Anyone can fall on bad times - it happens. Those bad times can cause financial difficulties which harm your credit. When they progress, they may cause you to not be able to pay your rent, and we all know that can result in an eviction. A question I've seen online is, "can I rent if I have an eviction on my record?" I will tell you it may be very difficult. But let's look at what you can do to increase your chances of finding a place.
An eviction occurs when a landlord, owner, or property manager files legal papers with the court system to remove a person from a rental property. This can occur for a number of reasons, but probably the most common reason is not paying rent. Other reasons include violating the terms of the lease (like having people not listed on your lease living there, or living in a no-pets property and violating that rule), routinely paying your rent late, doing something illegal while residing there, or causing damage to the property. Once the paperwork has been filed, you'll be notified that the eviction process has started and the reason behind it. Laws vary from state to state, but in Florida, depending on the type of eviction (three-day notice to pay rent or quit, seven-day notice to cure, or a seven-day unconditional quit notice), the process can move quickly. Without question, it's best to avoid being evicted if at all possible. An eviction becomes a part of your legal record and landlords generally do not want to rent to people that have been evicted. Under certain circumstances, a person can attempt to fight an eviction (say, for example, if the property they were renting wasn't being maintained and they withheld rent as a result). But if an eviction occurs, many landlords won't want to consider the reason behind it - they'll see an eviction and not want to rent to you.
So what can you do if you have an eviction on your record in order to have a chance of renting again? Consider these steps:
Be Honest: my advice always begins this way. It's very difficult to find a rental where the landlord doesn't check anything. Some will look at your credit history, others check into your background, and some examine your rental history. If there's an eviction on your record, it will be spotted. My realtor's policy is that if a prospective tenant provides false, misleading, or misrepresented information, that can result in the application being rejected. By being honest up front, the person can avoid wasting money on a rental application that would never be approved. Some landlords will consider the reason behind the eviction when making their decision, like a divorce where the person leaving was the breadwinner of the family or a critical illness or injury that prevented the person from working for an extended period of time.
Be Sure Your Income Can Cover the Rent: many landlords require tenants to earn at least three times their monthly rent payment each month. Check out this article, "How much can you afford in monthly rent," to get an understanding of the amount you can truly afford. Don't rent something you know you can't afford or you may find yourself being late on payments, missing payments, and possibly being evicted again!
Be Polite and Act in a Professional Manner: if you come across as hostile over an eviction, the person you'd like to consider renting to you may see you as not worth the risk. Remember, the new potential landlord did not cause your situation! Dress nicely when meeting with someone you're hoping will rent to you, be polite, and be seen as a good and decent person. Be on time for the appointment and be sure to thank the person for meeting with you and showing you the place they have available.
Work at Fixing Your Credit: an eviction will most likely hurt your credit if you owed money to the property owner. Do everything you can do to improve your credit score before trying to rent. That includes paying off balances, keeping revolving credit line balances low (like credit cards), paying bills on time, working at correcting errors on your credit report, clearing up collections, and not filing for new credit unless you absolutely need it (because filing for credit will most likely hurt your credit score). If you have less than perfect credit, check out this article that provides tips for renting if you have bad credit.
Gather References: if you have a previous landlord that might be willing to state that you were a good renter that paid rent on time, ask them to write a letter of recommendation for you. See if your employer might be willing to write a letter outlining your work ethic and your history with their business. Ask people that would be viewed as good character references to write letters on your behalf.
Have Proof of Employment Ready: especially if there's something negative in your history like an eviction or bad credit, make sure you have proof of your employment ready to go. This should most likely include current pay stubs and tax returns documenting your income.
Have Proof of Savings Ready: not only should you walk into a new rental situation with letters of reference and proof of income, but you should also have proof of your financial situation ready to go. Consider being ready to share bank statements to show that you are in better financial shape than when you were evicted.
Try to Correct the Eviction if Possible: if you were evicted for non-payment of rent, you might try contacting the owner and seeing if they would consider removing the eviction if you pay your debt to them. Some will and some won't, but it may not hurt to ask.
Get a Co-Signer: some landlords won't consider renting to a person that's been evicted unless they have someone willing to co-sign for them. The person that co-signs your lease understands that if you don't pay, they will be legally responsible for your rent.
Offer to Pre-Pay: if you were evicted for non-payment, offer to pay rent in advance. This might include agreeing to always be three months paid in advance of when your rent is due or paying a larger security deposit than the landlord is requiring up front.
Check with Friends & Family: if you are struggling to find a rental on your own, try checking with friends and family to see if they might have something available that they could rent to you.
Some landlords simply won't risk renting to someone that's been evicted, but others may be willing to consider it. Do everything possible to make a positive impression on any new potential landlord. Understand that your problems are just that - your problems. Take the time to explain what you've done to correct your past mistakes and don't hesitate to share what you've learned from them. People won't be willing to rent to you if they feel you are likely to repeat your errors.