Do you need to find a new home to rent in the near future for yourself and your children? If you are living in, or near, a popular urban spot, you know how hard it is to find a good and affordable home to rent. The competition is fierce, and with millennials beating all records on home renting, you might feel despair. While it’s tough to find a good place to rent in general, this difficulty is that much greater for single mothers.
Having been through this process a couple of times myself, I was appalled to see how many people discriminate against single mothers instead of actually helping them!
Landlords would frequently ask me questions that were illegal and I was certain they did not question other prospective tenants in the same way. So I wanted to write this post to help other single moms to succeed while looking for a new home to rent. While landlords won’t likely change in the near future, there are certain things you can do to make your search for a new home way less stressful and more productive.
Here is what you can do to succeed when looking for a great home to rent as a single mom:
1. Make a list of all the features you want to see in your new home.
This will help you focus on what’s important to you, and not settle on a place that lacks crucial characteristics you need to live comfortably. Know what you need in terms of amenities, transportation, storage space, parking, schools and parks for your kids. You want to rent a home that will make you and your kids want to stay long term, instead of counting days until you can move out.
2. Tell your friends, family, and trusted social groups that you are looking for a place to rent.
While you are searching for a home to rent online, you can greatly maximize your search effectiveness by spreading the word with those you can trust. It is not a good idea to involve your ex in helping you search for a place to rent, no matter how convenient it might be.
3. Prepare a copy of your recent pay stubs and employment confirmation.
Be well prepared in advance by making a photocopy of your four recent pay stubs and employment (or assistance) status confirmation. All landlords want to check if a prospective tenant is able to pay the rent, so it is fair to give them that peace of mind. Learn what other questions they can ask to verify your suitability as a tenant.
4. Write a small blurb about yourself as a tenant, without revealing too much.
While you are searching for home rentals online, you will have to write a lot of emails to landlords to introduce yourself. Get ready by preparing a small blurb about yourself, outlining what you are looking for and why you would make a great tenant. Don’t mention that you are a single mother or anything else that is not immediately relevant to renting a home. You can then copy and paste this blurb in your emails to landlords.
5. Ask for a few written references from your past landlords.
This is something that all landlords will likely ask as well, so get ready in advance by asking your past landlords to write you a reference via email. You can either print these references or send them by email to a prospective landlord.
6. Arrange to see a few places in one day and show up on time.
Be punctual and come a little early rather than later for a home viewing. Don’t cancel or reschedule last minute. Try to group your home viewing in batches of 2-3 in a day to save yourself time and money on nannies and transportation.
7. Don’t bring your children to a viewing.
Children have short attention spans, and will likely get cranky or not listen during a viewing. You need to be able to focus on your conversation with a landlord, so unless you have exceptionally patient children it’s best to hire a nanny or ask your family to watch them for that time. If you absolutely have to bring your kids, get ready by talking to them in advance and taking some toys to keep them occupied.
8. Know which questions are illegal.
Single mothers face a great deal of discrimination when it comes to renting homes. There were times when I was asked questions like “Where is your husband?” and heard statements sucha as “We are not confident you can pay your rent long term, as being a single mother makes you an unstable employee.” It was terrible and offensive.
Know your rights, and get to know the list of illegal questions you don’t need to answer. (Tip: you don’t need to say to the landlord that it is illegal to ask something. Instead, politely decline and mention that you don’t think it’s relevant in this conversation).
9. Ask important questions at the first viewing.
When you are viewing an apartment or a house, make sure to have a list of all important features you noted in Step 1. Don’t talk too much and keep your conversation about the important things. Stay focused, composed, and congenial but do ask questions that matter to you. Many things in rental homes are not obvious unless you ask, and you can disqualify wrong places by simply asking.
10. Don’t get too emotionally attached to one place.
Yes, there will be home for rent you will fall in love with. You might love everything in this place, except for its price tag. Or you might feel that your viewing went really well with a landlord and that you will be moving in soon, only to find out you were not selected as a tenant. This happens all the time, and it can produce a lot of disappointment. To avoid this, keep your options open and aim to find at least two or three places for rent that are attractive to you. Chances are, one of these places will likely be your next home!
I hope these steps will be helpful to you in your search for a great home to rent. Yes, it is not easy to find a great home, but if you follow the above steps religiously, your odds of finding a great place to live will be much higher!
P.S. Once you find that great new home of yours, learn how to cut your electricity bill by 40% or more.