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Your Rental Image

Put your best foot forward and keep it out of your mouth when you're talking to a prospective landlord.

Presenting yourself in person:
  • Don't be late for a meeting with a landlord. Don't skip out on a meeting either. A landlord may assume that if you bail on a meeting, you'll be likely to bail on rent. If you have to reschedule, call as soon as possible.
  • Manners matter. Being rude or demanding will not get you in the door to a new place faster. What landlord wants to deal with a tenant with an attitude who doesn't care about other people?
  • Dress like you're going to work or to a job interview.  "Neat and clean" communicates how you plan to take care of your rental home.'
Telephone tips:
  • Don't give personal information over the phone (income, family information, why you're looking for a rental home). Meet the landlord in person at the rental unit first, and then sell yourself as a good tenant.
  • Prepare a script that you can read out lout if you are directed to voicemail. Not only will your message contain all of the important details, but you will also sound more "professional." Who wouldn't want a tenant with all of their ducks in a row?
Talking about eviction or a bad rental history:
  • "Have you ever been evicted?" is a loaded question and is often used to disqualify applicants BEFORE she or he is given a chance to apply. Don't say "yes" or it may be over before you can even explain. A sure fire way to respond to questions like this is:  "what is your policy on prior eviction?"
  • Time matters in your answer eviction or anything else bad on your record.  Most everyone is allowed a youthful discretion if you can show that your behavior has changed.  Example:  I was evicted in 1980 but not since then.
  • Explanations matter:  I was evicted when a room mate skipped out on me and left me with a lease I couldn't afford.  I have learned my lesson since then, and paid off the whole debt.

Be positive- don't tell the landlord all your problems.

  • Landlords are generally not social workers. They are concerned about their business needs, not your family needs.  Don't tell them how unfair life has been. They may interpret this as making excuses, rather than taking responsibility.
  • Think about what landlords want in a prospective tenant and tell them how you can meet their expectations.
*Special thanks to Joyce Hill and Patti Morrow for their input in creating the content on this page.

What social media "tells" your prospective landlord
    If you are a poker player, you know about "tells"--little gestures that your opponent makes across the table that signal something about their cards. Social media could be a  "tell" to a prospective landlord. Photos of drunken parties, complaints about conditions or current landlords, associations with other "deadbeats" could be shaping your rental profile. 
  •     In a New York Times article, Haley Mlotek wrote: "When I considered social media at all, I usually dismissed it as nonsense: a goof, a lark, something silly for those moments when I didn’t want to work or wait for a date. I recognized how vain the entire enterprise was — I don’t post photos of my lavender hair for my health, I do it for the ego-boosting flood of likes — but I still held on to the belief that I wasn’t taking anything too seriously."   Maybe it's time to get more serious about what you say about yourself on line.
    • Can a prospective landlord require me to provide my Twitter handle or Facebook page? Well...not require exactly, but landlord may deny your application if you don't provide the info. Your postings on social media are a public record. 
    • Isn't social media screening a violation of fair housing rights? In the hands of an unwary or naive landlord, maybe, but most professional landlords know that they have to be careful to consider only info that is relevant to the question of whether your behavior makes you suitable as a tenant. Still, if it's a "tie score" on the factual criteria, the impressions from social media could make a difference. Example: Two applicants with comparable credit report and landlord references, but one applicant used social media to complain about or ridicule the current rental home or landlord. 
    • What's a prospective landlord looking for on my social media accounts? All Property Manage says: "Social media can provide all sorts of useful information about potential tenants, and can be particularly useful for confirming information on their rental applications." More here
   When the Chicago Tribune tackled this issue a couple years ago in an advice column, their article recommended that landlords use caution, but admitted that it's unlikely that a prospective tenant would be able to find out what info was accessed. 
Then, too, there's the problem of having a data broker scoop up your social media info and bundle the into with lots of other data about you into a "profile" and sell that "profile" to a prospective landlord. Your prospective landlord may not even know the source of the info that ended up with a screening profile like: "Rolling the dice" or "Small Town, Shallow Pockets". More here and here and here.
Homeseeker beware! You are creating the evidence that may be used against you when you post about yourself on line. Think of social media as a billboard...not a personal friend.

Notes & Links

Maybe it's not your image, maybe it's discrimination.  Learn more here