Before you start your search, it's important to get organized and do your homework! Here are a few things to consider:
What can I afford?
You’ll first need to determine what you can afford. Review your current expenses and what your budget can accommodate each month.
Where do I want to live?
It’s helpful to narrow down your search to the key neighborhoods you want to live in. Keep in mind, you may need to expand your search (based on what’s affordable for the area), but it helps to have a starting point. If you have children, you may want to check the available school options in your area. Accessibility to public transportation and key places like the grocery store are also important factors to consider.
What do I want/need?
Make sure you have a good idea of what you're looking for in a rental property and prioritize accordingly. There are many quality and affordable rentals — from apartments to single-family homes — so make sure you conduct a thorough search. You may not be able to get everything on your wish list, but knowing what your requirements are before you get started will make your search easier.
What do I need to qualify?
You should gather your personal records (Social Security card, Driver's License, etc.) as well as proof of income (pay stubs, W2s, bank statements, etc.). Do you have a roommate or co-signer on the lease? Their information will be required too. Some landlords may require a credit check and/or conduct a background check. So it's a good idea to have references available and, if you have a record of on-time payments with a previous rental, be sure to have that handy.
What are my rights?
Know your legal rights when renting. This can vary from one town to the next, so always check local regulations for specific details.
No matter the local regulations, you are protected against discrimination under the Fair Housing Act. If you believe you experienced rental discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), disability, familial status, or national origin, file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Now that you know what you can afford, what you're looking for, and what you'll need, it's time to start your search!