Important Tips To Know Before Applying For An Apartment
Know Your Situation
Always put yourself in a position of knowledge. You need to know where you stand with your credit, evictions, landlord debt and/or background if you have any of these issues, before applying for an apartment.
Check Your Credit Score -
Some apartment communities on the list have a base credit score requirement (usually 500). Find out your credit score so you can save time and focus on apartments with rental requirements that meet your situation. Many apartments on the list will say no minimum score required. However, they still check your score and what's on your credit report.
Request Your Credit Reports -
If the service you are using to check your credit score does not show all (3) of your reports, order them. Places like Credit Karma will have your credit reports, but they only have 2 out of 3 reports. If you are using this service, you will need to get your Experian credit report. The information on your credit report can vary, and you don't know which credit reporting agency that will be used to pull your credit once you apply for an apartment. Once a year Federal law allows consumers to obtain all (3) credit reports for free. To receive your (3) free credit reports, go to https://www.annualcreditreport.com.
Check to see if there are any landlord debts that have been put on your credit reports. As of 2017, evictions are no longer reported on your credit reports. However, the debt can be reported. This is why checking your credit reports for any landlord debts is important. Also, if you haven't checked your credit reports lately, you should so you can see things like the number of negative accounts you have with late pays and/or charged off accounts. You must also look at the number of positive accounts. Many apartments will look at your positive accounts to determine if you are paying anything on time. This offsets the negative accounts. They also look at how old the negative accounts are. The older they are the better.
Order A Background Report -
If you had a criminal charge in the past, order a background report on yourself. You can also get your records directly from the court(s) where the charges were filed. Remember to check with county, state, and federal courts if applicable. And if you want files from a county court, call the courthouse to plan a visit. Most county courts require someone to obtain records in person.
TIP: If you had an arrest without conviction longer than seven years ago, potential employers shouldn't be able to see it according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). If you see a conviction from longer than seven years ago on your personal background check report, you can contest the errors. Also, if you have a dismissed case, you need to call the County where the charge occurred and find out how or if you can get it expunged from your record. This is something you need to do even if you were not applying for a place to live. These issues can affect you in other areas of your life.
Check For Eviction Information -
If you know you had a eviction filed against you and owe an outstanding debt to an apartment community, go on the website of the County you lived in to look up the eviction that was filed against you. If you were served a court notice, chances are there may be a record of the filing. Sometimes evictions will show up in the County records even though the debt may not be reported to the credit bureaus. The next information to look for is the date it took place. Many 2nd chance apartments will allow evictions, but it must typically be a certain number of years old, and in many cases, paid off. Our list has over 20 apartments that do allow unpaid debt.
TIP: If a landlord has ever filed against you for eviction but you won the case or it never went to court, you will want to make sure the records are expunged so they do not appear in eviction report searches by potential landlords. Also, call the court and request the full eviction record. You can use this file if you are denied when applying for an apartment. This will show them that you don't have a completed eviction. Many apartment communities can override denials.
Also, be sure to let the apartment community know up front you had an eviction filed against you but it never went to court and/or if it was dismissed or won by you.
Check Bankruptcy Information -
If you filed for bankruptcy before and it's less than 10 years old, most likely it will show up on your credit report. If you don't have a copy of your dismissed or discharged bankruptcy, obtain it. Apartments will want proof it was discharged or dismissed. You must also know how old your bankruptcy is from the date it is was discharged or dismissed. Some apartments want a bankruptcy to be a certain number of years old. There is more than 37 apartments on the list with no required age of a bankruptcy, but they may want to know if you included an apartment debt in your bankruptcy.
Calling Apartment Communities -
When you call apartments on the list, you do not need to ask them if they are a 2nd chance apartment community. As we stated on our website, most communities don't like to be categorized this way. Also, some of the apartments on the list don't consider themselves a 2nd chance community. However, they have flexible rental requirements like 2nd chance communities.
When calling apartments on the list, use it as your guide and still ask them what the rental requirements are. If they don't mention a specific requirement related to your situation, ask! Many times, leasing agents will not rattle off every single requirement over the phone unless you specifically ask them. Although you know the information based on the list, you are basically double checking to see if the requirements haven't changed and is correct. You can get conflicting information from different leasing agents at the same community. This is something we have encountered while updating the list and why we call more than once. Sometimes it's best to speak with the property manager when this occurs.
Applying for apartments without knowing the correct requirements is not a good idea. You can waste money, time, and incur multiple inquiries on your credit which lowers your score. Inquiries remain on your credit for 2 years.
3rd Party Tenant Screening Services -
There is a growing trend occurring with many apartment communities in reference to using 3rd party tenant screening services. These services offer complete packages that include websites with built in tenant screening, accounting, management, etc., This has caused many communities to give blanket answers regarding their requirements because they are using a computer/software based screening system. This means they plug your information into the system and the computer will generate a denial or approval. Apartment managers can override the system and approve applicants though. This is why it's important that you be upfront about your situation to avoid wasting time and money on apartments that will not approve you.