If you’re a renter in San Francisco, New York, Toronto or Vancouver, chances are you’ve been in the middle of ugly bidding battles for homes — more likely, a minuscule 400 square- foot apartment, or worse, a room in a house. In cities like Vancouver and Toronto, rental supply is abysmally low, making it impossibly hard to to find a place to rent at a price that doesn’t gobble up three-quarters of your monthly salary.
So yes, it’s tough times, the rental market is against you, and it’s absurdly unfair that something as basic as putting a roof over your head has become a luxury. But there are in fact, strategic ways in which you can boost of chances of clinching that prized dwelling.
Preferably, with a binder full of documents that includes:
- At least two reference letters (from your current employer, former employer, former roommate)
- A credit check. You can now get credit checks done for free, or for a low price on mobile apps like Borrowell, or Creditkarma.ca. Or if you’re comfortable with it, you could go the more traditional route and print out your last few credit card statements to show that you had the funds to pay off your credit card debt. The landlord just needs to know that you have a track record of paying your bills on time.
- Identification — Driver’s license, Passport, Citizenship Card and Social Insurance number. Bring two pieces of identification, and your SIN card. The latter is in case the landlord doesn’t trust your credit score, and wants to perform his or her own credit check on your financial history.
- A letter stating your salary, and the fact that you are employed. Now, if you’re a freelancer, or work for yourself, bring a copy of your most recent tax returns. This will enable your future landlord to verify that you indeed have been receiving an income and do have the ability to pay your rent.
- A letter from your guarantor. If you’re a student, or you’ve just moved to the city and remain unemployed, you have to have proof that someone out there is willing to pick up the tab in case you don’t have the means to pay your rent. Your guarantor should preferably be someone with a long history of gainful employment — it just won’t do to have another job-seeking friend vouch for you.
Presenting these documents directly to the landlord during the initial viewing will put you in the best spot to outbid fellow rent-seekers. It shows that you’re organized, and serious about renting the place.
Be friendly, be personable, be respectful. When two perfectly credible potential tenants are willing to pay the same price for a place, niceness can be instrumental in determining who emerges victorious. But from a completely logistical point of view, keep in mind that your landlord is going to have to deal with you at least every month, and no one wants an unpleasant, difficult tenant to communicate with.
When maintenance issues arise, it’s important that the channels of communication between you and your landlord are without friction. You’ll also be able to negotiate things like playing your music (kind of) loudly, having house parties, or using a common space for friends more easily if you’re on good terms with your landlord.
As someone who used to rent her spare room out frequently, I can assure you that cleanliness was a make or break factor for me. Especially if your landlord becomes your new roommate, or lives in the same complex as you, it’s crucial to at least come across as neat and clean when you’re viewing your future home for the first time.
- Remove your shoes if the landlord insists, or if there’s a sign up asking you to do so.
- Ensure that you emphasize how much you care about cleanliness and neatness when chatting with the landlord.
- If you’re a party person, try not to highlight that fact on your first encounter with your landlord. Negotiations can be done later, once you’ve secured the place. Partying = higher likelihood of breaking things and messing up the place = higher maintenance cost for the landlord.
Understand the Rental Market
Even if you’re desperate to secure a particular apartment or house, enter the viewing armed with facts. Know when landlords are trying to screw you over with price, and be willing to let go if someone else is outbidding you for a rent price that is absurd according to market standards. It’s better to temporarily live in a cheaper, perhaps less comfortable place until you find something worth your money, than getting caught up in the rat race where you end up committing a ludicrous $2400 in rent for a 1 bedroom apartment in downtown Toronto.
Enlist A Realtor
Finally, you can always outsource this entire job of finding an apartment to a real estate agent. Unfortunately though, it’s a landlord’s market in cities like Toronto and Vancouver, so renters end up paying a fee to the realtor if they get the home of their choice. The benefits of having a realtor are two-fold. First, they basically do the grunt work of finding available rentals for you. All you have to do is state your preferences and provide them with that binder of information verifying your credibility as a tenant. Second, they probably have much more experience negotiating with landlords than you do, and have the strategic know-how to persuade a landlord that a tenant is suitable.
Even if you follow all these steps to a tee, there is a chance you won’t get the home you want. You’re in a sense, at the mercy of landlords in a market where rental demand far exceeds supply.
Infuriatingly enough, race and religion are often discriminatory factors when landlords choose who they want to rent to, an issue that VICE Money plans to explore more thoroughly in the coming months.
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