Five Tips for Tenants in Search of a Rental Unit After an Eviction
February 15, 2018
By Tenant Law Group, PC
Getting evicted can be devastating, but it doesn’t mean you can never rent again. If your landlord is attempting to recover possession of your rental unit, you may be able to avoid the eviction process entirely if the landlord is engaging in illegal behavior. Contact us to go over your options. If, however, you’ve already been evicted—either formally through an unlawful detainer (eviction) lawsuit or informally following a notice to quit or notice of termination of tenancy—there are several best practices to minimize the hassle of finding another rental unit.
[Keep in mind that a recently enacted California law prohibits an unlawful detainer lawsuit from becoming a public record if the tenant prevails if the case settles, and/or if the landlord voluntarily dismisses the lawsuit before judgment is entered. If the landlord obtains a judgment within sixty days of filing the complaint, the eviction records become publicly available. If the landlord prevails after trial, the records are available to any person but only by court order sixty days after the date the complaint is filed.]
Particularly in cities where rental units are in high demand, Craigslist is probably not the best place to find a new rental unit at a reasonable rent. Ask friends, family, or coworkers if they know of any rental units that are currently available or may be available soon. If you are willing to have roommates, ask if you know of anyone looking for a roommate. Major life events such as marriages, divorces, new jobs, or the birth of a child often require renters to terminate their current tenancies and Bay Area tenants are frequently on the move. Post requests on social media such as Facebook. Landlords often prefer to rent to (and accept a lower rent from!) someone referred by a current or former renter than to a stranger who responds to a Craigslist ad.
Get a Roommate or Guarantor
Depending on your situation, it may be a good idea to look for a new rental unit with a roommate. Not only does having a roommate reduce your overall share of rent (particularly in cities with sky-high rents such as San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose), a landlord is more likely to rent to you if your roommate has a good rental history free of evictions. In addition to getting a roommate, ask your landlord if he or she would be willing to have someone with a better credit score or rental history than you act as a co-signer or guarantor on your lease. A parent or relative may be willing to act as co-signer or guarantor for you. A guarantor is someone who guarantees your rent or other amounts due to a landlord in the event you are unable to pay.
Negotiate A Neutral Reference with Your Current/Former Landlord
If you are in an unlawful detainer (eviction) proceeding, odds are the relationship with your landlord has already deteriorated. If possible, as part of the resolution of this proceeding, negotiate a neutral reference with your landlord. A neutral reference should include, at a minimum, the length of time you were a tenant, the amount of rent you paid at the time your tenancy was terminated, and, assuming you always (or almost always) paid your rent on time, your rent payment history. If you are being evicted for nonpayment of rent and have not otherwise had problems with your landlord or tenancy, try to repay the amount owed as quickly as possible. Many landlords understand that everyone falls on hard times occasionally. Although your current landlord may not wish to rent to you again, he or she may be willing to assist you in your search for new housing or, at a minimum, provide a neutral reference.
Be Prepared to Pay a Security Deposit Equivalent to Up to Three Months’ Rent and/or Rent Payments in Advance.
Although many Bay Area landlords with rental units in highly desirable areas may pass on anyone with an eviction, landlords willing to rent to you may require a higher security deposit. A higher security deposit, especially for someone with eviction due to nonpayment of rent, reduces a landlord’s risk by providing an additional cushion in the event you fall upon hard times again. The law limits how much a landlord can demand as a security deposit (e.g., no more than two months’ rent for an unfurnished rental unit (two-and-a-half months’ rent if you have a waterbed), and no more than three months’ rent for an unfurnished rental unit (three-and-a-half months’ rent if you have a waterbed)). However, a landlord can also require the first month’s rent upfront and an upfront payment of not less than six months’ rent if the lease term is six months or longer.
Work on Your Credit Score
Landlords will almost always look at your credit history before deciding whether to rent to you. If you do not know what your credit score is, several resources such as https://www.freecreditscore.com/ allow you to access it at no cost. Start working to improve your credit score immediately. This may include paying off or reducing credit card balances or consolidating or paying down student loans. (See https://www.sofi.com/ for information on consolidating student loans.) Improving your credit score will make you a more attractive renter to a prospective landlord.
Following these tips will allow you to best position yourself in your search for a new rental unit following an eviction. Once you do secure a new rental unit, be sure to pay your rent on time and honor all terms of your lease to avoid future evictions. For further legal counsel or help with any other landlord-tenant disputes, contact Tenant Law Group today.