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The Real Reason You Didn't Score That Sweet Apartment

You've been answering ads and putting in applications like it's your job, but you're just not getting the apartment, time and time again. Want to know why you're not getting the apartment? It might not be what you think.
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Written by Elisa Krovblit

You've been answering ads and putting in applications like it's your job, but you're just not getting the apartment, time and time again. Want to know why you're not getting the apartment? It might not be what you think.

First off, vacancy rates across the country are near record lows. It's supply and demand, and without supply to meet the high demand, it's a competitive market. Very, very competitive. Where a decade ago landlords were offering move-in incentives like a flatscreen TV or a free month of rent just to tip the scales in their favour because vacancy rates were so high, now they hold all the cards -- and prospective tenants are experiencing everything from bidding wars to bribery just to find a new apartment.

You may think that you're a prime candidate -- good job, good credit, lots of savings -- but with a large pool of applications for every apartment, why are you getting passed over? Apartment building property management want to be discerning, and privately owned rental condo owners are even more concerned about guarding their investment, so you may be surprised to find out why you're getting passed over.

Living at home:

You're ready to move out. You're financially stable, lots of savings (thanks mom and dad for not charging rent!), great job. First-time renters aren't exactly the ideal. While you look fine on paper and you may think you know how to live on your own, first-time renters have a pretty steep learning curve. You've never paid rent, so do you really know what you can afford? You really have no experience paying this exorbitant expense every month and still budgeting for hydro, gas, TV, cable, Internet, food, clothes, etc. You can't be prepared for the massive expense until you've experienced it, and landlords are wary of taking the chance. Plus, first-time renters are often annoying. They don't know the rules and regs yet, and will often have unrealistic expectations -- like having the landlord pay for and change the light bulbs.

Talking too much:

You want to paint a picture of why you should get the apartment -- and it may serve you well to plead your case, but be careful of what you divulge. Telling horror stories about how you need to move because of your current crazy landlord probably won't help you. Explaining sagas about your ex probably won't bode well, either. A new landlord doesn't want to be involved in your drama. While you feel your new home is very personal, this is actually very much a business transaction, so behave like you mean business.

Talking too little:

You go in and look around, trying to hold your cards close. You don't want to let on how much you like the place because you don't want the landlord to have the upper hand in negotiations. Guess what? The landlord has the upper hand, regardless, and there's nothing you can do about it. Show them you like the place (without getting silly) because landlords are more comfortable with tenants who, they feel, will love and respect the place. They want you to like their home, and appreciate that you want to be there. So show it.

Showing up unprepared:

Don't waste a landlord's time. They've got a lot of people interested and you've got one chance to make a good first impression. Show up prepared. Have your chequebook and your references if you're serious about renting. You know the application is going to require the names, phone numbers and email addresses of your current and past landlords, your employer and your personal references, and you know you're going to have to give a deposit of at least last month's rent. This is no surprise, so don't come unprepared, or you're just wasting time.

Want to stand out as a better candidate?

Show up with a copy of your credit report, a letter of employment or your last three pay stubs, your bank statement, letters of reference from your current or past landlord and from those you'd expect to vouch for you. Having all of these in a nice neat package to leave with the landlord will really impress and up your chances.

Looking the part:

Sometimes viewings are not at convenient times -- you're racing over after work, or can just pop by before your soccer tournament. Landlords understand that you're busy and that you're not going to get your hair done just for the viewing. That being said, you will be judged, harshly, if you show up looking like you couldn't be bothered to change your shirt for three days or shower in the last five.

You need to be presentable.

If you're a mechanic and you're still in some grease-stained jeans, that likely won't set you back, but if you show up looking like you barely care about your own appearance, most landlords will assume that if you can't even take care of yourself, how will you ever take care of their property? This doesn't mean you need to conform -- a well-put-together goth or a clean, presentable hipster aren't the same as a hung-over slob.

Starting off with requests:

Want to know what a landlord wants? A low-maintenance tenant. Someone who wants the place as-is and isn't going to create issues where none exist. Even if you think you're being helpful or bringing something to the table with your personal skills and contacts, if you make yourself a prospective tenant that sounds like they'll be a hassle, you're likely being moved straight into the "no" pile. So don't ask if you can change all of the light fixtures or if you can have your buddy come in and replace the vanity and toilet because you prefer a different look. That's something that may or may not be negotiated when you move in, but isn't something meant for the first meeting. You're just hurting your chances.


Bad day? Fighting with your girlfriend? Didn't get that promotion?

Don't care.

Business is business. Wherever your mind is, get it back into the right place before you go to the viewing. Nobody wants to deal with a teary mess or a grouchy grump. And if you're in the middle of a love tiff, can it when you get there and make sure you and your partner present a united front. Nobody wants to envision late-night calls from the neighbours over your domestic disputes.

The wrong way to ask a question:

Wrong: I have a band, will that bother the neighbours? Right: Is this a quiet place? Is there much of an issue with noise?

Wrong: Do you mind if I paint the walls black? Right: Do you permit painting the walls?

Make sure you're not presenting anything the landlord may find questionable. You have to follow the rules when you take an apartment, but highlighting potential issues unnecessarily will certainly not do you any good.

So, being the perfect tenant you are, now do you see any reasons why you may not be getting the apartment time after time?

Want to hear the other side of the story? Check out "The journey to my first rental home (was pretty rough)" by YP NextHome Senior Editor Sonia Bell.

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