Even if you've had a bankruptcy or eviction, it's possible to rent again. But you need to be prepared for the process.
"Be upfront about your financial situation," says Shane Lee of RentHop, an apartment search service that uses a sorting algorithm to rank apartments by quality in major metropolitan areas.
He advises would-be renters not to hide or lie about a bankruptcy or eviction.
Landlords will review your credit history, so do your best to improve your credit score if it's low. Cleaning up your credit includes paying bills on time, avoiding late fees and not carrying too big of balances.
"If you begin improving your credit immediately after bankruptcy, your credit score will soon start to reflect the positive results," says Lee, who also suggests renters save enough cash so they can offer a large security deposit, a gesture that shows you're serious about your rental commitment.
Joan Mershon, a tenant education trainer at LifeAbility, advises renters to study up on what it means to be a good tenant.
"After an eviction, landlords are often impressed seeing that someone took a tenant training class," she says.
Mershon recommends classes such as those from RentWell.org, in which renters take a 15-hour or longer class spread out over six weeks. Renters learn about a landlord's expectations; effective communication with landlords and neighbors; budgeting; the importance of maintaining a rental unit; and successful move-in and move-out.
Taking this type of class "is the single best thing any renter should do, even more so if they have an eviction," she says.
Realtor Kathryn Bishop of Keller Williams Realty advises renters to tell the truth on their application and write a letter explaining the financial situation.
Stay calm, and be ready to answer a potential landlord's questions patiently and clearly.
"Don't be anxious and try to force it," says Lee. "If the landlord doesn't want to rent the apartment out to you, don't waste your time or leave a bad impression. Move on to your next option."
Get references who can vouch for your character and your fiscal ability, especially if they can explain how you've improved since your bankruptcy or eviction.
In the case of bankruptcy, renters should talk to their bankruptcy attorney about local and federal laws.
"If your bankruptcy qualifies, you could reassure the landlord in your letter that you know you can't go bankrupt again for some time period and that you've reorganized your life and are now paying your obligations on time," says Bishop.
For an eviction, consider contacting your former landlord to ask to have the eviction removed from your credit report. If so, the landlord may ask you to pay for repairs. If you strike a deal, get the terms in writing so you have proof of the arrangement.
*Get a Roommate
You might consider getting a roommate. If so, find one who has a clean rental history and good credit. At least in the beginning, that roommate can smooth the way for you to re-enter the rental market. Over time, your credit will improve and landlords will be more willing to rent to you despite a past eviction or bankruptcy.
*Rent From Private Homeowners
Private homeowners may be likelier to rent to you despite your financial history. They may or may not do credit checks. Plus they may be likelier to discuss your rental past and give you a second chance if you can prove you've changed your ways.
*Get a Guarantor
Though it's not an easy thing for most people, you might be able to find a guarantor, such as a family member or close friend with good credit history, who will co-sign your rental agreement.
The catch? If you default on rent or get in trouble with the landlord for any reason, the guarantor will be financially responsible for your behavior.