How to impress a potential landlord: the rental resume

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Photo by Charlotte West remixed by Creative Commons license.
Photo by Charlotte West remixed by Creative Commons license.
Through our 20s, my partner Andreas and I moved an average of once a year, and we didn’t look like most landlords’ ideal tenants. Despite the dreads, I was already a type-A efficiency monster, and whenever we were hunting for apartments, I found myself irritated by having to fill out the rental applications over and over again with our extensive prior rental history. I hated having to remember all the old addresses and manager’s phone numbers.

I decided to kill two birds with one stone: I would save myself the time of filling out rental applications over and over, and I would also make it clear that while maybe we looked weird, we were responsible tenants who had their shit together.

My solution? The rental resume.

I’m certainly not the first to have this idea, but I will say that rental resumes feel extra important for nontraditional tenants. As I’ve discussed before, if you’re a renter who looks unusual (whatever that means for the area), you’re working against a stacked deck. No need to feel sorry for yourself or victimized — I am strongly in agreement with Our Lady Of The Manners that it’s unbecoming for a weirdo to whine “Why are they staring at me as though I look weird?” Why? Because you’re not trying to blend in, and isn’t that great? You just need to compensate for people’s misguided expectations by being fucking awesome and presenting your potential landlord with a sweet-ass document that shows them how with-it you are. Anticipate what they think you are (irresponsible? loud? poor? flight risk?) and give them a document that shows them you’re not.

Our assumption-challenging resume was pretty straight-foward:

Ariel Meadow Stallings & Andreas Tillman Fetz
Phone: (206) 555-1212

Rental References
• 10/2003 – Present
XXX 14th Ave E, Seattle, WA
Gaylene S: (206) 555-1212

• 9/2002 – 10/2003
920 Venice Bl #222, Venice CA
KMK Management: (310) 555-1212

• 8/2001 – 9/2002
XXXX 17th Ave, Seattle WA
Cascadia Apartments: (206) 555-1212

• 7/2000 – 7/2001
XXXX Overhulse Rd, Olympia, WA
Robin H: (360) 555-1212

• 3/2000 – 7/2000
XXXX Overhulse Rd, Olympia, WA
Cooper’s Glen Apartments: (360) 555-1212

• 9/1998 – 11/1999
XXXX E Mercer St, Seattle, WA
Cornell & Associates (206) 555-1212

• 10/1997-8/1998
XXX 15th Ave, Seattle, WA
Tudor Properties (206) 555-1212

We were showing that we’d lived together for many, many years and that even though we moved around a lot, we had everyone’s information and invited you to call and check references. I don’t even know how many landlords DID, honestly. Walking into apartment tours with this information printed out and in a folder tucked under my arm never failed to impress managers. We were weird, but articulate and accessible (polite, deferential, friendly), and had references. We were never once turned down for a rental, even though I was a marketing temp and Andreas was a student/freelance audio engineer.

Bonus tip: like any good resume, a rental resume should be updated before you’re on the hunt. I would enter the contact info for the landlord when we moved IN to a new place, so that the document would be all updated and good to go when we were ready to move out.

Comments on How to impress a potential landlord: the rental resume

  1. Awesome idea! I can see how it would be helpful to put together other resumes as personal reference or for help filling out forms – medical and dental, especially. Wouldn’t it be great to have all my past and present doctor info on one sheet?!

  2. Another thing to mention, especially in this age of record-breaking foreclosures and loan defaults, is that credit is a huge issue, especially if you are paying application fees without knowing if your credit will just mean you lose the application fee.

    When I had negative student credit due to a defaulted loan, someone advised me to print out a copy of my credit report (you can get all 3 agencies for free once a year through and have a thing written up, BEFORE putting in an application, explaining any mitigating factors (“This has been in repayment on time for 15 months” or “I foreclosed due to a divorce”, etc.) and that you ask they let you know if they would turn down an application based on credit before you put in an application. You could also explain thatyou are willing to pay a higher security deposit, etc.

    • what if I am trying to rent and I have a pending case with a gun, I have never been in trouble with the law before. what would be a good letter to help me move into a rental home? What do landlords look for in a letter that will make them trust me.

  3. I’m going to be a total creeper here and excitedly scream that I, too, did time at the Cooper’s Glen. It’s a special club.

    Also, this is much more organized than I’ve ever been, but I tend to do the same thing (polite, deferential, friendly) in order to compensate for things that may be considered off (piercings, lots of different addresses, working low paying jobs). It really does work.

  4. That is a fantastic idea. I’m hoping to rent a house on the next street over and just realized I have no idea what the contact information is for the house we lived in four years ago. Way to go, self! “Grumpy old lady who lives on X Street” probably wouldn’t work, eh?

  5. Whenever I’m looking for a new rental, I’ve also made up resumes for my pets. I include a picture, age, description of temperament, monthly flea medication, perfect litter box habits, etc. Some landlords thought it was a little funny. But if they’re on the fence about renting to pet owners, it can totally win them over.

    • I do this, as well, and also include a copy of recent vet records and a “letter of recommendation” from a former landlady (who’s also a good friend) attesting to my cat’s behavior and my strict house-training. Where so many people have had bad experiences with irresponsible pet owners, it can only help those of us who really are responsible to show up with documents proving that we are NOT like those folks.

  6. I’d also like to throw out as a recommendation that if you live in a company subsidized apartment complex (like I do!) and there’s really no specific landlord to contact as a reference, get in good with your maintenance guy/building manager! Mine LOVES me, and is always helping me fix little things around my apartment since I’m a first time apartment-renter. Plus they know a lot of the knitty gritty info about the tenants that your landlord may not necessarily have the same access to.

  7. I made one of these for me and my partner when we went out looking for a new apartment. I was really proud of it, but I don’t think anyone looked at it.

    I still had to fill out an application for each of us and even though I had our credit reports on hand, they still would run their own. But maybe it made a good impression. Most of the apartments we looked at were run by managers but owned by big companies. So they didn’t care at all. They only looked at numbers, facts, and figures.

    I would do this again though if I were looking at places owned/run by individuals. I did have one woman tell me she would rent to me on the spot. Too bad I hated her apartments!

    • This is a good point, re: situational usefulness. I’m an apartment manager for a management company, and my head office handles every application I pass along exactly the same way. This kind of resume might go in my file, but all my boss sees is an application and a number, no personal impressions asked for or given.

      I can see it coming in really handy looking for owner-managed house rentals or sublets, though.

      • @Gayle – I agree, anti-discrimination laws (in Seattle, esp) are very clear regarding the separation ‘impressions’ vs facts.

        That said, I’m not sure how many apps I’ve seen where rental history contact info is sketchy or incomplete – and ‘completeness’ is certainly a reason to select one applicant over the other (assuming good rental history)

  8. I’ve seen something similar used for pets, rabbits specifically. Most places have rules about dogs or cats and even if those are allowed, rabbits may still be excluded. I’ve seen bunny owners make brochures and get references from past landlords about their model citizen pets and its worked for them to get exceptions made.

  9. My wife and I one up this, as we got a letter of reference from our first landlord and brought that with us when we rented our last property. It was right at the edge of our workable income, but we got the place and loved it! When we moved out, we got another letter from that company and have them on file for if we ever rent again.

  10. My husband actually wrote a cover letter, and letter of introduction for us. It was pretty tough being first time renters and with me being an out of work teacher. It ended up working out well for us though we got into a great place.

  11. Around here, that would not go, anymore than substituting a resume for a job application. They might take it, but they won’t use it.
    It is helpful to have all that info where you can access it, though.
    I have had good luck presenting letters of recommendation for both myself and for clients (I work with low income/street people) to overcome bad info on credit reports/past history (or lack thereof, etc).

  12. In the San Francisco rental market, especially, this resume idea may or may not be helpful – landlords really want you to bow down and jump to it, at their will, in their way. That means showing up to VIEW the apartment (along with anywhere from 20-50 other potential tenants, lined up around the corner, waving business cards in the landlord’s face) with the application filled out and check already written.

    Competition here is fierce. This resume sounds like a great idea, but primarily, a pre-filled out application from the landlord’s website, if at all possible, and a check in hand already written out for first, last, and deposit. I don’t think landlords here appreciate the more personal approach so much. I’ve seen a total lack of interest in – almost disdain for – anything other than what they ask for specifically (money, SSN and app). My letters about credit history have been coolly rebuffed.

    Simply put – money talks. Being organized and beating others to the punch will usually help get a leg up no matter what you look like. Landlords here like to see that you’re not wasting their time, that you don’t think you’re a special snowflake (i.e. you jump through the hoops they’ve provided and don’t bother them with personal details), and that you have no problem planning to drop a bunch of money on an apartment you’ haven’t even seen yet.

    It’s an ugly market in SF. I’ve lived in dozens of places, and also been turned down for a number of reasons, ranging from credit to tattoos, but never have I been turned down when I showed up with a check already written and the application already printed online and filled out. I like to think one of the only reasons I got the *job* I have, is that I was one of the only people to actually fill out the whole 4 hour application provided. There’s a lot to be said for doing exactly as you’re asked sometimes (even before they ask). That said, keeping resumes for your own purposes is a fantastic way to stay organized and simplify the process.

  13. This was AWESOME! (And my timing on finding this article/post was spot on- if I do say so myself!) But seriously, my boyfriend and I have lived together for a while now as well, and we too have lots of rental history! It’s all good- so it’s worth keeping all the contact info for each manager/landlord; Which of course, has seemed to fall on me to keep track of?! Up until now it’s been a pain in the butt to have to recall all that shit & where it’s stored (my laptop? or his new one? or did i just save it on my drive finally? ahhhh) Anyways… all your points & tips fell in-line flawlessly with my situation & what I was looking for! I’ve already started bugging my bf re: intro cover letter & started the rental resume. He’s still a student + self-employed, I’m self-employed most of the time, so it gets stressful sometimes trying to prove steady income. Anyone have any tips for that actually?… Making rent each month is never a problem, but proving income for rental application purposes gets tricky sometimes bc we are early-to-mid-twenty-something year old entrepreneurs, who are mostly self-employed but sometimes not, depending on the month, but also still students?? I’m hoping you get what i mean and I’m not just sounding like a crazy here?! Ha!

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