Advice about rental application

Hi parents,

My family is currently seeking a rental and it’s been years since I last went through the process of renting.

My current experience seems to be that landlords/agents are currently requiring proof of income just to schedule a viewing, is this typical? Some are also requiring that we submit a rental application even BEFORE the opportunity to view a place?  I totally understand landlords need to vet and screen applicants during the application process but I don’t recall having to provide this level of personal information before even the chance to view a place. Would love feedback on this topic. Thanks!

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The reasons that property managers are requiring proof of income and an application before scheduling a viewing include (1) because of COVID restrictions, they can't schedule open houses and must show apartments to only one group at a time. That is very time consuming and a waste of time if the person who is touring the apartment is not seriously interested; (2) because of the eviction moratoriums, tenants can move into an apartment and then refuse to pay rent. Because of this risk, property managers are being extra careful to screen tenants to make sure they are able to pay and have good credit.  

Very common. Although it is a slightly tougher market for landlords of late, it’s still a landlord’s market in the Bay Area, and landlords do not need or want to waste their time or yours if there’s no chance you’d qualify.  They should be stating their screening criteria up front (credit score XXX, income X times monthly rent, etc.)


Just be very careful with Craigslist findings. There are lots of scams happening in Real Estate, including people pretending to be landlords or management companies. Double check the authenticity of this applications....

Yes, this is a COVID-era thing.  It makes sense, though of course it's a little time consuming: Landlords/owners want to make sure someone is qualified to rent a place before adding in the additional risk of in-person showings, especially for occupied homes.  

I recently rented out my home in Oakland and didn't require an application before scheduling viewings, but wish I had! The response to my ad was so overwhelming to me, as someone who is doing this without a property manager (i.e., more than 20 households expressed interest in one week). I would have liked a way to sort through all of them before scheduling and meeting with multiple families one by one (due to Covid precautions we had one household visit at a time). I also have to say that people who did not readily have their income information at hand were at a disadvantage compared to those who did, given the level of interest in the house. My experience may be unique, but then again, it seems like there are a lot of people out there looking for more space because of the pandemic.

This is something we have never done and are not doing.  As a landlord I understand when landlords and property management companies are doing this.  There are so many people out of work and if they can move into a place they can get away with not paying rent because of covid.  The other thing you are going to run into is many landlords are just sitting on vacant property.  Depending on where you are looking rents are down up to 20% if not more due to covid.  Because of rent control, especially in Berkeley the max yearly rent increase is so little it will take yearly rent increases of 20 - 25 years to get back to pre-covid rental rates.  If landlords just leave the property vacant for a year or two until covid is under control they can be able to get fair market rents when the market returns to "normal".

This is the best time for you to find a place if you will be staying long term.  If you get in now your rent will be set at the below market covid levels.  Rent control caps the amount your rent can increase every year.  Until the day you move out your rent will always be considerably below fair market rental rates.  If you can find a place you like grab it. 

if someone moves in now and prices in a year or two return to non-covid rates 

It is not typical and prob not legal to vet you financially before tour. Ask for a virtual tour or for them to make a video of the inside and outside of the house. Don’t fall for it and push back. City of Berkeley has a great resource for knowing your rights on housing for both renters and landlords. Also, I’m leaving my rental in south Berkeley on Feb 1, feel free to let me know if you’re looking for a 4br 2bath for under $5k! You can message me @runsjewels 

I've not heard of those specific requirements. As both a former renter and current landlord these requirements _before_ a first showing is unfamiliar.

That said, if it's a large rental agency with a property that's high in demand, they may want to pre-qualify their applicants to not waste time on viewings with folks who couldn't rent anyway.

Perhaps you can just email them some details about where you work, what you do there, what kind of housing you have at present, and ask for a viewing anyway. It's becoming more of a buyer's market with out-migration from the Bay Area, so that might be a middle path.

Good luck.

We moved house in December, and had previously moved a year earlier. We also noticed that some landlords/agents had suddenly started asking for full rental applications before they would show a place, apparently because of COVID. We were not comfortable with giving so much information about ourselves to multiple people since there are so many rental scams out there (not to mention the time it takes to fill out an application) so we discarded most places that were asking for this. We ended up finding a place where the landlord did not request any such information prior to viewing. Video walkthroughs seem fairly common so you could ask for a video walkthrough before deciding to provide information, or negotiate to provide only information that you are comfortable with. Many places in Berkeley seemed to be staying on the market for a long time so it seems that renters are in a fairly good position at the moment. 

Covid makes everything more difficult, as others have pointed out. You may be safer offering evidence of regular income and savings instead social security numbers. Also, to guard against scams, be sure to get more pictures or a real-time video tour (facetime, skype, zoom) before giving out too much info. People who are trying to get real deposit money when they have nothing to actually rent usually do not have access to more pics or to the premises.