Attention, Renters: Here’s What Your Landlord Wishes You Knew

Whether your one-bedroom overlord is stingy and nosey or generous and courteous, their tips are for anyone who doesn't want to have to live in a tent.

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Brevity is the soul of a successful tenant

01_rent_Things_your_landlord_wish_you_knewistock/undrey When owners post a unit for rent, they don't have time to answer a constant stream of queries following the initial "I'm interested" missive—nor do they really want to. "Don't pester me with repeated phone calls," says David Olson (not his real name), who manages five rental units in the West End of Portland, Maine. "Prospective tenants should follow up with a single email, and that's it." Here are the things a real estate agent won't tell you.

Credit is the best credential

02_Credit_Things_your_landlord_wish_you_knew_istock/bernie_photo Your credit history is a big reveal that can usually seal the deal. Here's a quick number crunch. And if your credit is lower than you'd like, use these strategies to get back in financial shape.
  • Excellent credit — 750 and above
  • Good credit — 700 to 749
  • Fair credit — 650 to 699
  • Poor credit — 600 to 649
  • Bad credit — anything below 600
  • You-might-be-dead credit — somewhere around -75 (Okay, we made this one up)

Be awesome online

03_Online_Things_your_landlord_wish_you_knewistock/HStocks According to Olsen, references are less important than one might think. For the most part, landlords are looking to fill vacancies as quickly as possible rather than spend hours making phone calls and sending out emails. "The one reference we always check is Facebook and Google," David adds. "References from your most recent landlords are rarely considered. If you're a bad tenant, your old landlord would say anything to get you out." Here are the photos you should never post on social media, whether potential landlords are peeking or not.

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It's on you to report grievances

04_report_Things_your_landlord_wish_you_knewistock/demaerre Olsen admits that landlords are never going to be proactive when it comes to damage within your domicile. If there's an issue, you have to make it known immediately and, if necessary, repeatedly. "For the sake of time, I avoid asking tenants probing questions like 'how's the stove working?' or 'do you hear a funny sound when you flush the toilet?'" adds David. "You've got to come to me with that."

They know you know

05_know_Things_your_landlord_wish_you_knewistock/andresr Unless the Lords of Land plan on preying solely within the clueless college grad market: Your buildings proprietors check the same Craigslists and Zillows for current rent rates that you do. They need to stay competitive just as much as you need a deal. Be aware that they're aware when you're initiating a deal.

When a feline ain't fine

06_CATS_Things_your_landlord_wish_you_knew_istock/fatesun The applications of a new tenant prove that an old tenet remains true: Honesty is still the best policy. "We once rented to someone who listed NO PETS, yet a quick Google search turned up a blog about her cat," laughs David. "I never trusted her after that." Olsen adds that employment history is the most important thing wannabe renters most often overlook.

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Get cozy with Cozy

07_Cozy_Things_your_landlord_wish_you_knew_istock/fandresr This online platform is friends to both tenant and landlord alike. For the latter: Cozy reduces the time it takes to screen renters and collect said rent. For the former: The site offers "set it and forget it" software, making those monthly collections automatic. These are some of the best apps for staying organized.

Timely rent is relative

08_Bill_Things_your_landlord_wish_you_knew_istock/LDProd Olsen maintains that rent received five days after the first of the month is, by definition, "late" as it applies to your lease. But, like everything in life, there's always a wee bit of wiggle room. "Generally landlords don't want to assess late fees or have to ask for the rent," says David. "For tenants who may be traveling or forgetful, they have pre-written checks for a few months in advance."

Stand up for your rights

09_Rights_Things_your_landlord_wish_you_knew_istock/Portra Any landlords worth their weight in "where's the rent?" notes have educated themselves on local Fair Housing laws—because there are obvious legal downsides if they don't. But here's the thing: They expect prospective tenants to do the same, as their overall cluelessness can hurt them as much as you. Landlordology.com breaks it all down here.

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Screens (not the window kind)

010_search_Things_your_landlord_wish_you_knew_istock/shapecharge When it comes to one's mind and moving, the old NBC public service announcements remain right: The more you know... "Tenants should be Googling their landlords," advises David. "The application process isn't just about screening renters; you should screen your landlord and the company too."

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