Looking for an affordable rental unit?

Affordable housing is scarce, so being prepared is important.

Finding a safe, affordable place to live on a limited budget is especially challenging in today’s tight rental market. A good goal is to keep the monthly rental amount at or less than 30 percent of your gross monthly income (income before taxes and deductions). According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, families who pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing may become cost burdened and find it difficult to afford necessities such as food, clothing, transportation and medical care.

When searching for a new place to rent, it’s increasingly becoming important to be prepared before starting the search. In many communities there are more renters than available rental units so landlords can afford to be selective in deciding who they allow to rent from them. As a result, it is really important to take the appropriate steps so that you are ready to apply when the right place is found.

Here are some tips to prepare:

  1. Have all of your information ready when you complete the rental application. This should include past addresses, income and/or employment information, Driver’s license or State ID.

An incomplete application can be a reason to be denied by a potential landlord.

  1. Check your credit history before applying to be sure there is no incorrect information on your credit report. You can do this at no charge at www.annualcreditreport.com. Knowing what’s on your credit report provides an opportunity to use the positives to your advantage and to be ready to explain anything that may be hurting your credit score.
  2. Be ready to explain any irregularities such as employment gaps, credit issues and rental challenges. By getting ready with answers to any issues, you may have a better chance of being approved for the new place. Be honest and up front about any life events that you have experienced that can affect your ability to obtain a new rental. You may want to ask for letters of recommendation from employers, past landlords or clergy to strengthen your application.

Once the preparation stage is complete, now it’s time to look for places to rent. Though there are rentals listed in the newspaper, most of the listings are found online. Before searching, make a list of your criteria in a rental. Think about how many bedrooms are needed. Is an apartment or house better? How far from work are you?  What price range is affordable?

There are many websites to use on the search but make sure to use a legitimate site like Michigan Housing Locator or HUD.gov/local which offer a wide range of available rental units. Remember to visit the rental before signing anything. Beware of rental scams and don’t give any deposits or background check authorizations until you verify that you are dealing with a landlord who has the right to rent the unit.

To summarize, plan your search for a new place to live and the process will go more smoothly.

Michigan State University Extension offers financial literacy and homeownership workshops throughout the year to help you become financially healthy.  For more information of classes in your area, go to either http://msue.anr.msu.edu/events or www.mimoneyhealth.org.  Additionally, you can take the Financial Health Survey at MI Money Health to access if you’re financially healthy and discover more ways you can improve your financial health.  

Michigan State University Extension has released a new toolkit for homeowners who are experiencing or have previously experienced foreclosure. This toolkit will equip these individuals and families with tools to help them recover their financial stability, in the case that a recovery of their home is not possible. The toolkit is available to download free at MIMoneyHealth.org.

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