Dear prospective landlord – A letter

Just a brief memo to the developement company whose application
I happen to be filling out for an apartment on -anywhere

I understand the need for an application, but is it necessary
to dredge the past of your prospective tenants? If we apply for
a cheap apartment, that probably means we have a bit of a
checkered past.

In other words, we’re not wealthy and we probably never have
been. Another way of putting it: we’ve probably lived in many
cheap places. Or places we could afford until we could not
afford them anymore.

We probably have steady incomes for a time, but then we don’t.
We probably work at lower paying positions in companies that
don’t care about employees and assign us numbers rather than

If we fart the wrong way they fire us. Our income fluctuates.

Our Personal Non-related References include the 40-year old
stoner living with his mother at the end of your block and who
we have known for the past twenty years, an unemployed empty
nester and many, many ex-co-workers.

In the rental history, you ask if I have been evicted before.
Yes, I have been evicted. That one time, back in 1985 when my
husband up and left me with our three daughters in California
and ran off to Arkansas with his ex-girlfriend, because they
decided after OUR thirteen years together, they were in love.

Or, how about that time after I moved across country to
Arkansas and promised my daughter I would keep her two cats for
a short time and found out the pet rules changed at the
apartment complex?

Or, when I lost my job and couldn’t find another for six
months. Yes, sir. I have been evicted and it sucks.

The letter you put inside the application to the current
landlord may not come back with the response you expect. Though
my disabled daughter and I have not been evicted from this
particular dwelling, the landlord does not like us. Yes, I have
some authority on this matter, in fact there is some evidence
that can be located on youtube if you would like to check it

In that particular video, the landlord is accusing me of hiding
a dog and demanding that I admit it. I shake my head no, smile
at him and say, “No I’m not.”

He then moves closer, towering over me, screaming that I’m a
“f—ing liar” and says he doesn’t have to take my rent if he
doesn’t want to.

I respond by looking up at him, glancing at the camera I know
is recording and say, “Do what ya gotta do.”

Yes, he took the rent, but no, he does not like us. We are now
termed “problem tenants.” He does not seem to appreciate I did
him a favor when I did not call the police after catching him
peeking into apartment windows at one in the morning.

How’s that for gratitude?

I must apologize for not completing the Verification of Credit
History part of the application. There is no credit history
unless you count the emergency hospital bill I’ve owed for the
past four years.

I had appendicitis and no medical insurance. Yes, the bill went
to creditors. When you’re struggling to pay rent and keep the
lights on, the hospital bill is a bit lower on the list of

On the criminal record section: yes I have a record. I made an
illegal U-turn back in 2001 and forgot about the ticket. I was
then stopped in 2003 four different times for no particular
reason and cited for no insurance. When I moved to Iowa City I
had forgotten about the tickets.

When I came back to Arkansas, I was arrested for same tickets.
Yes, I have a criminal record. The judge was lenient however
and gave me time off for good behavior and I pay forty dollars
a month for the next three years.

I know some of this doesn’t look too great on the application,
however, I can assure you that we really are not problem
tenants. As long as I have a sustainable income I will pay the
rent on time. I will not bother other tenants with loud music,
or boisterous party friends.

My daughter and I are readers and writers. We work when we can
and tend to let the rest of the world alone, hoping it will let
us alone.

Please consider the following application seriously. Take a
moment to ponder the human element. We’re not perfect people.
We don’t have a rich uncle hiding in the back room, helping out
when we get into trouble. It’s just us.

Thanks for your time.


A prospective (and hopeful) tenant



11 thoughts on “Dear prospective landlord – A letter

  1. Did you actually include this in your application? Whether you did or not, I think it’s powerful. I think it’s something a lot of people can relate to. I’ve listened to some landlords (good and bad) talking about renters and these conversations (some not meant for me to hear) were eye-opening. And those conversations are the main reason why I have a mortgage instead of a potentially lower-cost rent payment.
    I hope your letter is sent to lots of landlords — or just goes viral in general. 😉

  2. Hi Phyl. I didn’t include it in my application. But I did think about it. With all of the information requested on some rental applications, I felt the process was invasive. I’m happy to be where I am now. My landlords are incredible. They don’t go snooping around the apartment when I’m not home and anytime I have ever had a problem they have tried to accommodate me. As far as going viral… Well, that would be a good thing. Some landlords should take into consideration that we’re not all perfect.

  3. Life is rarely kind, the individual must live by the cards they are dealt. I understand the fears of the landlord to enter into contract with a reliable tenant who will pay the rent and leave the place in the same condition they found it. No tenant is perfect. Sometimes one has to weave a truth that fits, but make certain a contract is honored if it is agreed.

  4. Hi Alex. Thanks for commenting. The problem with some places though, is they do expect a pristine previous record. I understand some people have those kinds of records, but many (probably most) do not. When it’s already tough to find affordable house, the requirements some places set up make it nearly impossible to find something. I was fortunate enough to find the landlady I have. She’s awesome. Our contract is month to month and she’s not trying to get rich in rentals.

  5. This is a helpful reminder that properly filled out paperwork isn’t everything. We live in a by the numbers world and that tends to reduce us to numbers.

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