I posted most of this information a week or so ago, but I think it is still relevant. I have added some additional information as well.

I read a post on Facebook making a great comparison that our fire victims in search of rentals is like 100 kids at an Easter Egg Hunt searching for 3 eggs. It will not be easy, but hopefully these tips will help.

Where to Look

Make contact with your Realtor, as many of us have running lists of available rentals, many that are not being advertised. Check Zillow where some people post their rentals. Here are a few other local property management companies that have rentals available:


Air BNB has a special section for fire victims.

Here is another great tool to search the Sonoma County areas as well as the Bay Area:
Rental Database

You can try Craigslist, but just beware of scams…


If it sounds too good to be true, it is. There are plenty of horrible people out there who are still scamming victims, especially those that are desperate, like our fire victims. They are posting rentals of homes that they don’t actually own. Check with your Realtor to be sure they actually own the property they are “renting.” Your Realtor has access to records of ownership and can verify if they own the property or not. Never blindly send deposit money to someone until you have viewed inside the home.

Potential Rental Locations

Many people want to stay in the same town where their home was, which was likely close to work, schools and other conveniences. Because of the high demand and now an even lower supply of rentals available, you may have to consider a rental outside of your preferred area. Be open to opportunities outside of the area. Everyone is struggling with a new way of life moving forward, and maybe one of those changes is your location, even if it is not ideal.

Rental Rates

We already were experiencing very high rental rates here in Sonoma County, and unfortunately, you will see them increase due to the demand.  According to California Attorney General, Penal Code Section 396 prohibits raising the price of many consumer goods and services by more than 10% after an emergency has been declared.1 This is called price gouging and it includes rent as well as hotels.

Credit/Background Checks

Be prepared to have your credit score checked out by the potential new landlord. If you have bad credit, don’t lie about it. Be up front and honest about your past renting mistakes. Many landlords will also have a background check run on potential renters.

Getting Accepted

Remember that landlords are still in “business” when renting to you, even though you have been through hell. They will likely be looking at several applications for one property and may have to scrutinize information provided to them in order to make a choice.

As when I help my buyer clients put an offer in to purchase a home, it is best to make your “rental offer” as attractive as possible. Here are some ways to put your application over the top.

1 Money Talks (Unfortunately)

In an effort to make your offer look “the best,” you may want to offer a large non-refundable deposit as incentive to have your application accepted over others. Offer more rent than they are asking, but be sure you can afford it in your budget. Perhaps you can offer to cover any parking permit fees or processing fees. Make sure to have first and last month’s rental amount available. Offer to make an extra non-refundable pet deposit if you have pets, especially if it is not already required.

Perhaps offer to pay for any repairs up to $500, so that the landlord doesn’t have to. I know of someone who offered this and was successful over other applicants.

2 Write a “Love” Letter

I know everyone will have a very powerful story to tell, but it may help pull on the heartstrings of the landlord to select your application. Make sure the letter is written with good grammar and punctuation. Landlords will likely be looking at several applications so, your letter should be flawless.

3 Renter’s Insurance

Having renter’s insurance is also attractive to your potential new landlord, and many will require it, especially if you have pets. You should check with your current insurance carrier to see what kind of renter’s policy they can offer to you.

4 References (the ones that like you)

Plan to offer up contact information for 3 good personal references. Be sure they know you are using them as a reference. Here are some suggestions of the types of people who may make good references: someone who you may have done business with (has extended credit to you), your Realtor, your accountant, your employer, a co-worker, or even someone who has been your neighbor in the past. The landlord wants to know that you will not only be able to pay your rent, but that you will treat the property with respect.

This is not an easy time for anyone, especially those who have lost everything. I am wishing you all many blessings as our community picks up the pieces and marches into the future of a new “normal.”

1 Source: https://oag.ca.gov/consumers/pricegougingduringdisasters