Apartment Hunting When You’re Out of Work


Getting laid off is hard enough, but when a loss of income means your emergency fund is being drained to pay rent, you may be forced to downsize.  And you’ll have to convince a landlord to rent to you, when you have no money coming in.

When you’re unemployed, you’ll have to look at your whole financial status, including how long you think you’ll be out of work and whether you’re getting help from your parents, says LaLa Wang, president of MLX, a real estate services company that provides no-fee rental listings. 

“You probably want to be conservative,” says Wang.  “Live at home. Live with friends. Roommating is probably a less costly alternative to taking on the whole rent yourself.”


If you’re considering using a broker to find a cheaper apartment, find out what kind of background checks they do.  The main consideration will probably be your credit history, so know what’s on your credit report.

Many brokers work with large building management companies, which can have stricter credit score, income and employment requirements. These days it’s doubtful you’ll find a broker who won’t ask for some proof of income. 

If you plan to live with a roommate or significant other who is employed, they should be the one getting their credit checked and income verified.  But remember, their name will be the one on the lease.

Friends and Family

If moving back in with your parents is out of the question, tell your friends and family about your situation.  With all the recent layoffs and pay cuts, you may know other people who are hard up for cash, need help with rent and are looking for a roommate to help make ends meet.

Local Listings

Through your local newspaper, Craigslist and other listings, you might have more luck connecting with an owner and renting directly from them. 

You might improve your chances by being honest and explaining your situation. You could mention your previous income, job prospects, savings and any severance payments and unemployment benefits you’re receiving. (Just remember not to post personal information like this online.)

“You may be able to work out a deal if you agree to pay an additional month’s security, or sometimes a whole year’s rent upfront,” notes Wang, who’s planning to launch a roommate matching service by the end of this summer.

Local listings like those on Craigslist often include week-to-week and month-to-month room or apartment sharing ads as well.

Get a Co-Signer

If you’ve been turned down by brokers and landlords and scoured ads in your local newspaper and online to no avail, you’ll need to find a co-signer or guarantor in order to get a new apartment.  They’ll be subject to even higher credit score and income requirements. And they’ll be taking a serious risk by agreeing to be held responsible for your missed payments, so don’t give them any reason to think they might get burned.

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