How to be the perfect prospective tenant when renting a new home

Putting your best foot forward is the way to succeed in business and in life. This advice also applies to impressing landlords while looking for your perfect rental home or apartment. There are several dos and don’ts that come with being an attractive tenant for property managers and landlords.


Do be proactive with your information

Being prepared when you meet a landlord goes a long way to letting them know you’ll respect the property and pay your rent on time. Bring pay stubs, a copy of your credit report, and glowing reference letters to your meeting.

Do understand the law and your rights, but don’t threaten landlords

Applying for a rental isn’t the time to educate landlords on real estate law. While you don’t want to be treated unfairly, many landlords will be scared away if you even casually mention the laws governing rentals. Treat the landlord fairly and it’s likely they will do the same for you.

Do provide good references

Your past rental record will influence landlord’s willingness to sign you on as a renter. If you don’t have references from past landlords, then be sure you can provide other professional references. You should also contact your references to be sure they are able and willing to give you a good endorsement.

Do include a cover letter

If you have poor or no credit (maybe you just graduated from college), then you should consider including a cover letter to explain your situation. If you have negative credit marks, then be upfront about them and detail how your current circumstances have changed. Landlords appreciate tenants that are good communicators.

Do avoid evictions at all costs

Evictions aren’t just a short-term problem, but they can severely impact your ability to rent another property in the future. If you are faced with an eviction, first politely ask the landlord for any options such as a temporary rent reduction or the option of a sublease or additional added roommate.


Do not forget your overall appearance

While landlords are supposed to treat all tenants equally, they will still form impressions based on appearances. If you are meeting the landlord in person, then dress in work attire so they can see your professional side.

Do not think your information can be kept hidden

Landlords have at their disposal sophisticated screening technologies that can pull information from dozens of data providers at once. They’ll catch any evictions or red flags on your credit report, so don’t assume negative information can be kept quiet.

Do not forget to ask for everything in writing

Written documentation protects you and the landlord and shows them that you are a serious tenant. Don’t ask for any sort of “handshake agreement” about paying utilities, chipping in for landscaping duty, or any other sort of side agreement.

Do not offer any sort of bribe or incentive

If you really want a sought-after rental, don’t offer any “under the table” cash or other gift in exchange for the apartment. You don’t want to start off your tenant-landlord relationship on shaky ethical (and possibly legal) ground.

Do not ignore your social media presence

Landlords can likely find your Facebook and Twitter profiles in seconds. These sites can provide a window into your personality, either good or bad. Consider hiding or deleting any posts or pictures, which might put you in a bad light. Landlords don’t want tenants that are up every night hosting drunken revelry, so check your posts before you apply.

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By staying polite and upfront about your past, you can ensure landlords won’t automatically reject your applications and you’ll be close to enjoying a new place to live. Remember also that organization and a reliable presence will go a long way to helping you get the place you want.

More expert advice about Renting Real Estate

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Vikram RaghavanCEO + Co-Founder

Vikram Raghavan is the CEO and co-founder of GrayRoost. He is an experienced e-commerce and marketing veteran, and has worked at,, Amazon, Capital One, and Lealta Media. Vik oversaw marketing, new product innovation, ...

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