Renting an apartment when you are unemployed can be a challenge, but it's not impossible. Both independent landlords and property management companies may be willing to rent to you if you show that you can pay your rent on time. Start your search early, prepare to document your finances and expect to negotiate.
Check the Law in Your Area
In some places, such as California and Connecticut, it is illegal for a landlord or property manager to turn down a housing application because the applicant receives unemployment benefits. If you live in an area where landlords can't discriminate on the basis of income source, you may have an easier time finding a new apartment.
Disclose Your Employment Status Right Away
If you find a place that interests you, don't cross your fingers and hope that the landlord won't find out that you aren't working. Instead, explain your employment status to the landlord or property manager. Here's why:
- You'll avoid wasting time and money. If the landlord or property management company won't rent to the unemployed, it's better to know that before paying an application fee. You'll also protect your credit by avoiding an unnecessary credit check. Credit checks can lower your credit score. Since many employers evaluate credit scores as part of the application process, multiple credit checks can harm your job search.
- It gives a better impression. Don't let a landlord or property manager discover that you are unemployed during your background check. Offering the information yourself demonstrates honesty and allows you to open negotiations over lease terms and deposits.
Property management companies sometimes have strict rules about tenant income that they can't deviate from. Independent landlords may be more flexible and willing to negotiate. To find these landlords, take your search offline. Many independent landlords place "for rent" signs on their buildings and in local businesses. Small-time landlords also may prefer to rent within their social networks, so let your friends and family know that you are searching for a new place.
Gather Financial Documentation
Since the landlord or property manager can't verify your income with an employer, it's up to you to show how you can afford to pay the rent. When going to a showing, bring copies of documents that verify your financial situation, such as:
- Bank, retirement and investment account statements going back at least three months.
- Proof of benefits, such as unemployment, Workers' Compensation, or Social Security.
- Student financial aid award letter.
Prepare to Negotiate
Some landlords are property managers may be reluctant to rent to you even if you receive unemployment benefits or have savings. If you encounter resistance, it's time to start negotiating. Here are some strategies:
- Offer to pay an additional security deposit or to prepay three to six months of rent.
- Ask if the landlord will accept your application with a cosigner.
- Suggest that you sign a month-to-month agreement or a short-term lease. A short lease makes it easier for the landlord to terminate your tenancy if you start having problems paying the rent.
Asking a friend or family member to cosign your lease can put your relationship at risk. If you can't make your rent payment, the landlord or property management company may sue your cosigner. Don't ask someone to cosign a lease unless you are confident that you'll be able to make rent on time each month.
- Bankrate: Avoid Co-signing Like the Plague
- ApartmentSearch.com: How to Find an Apartment While Unemployed
- Bankrate: Does Rental Application Hurt Credit Score?
- Los Angeles Times: Landlords are Forbidden to Discriminiate Against the Unemployed
- The Connecticut Fair Housing Center:Fair Housing for Individuals with a Lawful Source of Income