Every year, between one and 1.5 million Americans experience eviction. A landlord can evict a tenant for many reasons, but far and away the most common reason is nonpayment of rent.
If you have an eviction judgment in your past, it will appear on any credit report or background check for seven years. This can adversely affect your ability to secure a new lease. However, this past event does not have to define you going forward.
Eviction is unpleasant, but it’s also more common than people acknowledge. You can still find a good apartment under fair terms. Here are some tips to help you.
Be Open and Honest
For a start, you should assume that any potential landlord will look into your rental history. This eviction is much less likely to affect your chances of getting a lease if you come clean about it from the start.
Be open and honest about the circumstances surrounding your eviction. Were you facing financial hardship? Did you attempt to broker a cancellation with your landlord? Have you since paid your outstanding rent?
If you are confident that your eviction is in your past, that you have resolved it, and that you are ready to be a diligent renter going forward, tell the leasing agent that.
Remember, landlords aren’t looking for reasons to reject potential tenants. They want to work with you to get their building leased.
Get your Credit and Income Ready Ahead of Time
If your past rental history is less than ideal, you should make sure your current finances are stellar. That means getting your credit and income in order.
If you have credit card balances or outstanding loans, try to pay them down before you start your apartment hunt. One of the first things any landlord does when someone applies is run a credit check. That eviction case number will probably pop up. If it’s accompanied by otherwise fine credit, the landlord will be more understanding.
On the income side, ask your employer for a letter stating your position, salary, and length of employment. If you’re planning to shuffle money to cover a security deposit and broker’s fee, do it now. That way, your bank statements will reflect healthy reserves, allaying landlord concerns.
Finally, if you have retirement funds, savings bonds, trust accounts, or any other savings, get your current statements ready. Any proof of savings will help your case.
Secure a Letter from your Old Landlord
Have you paid the balance that you evicted for? Even you negotiated a reduced payment with the landlord or a third-party collector, you can consider the affair closed. From there, you’ll want to secure a verification letter from the old landlord.
This letter should indicate that you have paid all outstanding balances and that collections activity has ceased. You should also ask the landlord to file a Satisfaction of Judgment in court if they haven’t already. They can provide you with a copy of the filing, which you can show to any prospective landlord.
Contacting the management company that evicted you might be awkward, but you need to do it. Most landlords want evictions behind them. Providing a verification to the evicted tenant is an easy way for them to resolve the situation for good.
Have a Guarantor
If you get the cold shoulder from management companies because of your past eviction, you may need to provide additional assurance to them. The most common remedy in this situation is to have a guarantor.
Both you and the individual guaranteeing your lease need to be clear about terms though. Many folks believe being a guarantor is there to help their buddy pass the application process. They don’t appreciate that they’ll be on the hook if the leaseholder defaults.
Moreover, most leases contain guarantor language stating that the guaranty remains in place for any successive renewal. If you’re asking someone to sign a lease guaranty rider, make sure they understand the full scope of the commitment.
You should also confirm that the person meets the landlord’s expectations. Guarantor income and credit requirements are much higher than tenant requirements.
Get a Lease Guaranty Policy
Of course, not everyone has an affluent friend or family member to guarantee their lease.
Luckily, some companies offer third-party lease guaranty policies. This product is sort of like insurance against you defaulting on the rent. You pay a small monthly premium, and your landlord can demand payment from the policy provider if you fail to pay.
Some prominent providers of these policies are Insurent and The Guarantors.
This policy isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card, though. If you default, the company will pay your balance. However, they can then pursue you for reimbursement. The point of the policy is not to provide you with coverage: it is to indemnify the landlord from potential lost revenue.
Pay Your Full Rent Upfront
There are landlords that might be unmoved by the offer of a guaranty, either from an individual or a company. At this point, you might have to make what Marlon Brando called an offer they can’t refuse.
No, don’t threaten them! The unrefusable offer, in this case, is to pay the full lease term’s rent upfront.
If you do this, you want to make sure that both you and your new landlord are protected. For example, your management company doesn’t want a personal check for a year’s rent. Provide them with a bank check or a wire. Meanwhile, you should request some sort of receipt or written confirmation from the building, attesting that you are fully paid.
Clearly, this a pricy option. Still, if you’re serious about getting a new place and your rental history is preventing it, making a big cash drop is the surest way to overcome it.
You might think of finding an apartment is a purely financial process. To a large extent, that is true, but there is a personal component too. A potential landlord who’s on the fence about renting to you might find assurance from a couple of references.
These could come from current or former employers, old roommates, or another landlord. You can ask your reference to email the management company. Alternately, with the reference’s permission, you can provide the management company with their phone number.
Personal references alone probably won’t overcome an eviction on your rental history, but they are a good tool in a broader effort to get a lease.
Find a Landlord that Doesn’t Do Background or Credit Checks
If all else fails, you will need to find a landlord who doesn’t do rigorous background checks on prospective tenants.
This route will exclude any buildings run by large management companies. You should focus instead on small landlords, preferably family-owned properties. These folks are more likely to settle for a bank statement and a letter from your work.
To improve your chances of identifying such a landlord, try to locate available apartments on sites like Craigslist rather than through brokers.
You Can Get an Apartment With an Eviction
You can’t deny that a past eviction makes an apartment search more difficult. It doesn’t make it impossible, however.
If you work to repair relations with your old landlord, stay honest with potential future landlords, and explore ways to improve your appeal to management, you will find a great new home soon.