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December 14, 2018 10:55 AM   Subscribe

How am I able to find an apartment to rent without a job or rental history and from across the country?

I’m planning to move to Long Beach California in January. My girlfriend (who lives in California) and I want to find a cheap apartment to share. I’m still in NJ and my current temporary job ends at the end of this month. I have good credit and money saved up. I have no rental history and I’m still constantly looking for any work (though it’s near impossible to find one from across the country). I’m pretty confident that i’ll land something as soon as I’m there. My girlfriend rents out a room and won’t allow me to stay with her. And I really don’t want to waste money on a temporary room or Airbnb while I look.

Is it possible to find a place for us to rent before I fly over? How would you recommend I do this? Almost all of the places we like and can afford requires proof of current income, residential history and credit check. What are the best sites to find an apartment? We understand that the first place won’t be ideal but once both of us have stable income, we’re going to look for a better place.

Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you.
posted by morning_television to Travel & Transportation around Long Beach, CA (9 answers total)
As one who was a landlord in the past I would ask for a significant deposit (perhaps equal to three months) and would only agree to a lease for that length of time and a month to month after that until you have established a steady income. . You willingness to agree to this and a good credit report would be sufficient for me. I would be skeptical of a landlord who readily agreed to take you without some expectations. Wishing you well
posted by rmhsinc at 11:25 AM on December 14, 2018

Your girlfriend does have rental history, plus you can offer to put down first and last month's rent in addition to the security deposit.
posted by soelo at 11:31 AM on December 14, 2018

It's not clear to me where your partner lives, but if the house she owns (and rents out a room in) is near Long Beach, one option is for you to live with roommates while she stays in the house she already seems to own. You'll have a much easier time finding a roommates who'll understand your situation than you will a landlord; in the meanwhile, you can find a job and build the other aspects of a stable life before moving in together -- and before she gives up her own stable nest.
posted by tapir-whorf at 11:33 AM on December 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

She lives in a room rented out in someone’s home. She doesn’t own it.
posted by morning_television at 11:37 AM on December 14, 2018

Look for someone looking to sublet a room on Craigslist. That'll give you a home base that's enough to get a job. Once you're established, that will help you rent what you actually want.

Is your girlfriend tied down with her lease or month to month? That'll affect your timing.
posted by Candleman at 11:58 AM on December 14, 2018

I think this is a bad idea, actually. My advice would be for girlfriend to stay put in her rented room, and for you to rent/sublease a room until you actually get a job out there.

My experience being the unemployed partner (not in your desired location) was that they ran both of our credit and requested that we both contribute rental history, but only considered the employed person's income -- even though I was contributing towards the security deposit and costs -- because the monthly income needed to be a certain amount above the rent. You may need to look below what you think you can "afford".
posted by sm1tten at 12:28 PM on December 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

I keep threatening to write a blog post about this somewhere because it's a common ask but the rules are different: you effectively cannot do what you are thinking, in Los Angeles. Most sublets here (that is, taking over all or part of someone else's rent for a period of time) are legal sublets - you have to be approved by the landlord, you have to pay deposits, you have to show proof of income. Secret subletting happens, but the subletter will lose their place if they get caught and end up with a lot of liability if the subletter gets up to any shenanigans.

And: living somewhere for 30 days becomes tenancy in California (this is at least one reason your girlfriend probably cannot let you stay there, even if she wanted to), so without a legal document saying otherwise you can just hang out on someone's couch for 30 days and then they have to get the landlord to evict you to legally make you leave if you just decide to not go. This is a big deal and changes how people go about their business. Also, there's not enough housing, so there is always someone with proof of income and security deposit in hand, often willing to pay for many months of rent up front if they do not have a documented income, along with a cosigner, because it's a weird-ass town and people have weird incomes.

You might find someone who owns their place willing to rent you something with or without a real legal document without wanting proof of income, but you need to worry what their motives are if you found someone who did that. There's no real incentive; they can get a stabler tenant than you will appear to be on paper.

So, probably your best option is for your girlfriend to move into a place she can get approved for by herself, with you as a co-tenant (they will still credit check you but if she can cover the income liability you won't need proof). It's hard to afford an apartment alone here; it will not be very big. It will be difficult to get anything less than a 12month lease, too, so you'll be stuck there for a year if you don't want to break the lease to move (note: if she can find a studio apartment in a complex that has bigger apartments, you can likely trade up before the end of the lease but you'll have to pay the difference in security/first/last and maybe a change fee).

Alternately she can find a bigger room in a house that will rent to the two of you, still just on her income. It's a little bit more likely that she could find something like that and have it be more flexible than a firm 1 year lease. That might be the best possible solution. Otherwise you might be better off with the cheapest airbnb you can find, maybe even for a couple months. (The laws are starting to crack down on those, too, so I don't know how much longer those are going to be as freely available or as cheap.)
posted by Lyn Never at 12:30 PM on December 14, 2018 [5 favorites]

When I was younger, I would probably have driven out there, stayed with my girlfriend or a local friend (if you have any) or in a church (in exchange for helping out), gotten a fairly crummy job ASAP, and then found a roommate who was willing to go halves on a sketchy-ass apartment of dubious legality—hopefully with a term (I wouldn't dignify it with the word "lease") in the three-to-six month range. Then I would have used that as a launch pad to a better job and a better apartment.

Just establishing residence and employment in the city is a huge part of the battle. The strategy I outline above is risky and stressful but it's what I did once and it's what lots other people do.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 1:54 PM on December 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

You say you have money saved up, but that could mean various things – if you have enough to pre-pay six month’s or a year’s rent, plus any other associated fees, you may well have more flexibility than if you just have a month or two’s cushion.

London not LA, but when my son was renting while a student without noticeable income or credit history, and getting transatlantic guarantors was cumbersome, the fact that all the roommates were in a position to pay rent up front in six month increments made the problem go away. If that sort of thing out of the question for you then listen to Lyn Never.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 5:51 PM on December 14, 2018

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