An unlawful detainer, or UD, is a court action a property manager or landlord takes against you. It asserts that you've possessed a rental unit without living up to your end of the rental agreement in some way. A UD is the first step in the eviction process and, thus, is bad to have on your rental history. Getting a UD doesn't mean you can't rent another property, though. It just means that you will have to work harder to find a property manager or landlord who will take your application. You will also have to prove that the issues that led to the UD have been resolved.
Live with a friend or relative for a period of at least six months. Residency in one location looks better on a rental application than if you've hopped around. Work for one employer during this time period, as well; a landlord or property manager will take consistent work history into consideration.
Do what you can to raise your credit score, such as making every bill and credit card payment on time. Unlawful detainers show up on you background and credit checks, so you'll want a score high enough to negate the negative impact of the UD.
Ask previous landlords and property managers you've had to give you a letter of recommendation. If you've had a long string of good rentals prior to the UD, their recommendations may sway the new landlord or property manager to give you a break. Ask for letters from prominent, respected people in the community with whom you have a relationship -- for example, a professor at the local college -- if you have no previous rental history aside from the property at which you got the UD.
Get copies of financial statements and related documents necessary to put in an application, such as your pay stubs and a copy of your current driver's license. These records will prove that you have sufficient income to meet the rent requirements even with the UD on your record.
Call around to properties at which you're interested in renting. Ask the landlord or property manager if she is willing to work with your UD. Some rental properties have a flat refusal policy for UDs within a specific period, such as two years; the same is true of bankruptcies. Others are more lenient and understand people run into tough situations. Make a list of the properties with landlords who are willing to work with you.
Call the landlords of the properties at which your UD is acceptable. Ask the landlord, property manger or leasing agent with whom you speak if you can schedule a showing.
Go to your showing. Dress professionally, as your appearance makes a first impression on the person who does the showing. Discuss the UD in depth before you actually look at the unit so the person doing your showing knows a little more about the risk he would take on by renting to you. Answer all of the representative's questions honestly. It will not look good if you lie and the representative finds out about it later from your references or your old landlord or property manager. Tell the representative what you've learned from the UD and have done to fix the problems that led to it; don't just lay blame on your old property manager or landlord.
Present your documentation to the representative and complete the rental application as necessary. Don't make a big deal out of it if the representative requests an additional deposit or both first and last month's rent when you apply -- in fact, assume she will. As someone with a UD, you are not in a position to ask for financial breaks; the representative asks for these additional monies only due to the increased risk you represent to the property.