How to Impress Your Potential Landlord

Stand out from other applicants to secure your dream apartment.

Apartment hunting is equal parts exciting and exhausting. Not to mention nerve racking. 

Even after you find an apartment that checks off most of the boxes on your wishlist and works for your budget, you have to apply and have your application accepted by the landlord. Looking for an apartment is similar to looking for a job, except instead of having to impress a hiring manager with your references, credit score and employment history, you have to impress a potential landlord with those same factors.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at how you can sell yourself to potential landlords to help improve your odds of scoring the apartment of your dreams. 

Improve your credit report and score

improve your credit score to sell yourself to landlords
Paying your bills on time will help get your credit score where it needs to be.

The sooner you can start improving your credit report and credit score before you look for a new apartment, the better. At first glance, it may seem odd when a landlord checks your credit, but it can be a great indicator for them of how trustworthy of a tenant you’re likely to be—especially how likely you are to pay your rent on time. 

Landlords often like to review applicants’ credit reports to get an idea of how much debt they have, how often they make late bill payments, if they have debt in collections or have filed for bankruptcy, or if they have any past-due accounts. 

Not sure if your credit report would wow a landlord? Take a quick look at your credit score to get an idea of where you stand. 

Generally, credit scores range from 300 to 850. The most popular credit scoring model is FICO and with FICO, a credit score starting at 670 is considered good, so you want to aim for at least that score. Again—the higher you can get this score, the more you’ll benefit. 

If you plan ahead, spend some time reviewing your credit report and seeing where you can make improvements. The best way to boost your credit score is to make on-time payments to all of your credit accounts every single month. 

That being said, it will take time to feel the impact of making consistent on-time payments. If you’re in a rush to improve your credit score, review your credit report for any mistakes or signs of fraud. If you find an error on your credit report, you can dispute it with the credit bureau that issues the report (check all three of your credit reports from the three main credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax). 

The credit bureau has to investigate your claim and if they find it to be accurate, they’ll remove the error from your report which can improve your credit score quickly. 

If your credit is in really bad shape, you can always add a cosigner with good credit (like a parent) to your rental application to help improve your odds of approval. Sometimes offering a few extra months of rent in advance can also give the landlord peace of mind when dealing with a low credit score.

Budget for your income

budget for your income to convince potential landlord
Include all sources of income, including side hustles, with your rental app.

Your income may not fully reflect your financial situation. 

For example, you may have savings that make it possible to afford to spend more on rent than others with your income would normally be comfortable spending. Maybe you have a helpful parent that pays for your health insurance. Perhaps you’ve held onto the car Mom and Dad bought you in high school and now don’t have a car payment. Point being—no one budget looks the same, but unfortunately landlords don’t usually see things that way.

A good rule of thumb for how much you should be paying in rent is no more than 30% of your income before taxes. Even if you can afford to spend more than that, your landlord may worry that you’re stretching your budget too thin and that you may not be able to afford to make your rent payments. Therefore, it’s a good idea to look for apartments that fit within that 30% threshold.

If you’re unable to find what you want within that price range, you could, as we noted above, offer to pay a few extra months’ worth of rent in advance to assure the landlord you’re financially stable. 

Don’t forget to include all sources of income in your application. While the landlord may just ask to see a W-2, if you have a side hustle or investments that generate income, you can also provide proof of that in your application.

Provide solid references

Similar to applying for a job, you often need to submit references (usually from previous landlords or property managers) with your rental application. If you have your references ready to go while apartment hunting, you can stand out among other applicants. Having references and other application requirements ready from the get-go can also help demonstrate you’ll be a responsible renter. 

Sweeten the pot

Speaking of standing out in a sea of applicants, what else can you do to make yourself look more appealing than other renters? Flexibility can be your friend here. Can you sign a longer lease? Can you offer a security deposit on behalf of your pet? Can you make your first and last month’s payment right away? Think about what your landlord needs to make their job easier and see if you can provide a solution.

Take your appointment seriously

take appointment seriously to impress landlord
Show up on time, dress smart, and you’ll make a great first impression on your potential landlord.

When it comes time to view an apartment you’re considering, you’ll schedule an appointment with the landlord or someone from the leasing office. Now is the time to make a strong first impression. 

Here’s how you can start things off on the right foot.

  • Be on time. A landlord’s biggest fear is late rent payments, so you don’t want to start your meeting by showing you struggle with punctuality. 
  • Dress smart. Now is not the time to wear your comfiest sweats. Dress up a bit to ensure you look respectful and responsible. What you wear doesn’t actually indicate how good of a renter you’ll be, but first impressions are often subliminal and being clean and presentable can help you gain respect from a potential landlord. 
  • Communicate well. Landlords and renters have to communicate frequently about issues regarding the apartment, lease renewals, and other updates. Communicating clearly now will help set the tone for the rest of your relationship and can assure your landlord that you’ll be easy to work with. Speak clearly and confidently and don’t be afraid to spell out why you will be a great tenant. 
  • Bring your pet. If you plan to move your furry friend in with you, it’s best not to hide this fact. Often, landlords aren’t a fan of pets (even if they allow them), which is why they may prefer to choose an applicant without a pet if possible. If your pet is well behaved, schedule a “pet interview” that will allow your potential landlord to witness your pet’s behavior and demeanor upfront. If your pet is quiet and calm, that can reassure the landlord they won’t cause any major issues. 

Because you’re paying to stay in the apartment each month, it can feel a bit weird to jump through extra hoops to impress your landlord. However, this relationship is a two way street and you need to impress them as much as their apartment needs to impress you. 

Prepare for your apartment search so that you can make it clear to any landlords you encounter that you will be a responsible tenant they can rely on, that way you can improve your odds of securing your top pick.

Finally, whether they require it or not, most landlords will be likelier to see you as a responsible prospective tenant if you plan to get renters insurance. Not only does it show that you’re diligent about protecting your personal property (and the landlord’s apartment), but it also helps protect your landlord against personal liability, making it a win-win. Getting covered with Lemonade takes only about two minutes.

Apply for Renters Insurance
Jacqueline DeMarco
Jacqueline DeMarco is a contributor for Lemonade who has worked with more than two dozen financial brands, including LendingTree, Capital One, Credit Karma, American Express, Chime, Bankrate, CreditCards.com, SoFi and Northwestern Mutual, providing thoughtful content to give readers insight into complex topics that they likely didn’t learn in school.

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