The Rental Application Process
After hours of looking at apartments online and in person, you’ve finally found the one. It’s exactly what you’re looking for in terms of price, size, amenities and location, and you want to fill out the application so you can get approved immediately.
If it’s your first time renting an apartment, though, the rental application process may be a little different than you imagined. Applying for the apartment is a lengthy procedure with several steps that both you and your potential landlord will need to take. For first-time renters, here’s what you can expect the rental application process to look like:
Filling Out the Application
The first step, of course, is filling out the rental application. In more urban areas, it’s usually a good idea to do this as soon as possible after finding your desired apartment, since landlords will continue showing it until someone has officially applied.
I’ve had more than one apartment swept out from under me within one day of seeing the place for the first time! On the application you should expect to include all of your personal information, including either a social security or driver’s license number, along with employment information and references.
Applying for an apartment also generally comes along with a few different fees, some refundable and some not.
Depending on the landlord and building, you’ll have to pay an application fee, a processing fee and sometimes a security deposit. Expect to pay as much as $100 or more per person just to apply for an apartment in some areas.
Proof of Income
Most landlords include an area on the application for your monthly income, and they will almost always require you to provide proof.
It’s a good idea to bring two or three recent pay stubs along when looking at or applying for apartments so you have that proof on hand. Some will accept a W-2 form as proof instead of pay stubs as long as you’ve held the job for more than a year.
Most landlords and building managers also call your employer for proof of employment, and may ask questions about you personally and your salary. Many companies don’t answer those questions for legal reasons, but it’s a possibility.
When applying for the apartment, you’ll also have to give the landlord permission to check your credit. The credit check is really important for landlords because it gives them an idea of how financially responsible you are.
If you don’t have credit or have really new credit, it’s a lot harder for them to get a feel for your dependability, so it’s a good idea to talk to them about it at the time of application. They may ask you to provide a co-signer or depend solely on your roommate’s credit.
The criminal background check is another thing that your landlord will need your authorization for. Landlords check your criminal history and will show your landlords your criminal history, again to get an idea of your personality and dependability.
There is also usually a spot on the application to explain any felonies on your record, so make sure to fill that section out in your own words if you have any.
Most landlords and building managers will do an extensive check on your rental history by speaking to your past landlords. If this is your first time renting, you won’t have any past landlords and they’ll have to rely only on your personal references.
Provide references outside of your family, like college professors and employers, so that they’ll be able to give the landlord an idea of your work ethic, responsibility and other important character traits.
Co-signers or guarantors are people who sign the lease with you, saying they take legal responsibility for covering your rent if you can’t. Providing a co-signer is a good idea if you’re a first-time renter for a lot of reasons.
For one, if you don’t have a rental history, landlords won’t have any information about how dependable you are with rent or if you’ve caused damage before.
Landlords may also request a co-signer if you have poor credit or if your income isn’t more than three times the cost of the rent – that’s a pretty typical income rule that landlords use.
If your rental application gets approved, you’ll then be able to sign the lease!
Everyone living in the apartment will have to be present to sign the lease, and the co-signer will need to sign their own agreement as well. The lease covers expectations for the term (typically apartments are rented out for 12 months at a time), rent, pets, maintenance, subleasing and a variety of other aspects of renting.
Expect the lease-signing process to take awhile, since you’ll be covering so much ground. You’ll also most likely have to pay the first month’s rent and any move-in fees or security deposits required by your landlord and the building.
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