People who need help learning how to obtain an apartment and get past previous mistakes on their rental record can get help from Volunteers of America’s Renter Certification Program.

The program from the Volunteers of America of Western Washington has dates across March and April at locations throughout Snohomish County, including April 3 at the Arlington Community Resource Center at 18308 Smokey Point Blvd., Arlington. A full list of dates is at www.voaww.org/rentercertification.

James Rankin, the fair housing counselor and trainer at the Volunteers of America of Western Washington, said that the program is about improving relationships between tenants and landlords.

“As neutral moderators we are all about conflict resolution,” he said. “We want to foster better relationships between tenants and their landlords.”

The program can provide help to those who are homeless or who have trouble getting past the application stage of finding an apartment.

“It’s a big help to be able to say ‘I have some problems in my past, but I’ve been taking these steps to improve,’” said Rankin.

If two people are applying for the same space, the person who has shown the effort to improve themselves will look better to the landlord, said Rankin.

The Renter Certification classes teach locals how to respond to a notice, how to communicate with landlords, how to request repairs and other topics.

There is also an emphasis on not letting problems come up in the first place.

“We really believe in the preventative measures,” said Rankin.

The program began in 2007 and was developed by talking with landlords, said Rankin.

“We actually went out and asked the managers what are the biggest challenges for renters getting into a place,” he said.

Snohomish County has supported it since then, with the local Volunteers of America running it.

“We pitched it to the county and it has been successful enough that they support us with grant money every year,” said Rankin.

Although it is something important for many people, tenant rights and how to manage housing is something that not many know much about.

“It’s not really something that is taught in schools, and how to navigate these renting issues is such an integral part of so many people’s lives,” said Rankin.

More information about the program is available at https://www.voaww.org/rentercertification.

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