Save. Spend. Splurge.

Apartment hunting is pretty sexist

Every time I have gone to look for an apartment, where I’ve only put my name on the lease, I am always asked:

“But why isn’t your husband / boyfriend on the lease as well?”

I wonder if guys ever get asked this when their girlfriends or wives are not on their leases.

I doubt it.

It’s as though a woman can’t be a breadwinner, or it’s something so strange that they feel the need to ask why it is only my name on the lease.


Have you ever experienced this?


  • Revanche

    I haven’t gotten this so much when I’m working with professionals in things like real estate (though I haven’t done MUCH with them) but definitely in daily stuff. I always pay the check at the restaurant when PiC and I are out because I like to see all the charges on my card; he doesn’t care, but the number of times a male waiter has brought the check back and handed it to him when *I* was the one who handed him the card makes me glare a little. Or when the limo driver at a friend’s wedding refused to even acknowledge my existence when I was running errands to do with the wedding w/a male friend; he was told the male friend’s name and that’s the only person he would even look at! Jerks, I think.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      !!!! Exactly my point. Even when I bought my car, the guy went to go shake BF’s hand first, but I was the one paying and buying!!!

    • Jason

      It goes the other way, too, you know.

      Finding private, affordable student housing as a guy is extremely difficult. Women’s rooms are *very* frequently private, and often around $100 cheaper per month than private men’s, which are already rare enough.

      • Jeremy

        Yeah really. I can’t tell you how many affordable listings had a GIRLS ONLY clause in my area. If I had to choose between being objectively disadvantaged in the rental market or having to take the sting of an awkward question or absent handshake, it’d be an easy choice for me.

        I’ve had owners literally tell me they favour tenants of a particular sex or race. THAT’S discriminatory. Being asked whether my partner is on the lease as well? That’s not PRETTY sexist, that’s just kinda maybe a bit sexist.

  • Jennifer Roberts

    I haven’t experienced this with renting or even buying a house (our first house was in my name only), but I get it all the time when dealing with contractors. “Have your husband look at the work when he gets home, and let me know if there’s any problems.” or “Tell your husband he needs to fix this or decide that,” or (when I was working) “Are you the architect’s secretary?” etc. Even my dad has questioned why I’m the one working on DIY projects and trying to learn new things. I’m the one with the fricking architecture degree and construction experience! I’m not an idiot. Ugh, it’s so annoying. Yes, there is still a surprising amount of sexism happening today.

  • Joy

    ugh how annoying you have to deal with that.
    My boyfriend and I actually moved in together a few years ago. Before we set up a joint account (only for bill purposes), the security deposit, first & last month’s rent check came from one of my checks. I thought the leasing agent looked a little surprised when he said ‘Oh, you’ve got the money.’ I brushed it off and tried not to think anything of it. At the time, I thought perhaps it’s all in my head. Every year since then, the renewal agreement is addressed only to my boyfriend’s name. It’s not a huge deal and not worth the trouble to get into a big fuss, but excuse me, there are two people on the lease, and not to mention, unprofessional.

  • Tania

    I’ve been asked if I’ll be the only one on the lease but not specifically about a man in particular. I didn’t take it personally though, it was just part of the agent gathering notes to draw up the lease. But…I haven’t leased as much as others because I either owned a home or was living in a family owned property for most of the past twenty years. In my earlier years out of college I did rent a very cute apartment in a low rise family owned building (new construction in a residential area nestled with single family homes). The building only had about eight units in total. The landlord made some comments about “haoles” being messy or not using cutting boards when she interviewed us. Haoles generally means white although that is not the direct interpretation of that word in the Hawaiian language. After we moved in and all the other units had been rented I was looking at all the names on the doorbell listing and noticed each and every single surname was Okinawan (the ethnicity of the landlord as well). So that was weird and obvious. It was one of the reasons why when I went back to being a renter after my separation that I would only deal with properties that used a professional agent. Renting provides freedom in many ways but you do end up having to put up with stuff like that too.

  • Nelson

    I think y’all might be reading too much into this.

    Remember, a landlord is running a business, and is thinking about the worst case scenario. So if you show up and want to rent a place for you and your boyfriend but don’t want to put him on the lease, the landlord immediately thinks the worst. He’s a dirtbag with bad credit, etc.

    The landlord just wants more people to sue if you decide not to pay. At least, that’s always been my perspective. One person who can pay the rent = good. Two people = better.

  • Miemo

    When I bought my condo. I put the down payment from my own bank account. and when i went to sign my mortgage, the guy asked, “is it just you?” There’s only one name on the papers right? “yes”. Okay then. He didn’t outwardly say anything, but from his face upon meeting me, he seemed a little perplexed. I signed and he just said, see you in 30 years (when they sign me the deed i guess). I guess men are still getting used to the idea that women can live and function alone like real humans.

  • Anonymous

    Do you get dressed up when you go apartment hunting? From what you have posted in the past about your choice in how you dress…I’m making a wild guess but you dress like an upper middle class/wealthy person would dress and most affluent people are married or in a relationship. Average people don’t dress like you do.

    That’s not a bad thing just an observation. I actually love your sense of fashion. Also in many upper middle class and wealthy households…the wife or girlfriend usually doesn’t work. You probably come across as someone highly educated, smart, polite, and probably someone that comes from a wealthy household.

    That stereotype of the man taking care of his woman is true for many wealthy households. This is not bad or good, its just what is true of affluent households.

    The people who are asking that silly question…they don’t read this blog, and if you have a business website where you get clients then I’m sure they don’t read that website either.

    They are making superficial judgments just based off what they see.

  • Leigh

    A neighbor asked me if I bought my condo with my husband. I’m not even married! Nor do I want to be! And I bought my place by myself!

  • Jay @

    Huh, never really thought about women being asked that. I’ve never been asked if a woman will be on the lease with me, for what it’s worth (not much, I know).


  • Kassandra @ More Than Just Money

    I’ve had the question asked if I’ll be renting the place alone but I’ve never been questioned about signing only my name on the lease. In all my cases, all that mattered to them was my ability to pay and that was never an issue.

  • Gia T.

    I haven’t experienced this myself since it’s required by law that we put the names of all people (18 and older) living in the rental residence on the lease, but your experience reminds me of the Sex and the City episode where Miranda decided to buy her apartment and the real estate agent was shocked that she was buying the place just for herself. Tsk.

  • Anne @ Money Propeller

    I had a professor who was a single mother (IVF) who told the story of needing to take a male friend with her to deal with landlords when she was looking for rentals. This, despite the fact she was a tenured professor in our university town!!
    I get riled up about this stuff, because duh.

  • Debbie M

    Nope–I’ve either looked by myself or been with a girlfriend and we were both going to be on the lease. I’m not sure I even knew it was legal to have someone living with you without being on the lease. But it’s in the renter’s interest to leave me in the dark about that in order to get the most names of people to come after for rent. I did know that any of the people on the lease could be asked for the full amount of the rent.

    When I bought a house (by myself), I was surprised that no one gave me any flak. My loan officer told me he’d never seen such a high credit score before (he’d thought that 800 was the maximum). Another person was impressed that I was buying a house by myself as a female–I think that person was a woman, but I don’t actually remember anymore. This was in 1996–I knew it would be better than 1966, but I did expect to deal with some obnoxiousness.

  • Stephany

    I’ve actually never run across this while apartment hunting, and I’ve done a lot of it in my life. I do wonder if I would be treated differently if I went to look at an apartment with my brother, though. It’s always either just been me or I’m with my mom. I should test this theory out! 😉

  • The Asian Pear

    This hasn’t happened to me before. Then again, I’ve only ever searched for an apartment 3 periods in my life. And during those times I’ve maybe only seen 15-20 apartments max. Most times the landlord was happy with me – especially once I could confirm my income. XD

  • Noelle

    My boyfriend and I both signed the lease, but when it came time to renew only his name was included! And all the correspondence we get from our landlord is addressed to him only. Including the utilities that the landlord setup for us when we first moved in! We keep reminding him that there are TWO of us here and the man is not the only one making the decisions, but nothing ever changes… sigh.

  • Sarah

    I’ve never experienced that. What if you were single and didn’t have a partner? That’s a little ridiculous. Even when we bought the house, my name was always first, and still is. I had the more steady, larger income, and so bills etc are in my name (though he pays a lot of them).

  • Nicoleandmaggie

    When we bought a house, my name had to be first because I was the only one with real income. When we refinanced, despite us keeping things in the same order, the mortgage company switched him to be first.

  • SarahN

    Nope – but then all the agents of any value in this area know me. I regularly inspect for sale and for rent properties, and most of them come to know (cause I disclose) that I own in the area, and continue to monitor the market. I have a no bullshit type of demeanor, so never, incl when we rented most recently, did anyone suggest the partner needed to look at anything. If anything, the agent soon realised I was the one she could get replies from – decisions, money, paperwork, whatever. And it remains like this.

    Actually, I find when I act like a man, I tend to get treated more like a man!

  • Renee

    I have never had this experience, but I am single. It’s also very common in Australia for landlords to expect proof of income and employment, so in my case there is also never any question about whether or not I’m winning bread.

    The last lease I applied for was myself and another female software engineer. It seems like landlords will leap at the chance to have only female professionals in their properties. When I was searching for rooms in share houses, before I decided to rent my own place, a lot of the ads said “women only” and “women preferred” as well as “professional people only”. That seemed pretty sexist and classist to me, but in a different way to what you’ve experienced. Still, I don’t doubt that it happened!

    • SarahN

      @Renee: Agreed Renee, I rent through Belle, and you have a LOT of paperwork to register as a tenant. I appreciate that though, as a landlord too…

      I knew we’d get this place when the only other people inspecting were a group of students… high density living vs a professional couple, discrimination favours less people with more money than more people with less money. When I was a student, I mainly was the second person on the lease (or not at all), or was in student housing, so I didn’t feel the pain when I was earning less… thankfully

    • save. spend. splurge.

      But what if you are self employed? I wonder what, then.

  • Stephanie

    When I was last looking for an apartment, I purposefully didn’t bring my boyfriend with me even though I would have appreciated his opinion and his eye, because I knew that landlords wouldn’t talk to me if I did. I remember that when my parents were looking, everyone just talked to my dad without much effort trying to talk to my mom. When I went with my boyfriend when he was looking, nobody paid any attention to me.

    That said, I didn’t have the same problem you did because renter’s applications around here require proof of income. And then, there were no questions asked about money. The landlady did ask me whether or not my boyfriend would be on the lease with me when she saw that I had put him down as an emergency contact, though. This was after I submitted proof of income, so why she was asking, I have no clue. My guess is that she wanted to make sure that I wasn’t hiding anyone sketchy.

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