goals.

I've known people with similar issues who have done well in smallish college towns where low cost of living and support systems designed to support low income students (bus systems, etc.) also worked with with disability.

There's also some recovering rust belt cities that have low cost of living, increasing art scenes, etc. that should be considered, such as Akron.
posted by Candleman at 5:23 PM on May 31, 2015 [4 favorites]

I just did this in Portland. I was able to sign a lease on a place without having a job. There's definitely a credit check and possibly some other checks. If you want to memail me I can give your more details about the place.
posted by bendy at 5:37 PM on May 31, 2015

Maybe you could combine some of these suggestions and use AirBNB to do a medium-term rental (30 - 90 days), during which you show your ability to pay on time, be an ok tenant, etc. in a fairly inexpensive but nice place (rust belt or college town). Then, you could move off of AirBNB once you've proven yourself.
posted by 3491again at 12:31 PM on June 1, 2015

If you can provide bank records indicating a pattern that your rent checks have been regularly cashed in a timely manner from the 1st (thus arrived on time) I think that would be a point in your favor.

This works less well if your checks arrive on time but were cashed quite late, even though that's outside your control.
posted by juliplease at 12:32 PM on June 1, 2015

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