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Rental Report: Apartment Hunting While Unemployed

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Editor’s Note: This biweekly sponsored column is written by Rick Gersten, founder and CEO of Urban Igloo, a rental real estate firm that matches up renters with their ideal apartments, condos or houses. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

Every apartment search has its challenges. An apartment search coupled with a job search adds to the challenge, but unemployment does not immediately disqualify you for an apartment. Going into your search well-armed will help you find a great place to live with minimal difficulty.

When searching for an apartment while in between jobs, enlisting the help of an agent will likely save you time and trouble, freeing up more of your  time to focus on the job search. If you decide to go at it alone, have a package ready to prove previous employment, good credit and rental history. Having money saved up to prove the ability to pay a few months while still searching is also a good idea if you are able.

Those applicants who are new to the job market, such as recent grads, may need to be ready to provide a co-signer as well. Keep in mind, some landlords will only accept in-state co-signers, so don’t let that surprise you. The co-signer also needs good credit and employment history, as well as proof that they are able to not only pay your rent should you be unable, but they must have income significant enough to cover their own bills as well.

Fair Housing laws do not protect the unemployed, so a landlord can still deny the application on this basis alone. However, if you are unemployed due to a disability, you are protected under Fair Housing provided you have good credit and proof of income from disability payments or another source.

Landlords are allowed to have minimum qualifications renters must meet, and they should be able to give you these qualifications upfront. In Virginia, they are allowed to collect a security deposit equal to two months rent, and if you want to and have the ability to pay rent up front, the landlord is required to keep all pre-paid rent in an escrow account until it becomes due. Cash on hand is helpful, but that should not be the only thing you have to offer. Proof of previous employment, schooling, etc. should also provide the landlord with some piece of mind.

As with any apartment search, preparation helps ease the stress. Keep in mind that a qualified agent may know of specific properties that will consider your situation and can help you get into a great place so you can focus on settling in and finding a job.

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to [email protected].

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

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