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Everything You Need To Know When Applying for Your First Home: Renter’s Edition

Finding The Right Fit

Chances are before you submit your first application, you’ll look at many rental properties. Choosing your new home is a big decision and it can be hard to know exactly what to look for — and what pitfalls to watch out for. Consider these:

  • The right sites. From websites to ever-emerging apps, the sheer number of online resources for rentals can be dizzying. Start local, such as the Southern California-specific site Westside Rentals, and with Facebook groups in your area. Then go wider to resources like com, Zillow,, Rentberry, Padmapper, and Rentable. Or no site at all — not every rental is online and you could find “for rent” signs by just driving around.
  • Make a checklist. In two columns: Wants and Needs. Your Needs may include a centrally located neighborhood with good schools or near your job, the number of bedrooms, a large kitchen, or space for a home office. Fireplaces and jacuzzis are nice, but they belong in the Wants column.
  • Give yourself time. You may find the perfect pad immediately, but you shouldn’t count on that. Best to begin your search two months before your intended move-in date. As the majority of renters tend to look at the end of months (especially on the weekends), starting your search at the beginning of the month could give you an advantage.
  • Don’t fall for scams. Now more than ever before, rental scams are everywhere and in every city. If it is too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t pay security deposits without first signing a lease, seeing the home in person, and verifying that the person you’re speaking with it in fact the legal owner or manager of the property.  Scammers will have endless excuses as to why you need to do what they tell you and why it’s not a scam but make sure to use your judgment so you don’t get scammed out of your hard earned money.

Can a Realtor or a Broker help you find a rental property?

Yes. Contrary to what many people may assume — that real estate agents are just for home buyers — home renters are increasingly turning to these experts. Especially these days when we’re seeing bidding wars in the rental market. An agent or broker with intimate knowledge of an area you wish to call home may be aware of off-market rentals and could offer the competitive edge you need. How much do they cost? It varies. In hyper-competitive markets, agents may be able to ask for as much as 25% of a monthly lease, but commissions of 10% per month or the equivalent of one month’s rent per year are more common.

The Application

As with all states, California has its own set of rental rules that apply to properties in the greater Los Angeles area and beyond. Some key regulations for first-time California tenants to keep in mind include a cap on the application fee. As of the first quarter of 2022, landlords in California can charge up to $52.46 for each application, which is generally used to run a background check. It’s worth it — if a landlord doesn’t use a rental application, you should be wary. And if the landlord doesn’t use the fee to pay for a background check or for another reason stated on the application form, you’re entitled to get the money back.

What information do you need to put on your application? The basics include Social Security and driver’s license numbers, current address, and employment history. Landlords have the right to ask for personal references, contact information for past landlords, and financial info such as past bankruptcies, and proof of income. Most applications include a consent clause allowing the landlord to contact your references and to look into both your financial history and your personal background.

Tenant rights set by both state law and federal law prohibit a landlord from asking about a wide range of factors. These include family status (if the potential renter is married or has kids or not), immigration status, sexual orientation, nationality, race, color, or age unless it’s a senior-living development. If an arrest appears in a background check, the landlord is not allowed to ask about it if it didn’t result in a conviction. Should a landlord reject an application based on credit issues, California law says the landlord must do so in writing with the information from the credit reporting agency.

Before You sign a lease

You’ve found the perfect place. Your application has been accepted and you’re ready to commit. Take a second to review the terms and make sure everything is in order before you make things legal.

  • Check addendums. Leases often include add-ons about things such as smoking, pets, painting, and more.
  • Security deposit. In California, a landlord can ask for two months’ rent for an unfurnished property and three months for a furnished one.
  • Go over disclosures. The California Environmental Protection Agency requires that landlords disclose any environmental hazards such as asbestos and mold. Likewise, a landlord must disclose the monthly cost of gas or electricity if a unit isn’t individually metered./li>

Give AllView A Call!

From luxury homes to cozy apartments, finding the right first rental can be a challenge. But made much easier when you’re armed with the right information. AllView Real Estate offers prospective renters the simplest comprehensive application process. The best property management company in Orange County, Los Angeles and San Diego is here to serve you and help you find your next home. Call us today at 949-400-4275 to see our available listings or check out our properties for rent.

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