TOP 10 TIPS: How to Snag a Rocking Rental in LA (Hint: Be Prepared)

TOP 10 TIPS: How to Snag a Rocking Rental in LA (Hint: Be Prepared)

Wanna jump on one of those fab houses for rent in the Hollywood Hills? Preferably one with a view of The Sign? Trying to snag that cute apartment for rent in Santa Monica before that chick in your acting class nabs it out from under you? We’ve got two words for you: Be. Prepared.  You’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy. Competition for rentals in LA can be  fierce! Take our Top 10 Tips for locking down that totally rockin’ rental:

1. First of all, make sure you’re not getting scammed
Does the rent look way too good to be true? Is the owner asking you to go to the vacancy on your own then mail him the deposit? Probably a scam. Any ad that asks for money up front, aside from an application fee, is most likely a scam.

2.  Get your act together
Gather all the information you need to apply in advance: present and previous rental history, landlord names and numbers, addresses, references, job history. Take a look at a standard application form online to have an idea what info you need. You can download ours here. There is only so much information a landlord can request from an applicant on an application, so all California applications request similar information. Most landlords throughout L.A. require the same thing: complete application, copy of ID, and a verification of income. There is little unique information a landlord is allowed to request so the information sought is standard. It’s not difficult to prepare for this process preparation can be the one thing between you getting or losing your next dream home. Gather all your information in advance. You’ll be thankful you did when you’re filling out an application on the spot for a highly sought-after rental.

3. Be prepared financially and know your budget
The majority of rentals in LA require 1st months rent plus a security deposit in the amount of 1 months rent at lease signing. If you have a pet, expect to pay a larger pet deposit and that is often $300-500 for cat and $500-$1000 for dog. California law allows landlords to charge up to 2 months rent as security deposit for an unfurnished rental and 3 months rent for a furnished rental. Though that is not the norm, plan your budget accordingly. Budget for a variety of moving costs that may include your van rental, movers, cleaning, new curtains/blinds, and all the miscellaneous expenses associated with moving. It can add up. Have your move-in money available and ready to go. Landlords will require a cashier’s check, money order or maybe even a wire for the correct amount. If you’re not ready to pay this, the landlord may move on to the next applicant who is.

4. Research the vacancy in advance
When you see the perfect rental online, make sure you read the ad thoroughly. Check out all the details and features. Look at the photos and watch the video tour. Make sure in advance that the unit has the amenities you need. Call the landlord and make an appointment to view. Maybe he can’t show it to you right away, or you have to wait for the open house. In the meantime, drive by the property and make sure you like the outside of the building, the street, and the neighborhood. Ask questions: are pets allowed? Are you allowed to install a dishwasher? Are you allowed to paint?

5. Arrive to the showing prepared
Can we say it enough? Locking down a rental in LA is competitive! Once you have done your research, the most important step to securing a high-demand rental is to show up prepared. Ask the landlord in advance to email you his requirements and application. Our application is downloadable from our website here. Bring a complete package. What is a complete package? I learned this from a New Yorker who rented a home from me years ago. He showed up to the showing with 3 application packages in his bag. He was seeing back-to-back vacancies and he was prepared to apply to multiple properties. Each package had all his info neatly organized and stapled together: front page with his name and cell phone in large letters, cover letter, application filled out with all t’s crossed and i’s dotted, copy of ID, and verification of income. He had the screening fee in cash paper clipped to the package. My first thought was, “I think the owner is going to like this guy.” Because he was so prepared, I was able to quickly and efficiently process his application and get a response from the landlord. To find out how to be prepared to apply for The Rental Girl listings, view this page here.

6. Notify your references in advance
Call your previous landlords and references and notify them that you have listed them on your application to rent. Request that they promptly respond to inquiries from landlords. You don’t want the landlord to go with another applicant because it took your references too long to return his calls. You can ask previous landlords for written recommendations as well to help facilitate the process.

7. Know your credit score
So many people fall victim to identity theft, false reporting on their credit reports or ignorant of bills that fall into collections. Keep an eye on your report so you can address issues in advance.

8. Negotiate
If you know there are multiple applicants, you can offer the landlord a longer lease term, a more ideal move in date, or a larger deposit. Don’t make an offer you are not comfortable with. But if you are willing to stay for 2 years, let the owner know.

9. Be responsive
If the landlord calls you to verify information or to request more, return his calls right away and get his requests to him in a timely manner. Remember, time is of the essence.

10. Join our VIP List and other similar lists on other rental sites
Get ahead of the game. Rentals move quickly so be the first to know when they hit the market. Many rental websites will send you an email when they add a new listing to their site. Here at The Rental Girl we have a FREE VIP LIST that you can join that does just that. Enter in your price range, neighborhood and criteria and we’ll email you as soon as a new listing hits the market that matches your criteria. It’s free!

“Top 10 Tips” is a series of helpful tips brought to you by the lovely real estate agents at The Rental Girl . The Rental Girl is a leasing agency with branches throughout Los Angeles. Each branch is operated by a unique agent who specializes in her area. All agents at The Rental Girl are California licensed Real Estate agents who specialize in helping renters and homebuyers with all their real estate needs. 


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  1. TOP 10 TIPS: Find A Rental — The Rental Girl Blog - May 9, 2012

    […] to someone else if you waste 1/2 day collecting your application materials. Read our blog post here about securing that perfect rental and visit our website for a detailed explanation of what our clients usually require in an […]

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