Know your credit history
Also check your credit history for errors. A history of late payments and low FICO score can scare off a landlord.
Look—and act—the part
Despite anti-discrimination laws, landlords can legally reject applicants for many reasons, so you need to sell yourself as you would in applying for a job. Obviously, that means looking like a person who will take good care of the place, pay the rent on time and not bother the neighbors. But the landlord also likes to feel the tenant will be good natured and cooperative when problems arise – that you won’t phone at 2 a.m. over a squeaky hinge, or make it difficult for a maintenance worker to get inside.
Get it in writing
Whether you rent from an individual or a company, the signed lease governs the relationship, so be wary of relying on oral promises that stray from terms of the contract. Make sure the lease is clear about each party’s obligations. Are you responsible for mowing the lawn or taking the garbage to the curb? How many people can occupy the home? What does the lease say about resolving disputes? Is there a mediation process?
Check your lease
In many cases, the renter is required to pay the first and last month’s rent plus a security deposit, often equal to a month’s rent. The lease should state that you are not to be charged for normal wear and tear, and ideally, it will provide some details as to what this entails. If you hang pictures, for example, you shouldn’t have to pay to spackle the holes and touch up the paint, but make sure the lease says so. Don’t count on getting the whole deposit back. Some landlords do everything they can to hold on to this money, knowing many tenants won’t bother with a legal fight.