Housing is a basic need and one of the first things that a new immigrant must arrange upon arriving in the United States. However, methods for purchasing or renting a home or apartment may differ markedly from country to country, and the United States housing market may consequently appear complicated and intimidating for many new immigrants. Most immigrants will likely start by looking for an apartment or home to rent, if they do not have family members or friends with whom they can live. The reality of renting a house in the United States can be complicated in many ways, including the following:
- Landlords and/or property management companies may require a background check for all renters before they approve a new tenant. New immigrants may need assistance requesting a background check and completing necessary forms.
- Most landlords require prospective tenants to fill out an application for rental. This may include questions about references, place of employment, monthly income, and previous addresses, which can be complicated for immigrants who have just moved to the country and do not yet have a well-established social or professional network.
- Renters are usually required to pay a security deposit and the first and last months of rent upfront. Some landlords require signing a contract, usually for one year, that obligates the renter to continue paying rent each month until the contract is expired. Other landlords allow tenants to pay month to month.
- Rules for late payment of rent may differ from landlord to landlord. For example, some landlords charge a fee that increases over time if payment is made late.
- Rules on eviction also vary from one landlord to the next. Immigrants need to be sure that they understand their rights, their responsibilities as a landlord, and how to protect themselves from or contest an unlawful eviction.
- Immigrants may not be aware of government and social programs available to assist them if they are unable to pay their rent.
- Immigrant renters need to know how to advocate for themselves in order to obtain repairs to their rental properties when this is necessary.
- Immigrant renters need to know how to advocate for themselves in case of discrimination or unfair treatment either while searching for housing or while renting from their landlord.
The United States federal government has several programs for making affordable housing available to low-income renters. For example, some housing properties are designated as "affordable housing" properties. At these properties, eligible tenants pay 30% of their income for rent, with the rest of the rental fees subsidized directly by the federal government.