A lot of you have been telling me that you're having a hard time renting an apartment when you don't have a job lined up. I know it can be tough, and I know what I did when I was in your shoes, but I wanted to get you more valuable information that wasn't just from my experience. So, I sat down with my favorite apartment search site, The Rental Girl, and they gave really honest, helpful insight. These ladies really know their stuff when it comes to apartments, so I hope you find this as helpful as I did!
The Rental Girl Tells Us...
4 ways to get an apartment without a job
1. Get a co-signer
I get it. You just traveled all these miles away from your parents. You're ready to take on life without them! You're ready to DO THIS! Well, hold on just a sec. You may need those trusty parents a little bit longer. When you don't have a job/stable income, some landlords will allow you to get a co-signer on the lease, a.k.a. your parents or guardians. When your parents co-sign, it's telling the landlord that if you can't make the rent, your co-signers will be responsible. As annoying as this is, and makes you feel like a child, this idea is worth exploring. Just remember: it's not forever. This is your start. This is the beginning of your LA journey, and someday soon you will look back on this moment and think, "aww, remember when I needed Mom and Dad to co-sign?!"
2. Find a room with a roommate
Apparently 44% of renters in Los Angeles are renting with roommates. That's a really large number. Rent has been climbing, making it harder to afford. So people are bunking up. Plus, a roommate could be a great thing when you're brand new to a city—you'll be less alone, and have someone to help guide you. If you can find a person who is looking for a roommate to fill a room in a unit they already live in, that's going to be your best bet. The lease and/or landlord may be more lenient, and you may not have to get on the lease, but live as a sub-letter. The other great thing about this option is that the person living there probably has a sweet rent price locked in from the years they have been in the unit. So rent won't be as high for you as a new place would be.
3. Write an Intro Letter
I recently heard about this, and at first I was shocked it was happening, but after speaking with The Rental Girl, it makes total sense. Right now, the competition in LA for apartments is a little nuts. So, to make yourself stand out from other possible tenants, write an intro letter to the landlord that explains why you want to live there, why you would be a good tenant, and discuss any issues you have. Handing in an intro letter will make you stand out, and it creates a human connection, as opposed to the numbers the landlord sees on your application forms. If you don't have a job yet, tell the landlord that you are a go-getter, that you're hungry for work and that you will make sure you find work quickly. The intro letter is a great place to talk about those things.
You should think about the application process just as you would a job application process. Don't hand in crinkled papers, don't forget to include anything, don't be sloppy. The landlord will get other strong offers, so present yourself as a worthy tenant. Crinkled, sloppy, half-assed applications will end up in the trash.
4. Show bank statements
For those of you who don't have a job, but do have money saved in the bank, you can show your bank statements. Landlords like to see at least 3 months of summaries, but you can show more if you have it. If you are a freelancer or have a job like a waiter/bartender, it's imperative that you put your money in the bank. Even if you leave the restaurant with a wad of cash in your hands, it's so important to put that cash in your bank account—even if you withdraw it the next day. You need proof of your income, and cash doesn't count. Landlords want to see that you make at least 3 times the amount of the rent cost. For roommates, that "3x" is split evenly amongst you guys, even if you're not splitting the rent evenly.
What to do if the above doesn't work
When all else fails—and actually, you may want to consider this instead of finding an apartment right away—stay in an AirBnb rental. AirBnb is meant for short term housing. The places are furnished, and affordable. AirBnb is a fantastic option when you first move to LA because it can help achieve peace of mind for you. Instead of being super stressed when you get here— looking for an apartment and looking for a job—try booking an AirBnb to relax, and then focus your energies on just finding a job. You can worry about finding an apartment a little later, once you have a better sense of the neighborhoods, and hopefully job prospects. I really wish AirBnb existed when I moved to Los Angeles. It's scary when you don't have a place to live, and AirBnb is like a temporary place to live while you search. Helps relieve stress, for sure!
Payments, Refrigerators, and Safety, Oh my!
When you're getting an apartment, you can expect to pay at least 2 months worth of rent. Landlords usually ask for first month's rent, and one month's rent for a security deposit (that you should get back when you vacate the unit). Do not apply for an apartment unless you have the money ready to go.
I mention this all the time, but yes, there are many units in LA that do not come with refrigerators. I know it's super annoying, but it's just one of LA's quirks. The Rental Girl brilliantly explained that you shouldn't let a lack of fridge deter you from renting a unit if you really love the unit. Every apartment in LA is unique, so if you say "Man, I totally love this apartment, but it doesn't have a fridge. I'll just try to find a similar one that does have a fridge.", chances are you will NOT find a similar one with a fridge. And while new fridges can be super expensive, you can get used ones on Craigslist for pretty cheap. So if you find a unit you love that doesn't have a fridge, keep in mind that you can buy one and it won't be the end of the world.
Everyone always wants to know which neighborhoods are the safe ones. Well, most neighborhoods have patches of awesome and patches of not-so-awesome. The Rental Girl gets this question all the time, and I think their insight is pretty spot-on: everyone's safety factor is going to be different. What feels safe to one person, may not feel safe to another. Also, keep in mind, Los Angeles is still a city, so there will be random acts of violence every now and then in random places. The Rental Girl suggests walking up the street at night. Get a feel of how safe or unsafe you think the area is. I also drive by during the day. I can usually get a sense fairly quickly if I feel safe or not.
Why I absolutely love the rental girl
Um, there are VIDEO TOURS of almost every unit they list. You can literally sit in your PJs at home, and see an entire apartment. It's so great. Also, TRG weeds out the crappy listings. They only present the good stuff. So you know you're going to like most of the units on their site (as opposed to sites like Craisglist that list creepy stuff). Third best thing about their site is that the listings are broken down by neighborhood. So if you know you want to live in Silverlake, you can look only in Silverlake. Sites like Craigslist will describe a unit being in or near a certain neighborhood and it's usually a big fat lie. If you type in "Silverlake" in their search bar, you will get soooo many units that are not in Silverlake. TRG doesn't lie. All listings are true to their neighborhood tag!
2. They help you, like, for real
TRG walks you through the entire lease agreement so you know what you're getting into. They also work closely with the landlords, so they won't have you singing up with bad landlords. Another super helpful part of TRG is that they do a walk-through of the unit with you, after you sign the lease, to make note of any and every scratch, dent or other maintenance issues. That way, you give the landlord one list at the beginning of things you want fixed, instead of learning about issues slowly over time. This ensures that your unit will be in its best condition when you move in. TRG helps create a really smooth transition for you. They are just so awesome. Their apartments tend to be a little on the higher end side, and this is why: they go above and beyond to help you secure a safe place to live.
Moral of the story, folks
The bitch of trying to find an apartment without a job is like a right-of-passage in Los Angeles. EVERYONE has to do it! I know it's frustrating, but it's a temporary situation. Most people don't stay in their first apartment forever. If you don't love your first place, you can always move when your lease is up, and when that happens, you will have a much easier time because you'll have a job by then! So, smile, and enjoy the fact that this little hurdle is temporary. And you're officially accepted into Club Los Angeles. :)
If you have any more questions about this, please do not hesitate to comment below. I'm really good at replying back!