The rental market is out of control. Viral tweets are making their rounds, showing hopeful renters lining up outside of vacant apartments in New York City, and you probably know someone who has posted pleas for affordable open rooms and sublets. If you’re among those who are desperately searching for a rental right now, here are a few tips for your hunt, culled from Reddit.
Know your rights against housing discrimination
This advice comes up a lot, and it’s important: Familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations in your area, whether you already live there or are attempting—God help you—to move into a new city right now. Here is a handy list of landlord-tenant laws by state. Generally, you can’t be denied housing for reasons based on discrimination. Good luck proving it, of course, let alone litigating if you’re knee-deep in the rush to find a new place, but knowing those rights will help you navigate potential denials or other situations. In New York, for example, it might be useful to know that the maximum legal security deposit is equivalent to one month’s rent; receipts for that deposit aren’t required; rental agreements are required for tenancies longer than 12 months; and shorter tenancies don’t require a written agreement at all.
Keep timing in mind
You might not be able to time your move perfectly. New jobs, opportunities, or hurdles happen, and you might need to pack and find a new spot ASAP. If you can though, check out websites like StreetEasy or RentHop and see which months units similar to what you’re looking for have typically been rented. Give yourself as many weeks—or months—in advance as possible to find a good spot, and if that means you have to snatch a place up before your old lease is over and pay double rent for a month or two, figure out if you can budget for that. It might be your best option.
Don’t pay before you see a unit
Desperation in the air, but don’t hand over any money unless you’ve seen an apartment in person, checked out its faucets and outlets, and given it a real once-over. You’ll be on that lease for a year, most likely, and agreeing to something sight-unseen could make that a miserable year. Landlords know that people might be willing to pay to secure a spot before the first of the month. Do everything in your power to see it first.
Connect with your broker or potential landlord
When reaching out on a website like StreetEasy, give the renter or broker as much detail as you can. Your best chance at even being considered is to be direct, thorough, and anything but vague. Include your income, credit score, and availability for a showing, and even a potential move-in date.
Even better, call the broker. Their number might not be listed on the site you’re using, but a quick Google of their firm can give you what you need. They’re getting a lot of messages, but if you manage to get them on the phone, you have a direct line of communication for your questions and answers, and hopefully can schedule a viewing.