I would love to help you find a rental property. Please give me a call and we can talk about what you are looking for. My advice on finding an agent is to talk to a few agents and go with the one that you think understands your needs the best.
Keller Williams Estates Calabasas
Yes I would use an agent. In this area the lease and purchase market are very competitive. You can research early but unlikely to find one to commit to until approx 4 weeks ahead of move date. Owners want to fill the property as soon as possible so they won't wait much longer for an applicant. Since most tenants contract to give 30 day notice that is the sweet spot where owners know their property will be available.
A good credit score and steady financials will help but do the preparation work now. Watch the listings to hone in on area and amenities you would really like and discuss with your agent.... more
The landlord cannot now sign a lease if they are in default. Paying rent to someone other than the owner unless directed in your contract is not technically paying rent so this sounds like it is getting messy quickly. If you don't mind being in questionable status then stay but you might be better off just finding a place with a stable owner.
Or consider buying your own place. There are some excellent loans available now.... more