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Why You’re Not Sealing the Deal - 10 Things Landlords Look for in Applicants

This is a guest post by: Lex from The Lady on Lexington Street


As shocking as this may sound, just because you have found an apartment you love does not mean that the apartment will be yours. Sure, it could be - but it is never a guarantee. Unlike shopping for clothes, you cannot just grab an apartment and say "I'll take this!" There is always one more obstacle you must overcome after searching and finding an apartment you like. You have to entice the landlord. If the landlord doesn't like you...guess who is not going to get the apartment?



A lot of people have been denied apartments before for a various number of reasons. Thankfully, I never have and I put together a list of ten things I have found that landlords look for in their applicants which makes them ideal candidates and will help you seal the deal on almost any apartment.


First Impression is Key

I think it goes without saying that whether it is a job interview, meeting the parents of your significant other or meeting your potential landlord, your first impression is of the utmost importance. Your first impression is the only way your landlord will have any insight into the individual that you are. Think about it, you are a complete stranger to them. If you act rude and distant, they will most likely have no interest in renting to you. Instead, smile, greet them by shaking their hand, actively listen to what they have to say and just be kind and open about yourself. Remember that it only takes a few seconds for a person to evaluate you, so make sure you put your best foot forward and make a great impression.


Arrive Early

My high school coach used to always tell us, "If you are 10 minutes early, you are 5 minutes late." To this day, I live by that motto and I believe everyone should as well. Scheduling an appointment to meet your landlord is no different than arriving to work on time. If you arrive late to your first initial meeting with the individual who is going to be relying on you to pay your rent on time, how likely do you think they will rent to you? It's quite simple really and yet I find people have a hard time sticking to what they agree upon. If you agree to meet someone at a precise time then you should plan to be there no later than 15 minutes early. First off, this will allow you to scope out the surrounding area on your own without the landlord's interference. Secondly, it shows the landlord that you are an on-time individual and can be trusted to pay your rent on time.


Dress Accordingly

Let's pretend you are the landlord and you are going to meet potential renters for a property in a nice residential area. They sounded wonderful on the phone and via email and so you are happy to meet them in person for a showing. You arrive and find that they are wearing grungy clothes, smell as though they haven't showered in days and are completely filthy. Would you really want to rent your apartment to them? Of course not!


This goes hand in hand with making a great first impression. If you want to be taken seriously and have landlords rent to you then you have to dress the part and look professional. If you look dirty and unkempt, they will believe that is how you live and will have no desire to have you as tenants. You should arrive clean, tidy and presentable. Treat your viewing as a job interview and dress accordingly. If you look professional, you will be given a much higher consideration over those who put no effort into their attire.


Ask Questions

There really is no such thing as a dumb question. You are going to be renting a "new to you" apartment from a complete stranger. You should have questions! I am pretty sure my current landlord thought I was certifiably insane when we were at the showing because I had an entire list of questions ready to go. I ask everything from total move in costs to which cable providers are available. It is always better to ask too many questions than not enough. I would much rather be aware everything by asking questions than to simply assume something and be in a not so good situation later down the road.


Be Prepared

Landlords are particularly quick and rarely do they wait around for individuals to get their necessary information together. By the time you do, they could have already rented the apartment to another interested party who was prepared. As a general rule, you should always have the following prepared every time you arrive at an apartment showing:

  • Photocopy of a license or ID of everyone who will live there

  • Employment history

  • Residential history

  • Paystub to verify employment (not always needed, but an added bonus)

  • Pet information (if allowed)

  • Vehicle information

  • References

  • Blank check*

Most landlords go to a showing with the full intent to rent to you. The only reason(s) they would not is the way you behave and any concerns they may have about your reliability. By arriving at a showing with all the prepared information they would later ask for, you have taken the initiative of letting them know you are ready to rent just as much as they are willing to rent it out. *A blank check is not always necessary, but it proves that you are financially stable and able to pay immediately. However, do not simply hand them over a check without signing any documents. There are instances where you might sign the day of the showing, which is why it is important to have a check. It can also be used to secure your position with a deposit; however, if you do this you need to get something in writing stating as much!


Have Strong References

While references are something that was mentioned above, it is important to be aware of the different types of references and the importance of each. Not everyone will have landlord references, specifically those that are moving out for their first time, so they will be forced to utilize other references. The three most common types are residential, professional and personal. Naturally, as you are attempting to rent an apartment, you should strive to use a residential reference. However, if you are unable to do so because of bad relations with them or you simply don't have any yet, move on to professional references. Personal references really do not hold much weight with landlords as those individuals are typically biased. Sometimes you can get away with it, but you should definitely have a strong residential or professional reference first. If you want to go a step further and really impress, try to get your previous landlord or employer to write a recommendation letter!


Know Your Credit History

Everyone is allowed one free credit report every year (at least in the U.S). When getting a new apartment you should utilize that freebie to be aware of your own credit score and how it might impact the landlords' decision. If it is good, then you should have no problems renting. If however you are on the other end of the spectrum and have a not so good or perhaps poor credit score, it is best to be upfront about it. Things happen, we're all human and sometimes our credit may take a nosedive. The important part is that you inform your landlord prior to them running a credit check. Never lie and tell them it is great when it's poor and also never let them find out their own. A majority of the time renters with bad credit who do not make landlords aware ahead of time are passed over immediately. Whereas those who are upfront about their poor credit are sometimes given options like paying a higher deposit, getting a guarantor, or paying additional months rent prior to moving in.


Be Honest

I think it's safe to say that this is an important trait regardless of the situation. If you plan on renting an apartment from a landlord please do not lie to them about anything. Eventually, the truth will come out and it never ends well for anyone. So do yourself the favor in the beginning by being honest. If you have a cat and there is a strict "No Pet Policy." Don't lie and say you have one. Honestly, with today's online presence, a lot of landlord's will Google or even Facebook prospective tenants. If your feed is full of images with your cat...well, I think you know you won't be getting that apartment.


Act Fast

Apartments, especially great ones, are typically swallowed up very quickly. Landlords don't wait around too long for renters to decide if they want the apartment or not. In fact, they usually want people to act upon it the same day they view it. When looking for an apartment be prepared to act on apartments you love. There is no guarantee that the landlord will hold it until you are ready. More often than not, they will simply pass on to the next interested party and forget all about you. If you truly want the apartment you need to act fast. That being said, don't be hasty either. You should definitely think about it before you jump in with both feet. Make sure you love the apartment. If there is any doubt, don't do it! It's like buying a brand new pair of shoes, if you don't love them in the store odds are you won't love them at home either. It's a big decision and not easily done in one day. I have found that most landlord will give you a day or two to think about it so long as you continually show interest and connect with them via email or phone. Just don't wait too long or they will soon move on and forget all about you.


Follow Up

After you have seen the apartment and spoken with the landlord, email them a polite follow-up email. Thank the landlord for their time. Express how delighted you were with the apartment and praise a few aspects showing them you are truly interested. Similar to a great first impression, a final impression is just as important.



I'm no official expert when it comes to renting, but I can tell you I've been able to get every apartment I've ever wanted using these techniques. Everyone is different and unfortunately, these tips will not work for everyone, but I find that these are the absolute best strategies for securing yourself your ideal apartment and effectively winning over the landlord.



Guest Author

Lex from The Lady on Lexington Street. Lex is a twenty-something-year-old living just outside of Boston with her boyfriend, Pisti, and their two cats, Kyon and Kyah. An avid reader, runner, and cook, Lex loves to write about the life of an everyday average couple and their furbabies.


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