Landlords usually have one big question when you inquire about a rental: Do you have enough money to pay for it? Coughing up your last payslip is often enough to convince the powers that be that you’re responsible enough to pay the rent each month, and some landlords even spell out the minimum monthly income they require — often two, three or even four times the rent.
That’s all fine and good if you have a regular job and the payslips to prove it. But what do you do if your income is more complex? Maybe you’re a freelancer who juggles a set of regular clients. Maybe you run a small business, or you work seasonally, making most of your income during one part of the year.
With a little preparation, you can avoid awkward conversations that can place doubts in the minds of property managers.
Gather all your documents
When your income comes from nontraditional sources, you can never bring too much documentation to a showing.
Reddit user sonofaresiii recommends “taking every shred of paper you can proving your income,” including the following:
Bank statements for the last three months
Any signed letters from your clients
“Anything you can get your hands on proving your income”
Others in the same thread recommend having two years’ of tax returns with you, to show income consistency. Yes, you may feel silly walking up with a whole tote bag full of financial documentation. But at least you’ll be prepared.
Be honest, obviously
In my experience as a self-employed person, landlords don’t really care how you make your money as long as you can prove you make it. I’ve been up front by saying, “I’m self-employed, so I’ve brought two years of tax returns along with three bank statements. I’m happy to provide further documentation if you need it.”
If you’re a service worker in a touristy spot, or seasonal work is typical in your area, your potential landlord may not even bat an eyelash at your situation. But it’s better to give them a realistic picture of your income rather than leave them guessing.
Consider a guarantor
A guarantor agrees to take over financial responsibility if you for some reason can’t pay your rent. If you’re on the edge of qualifying for an apartment, the landlord may ask for one. They might need to live in the same state as you, depending on the landlord’s rules.
If you suspect your income history may cause difficulty in securing a place to live, having a potential guarantor in mind could make the process smoother. A family member would be the obvious first pick for this, but a friend may be willing to help as well.
Cash always helps
If you have the cash on hand to pay your security deposit up front in physical dollars, that may be enough to sway the property manager in your favour. Just make sure to get a receipt proving you paid up, since you won’t have a transaction on your bank statement as backup.