Submitted by Jen Jones on Sat, 07/18/2009 - 5:56pm
As we've discussed here several times, there is a very good chance you can keep your home when filing bankruptcy. However, those of you who rent may find reason to worry about that ubiquitous "credit check" that shows up on every new rental application.
Whether a faceless, multi-billion dollar property management company or a private duplex owner down the street, landlords need to know they can collect rent. It's normal to be nervous about the process. But just like all other sorts of transactions and business relationships, your best first step is to be open about your financial history.
When seeking an apartment after bankruptcy, the smoothest route may be to seek out a private landlord. In other words, a local owner who is either in the apartment business full-time with a small operation or who just has a couple of places around the city. One of the disadvantages inherent to many Class-A apartment communities operated by national real estate firms is that they may not have flexibility in negotiating lease terms. While an amenity-rich, intricately landscaped apartment community is an attractive option, the leasing representatives are limited in their ability to negotiate. Even if you can afford the rent, the company may have a credit report policy that is simply too stringent.
If you run in to this, ask to see a manager. Not unlike a car dealership, the "salesman" rarely makes the final decision. It is worth your time to be face-to-face with someone with decision-making power for the benefit of learning to better vocalize your financial history and demonstrate that paying your bills is a serious priority. Clearly, a good job and proven steps toward a new credit history will help your case.
That being said, higher-end apartment homes come with a cost. How else are they going to pay for the pool, theater, gym, basketball courts and arborists? Ask yourself, "Will I even use all these amenities?" If you can save the money for a gym membership by working out at your apartment complex, great. Can you exercise in the pool? Is parking a hassle? Financial decisions, especially after bankruptcy, demand looking at the specifics; so weigh your considerations carefully.
Private landlords will rarely have the type of amenities available that a commercial apartment complexes do but that doesn't mean that they are less desirable options. For the smaller landlord who values his properties, keeping a nice, well-maintained unit is critical to attracting solid tenants.
Perhaps the best advantage to working with a private landlord is their ability to be flexible with the rent amount or payment schedule. You may find some landlords are open to you paying twice a month or just in cash. They will still seek market rates for number of bedrooms and location, but for good tenants, they are more likely to have some flexibility. Additionally, you may not be subject to strict credit rules printed in bold on the tenth page of a complicated lease. Most individual landlords have simplified leases that clearly describe the most important rules and fees, and are more likely to be understanding about your financial situation.
In whichever direction you head for an apartment, always be prepared with knowledge of your credit history. Be alert to its status, knowing exactly what appears on it and in fact, have a copy of it with you when looking at an apartment. In addition, bring a recent pay stub, tax returns and even a reference letter if possible. The more prepared you are about your financial situation, the more apt you are get find a comfortable, affordable place to call home.
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