Jen Jackowski

Like a job application, an apartment application requires you to attach additional documents. Simply filling out the form with your information and a list of past apartments isn’t enough. Your potential landlord needs more information to show whether or not you’ll be a reliable tenant.

While you’re apartment hunting, gather the documents listed below. Some landlords will ask for everything, and others will only ask for a couple, so being prepared for any situation is your best bet.


Landlords ask to see your pay stubs, to make sure you’re employed and make as much money as you say you do.  (Remember, the landlord’s first concern is whether you’ll pay your rent). If you don’t make enough money, letting you move in is a terrible financial decision. Landlords typically only accept tenants for whom the rental price is 30% or less of their income.

Most of the time, landlords will ask for your two most recent pay stubs. If you have direct deposit, you can likely still find your pay stub online, or ask your boss for a copy. If you do get a physical stub with your paycheck, only provide a copy, not the original.


Bank statements

If you don’t have pay stubs, you can show bank statements instead. Both are the way that you show that you actually will have the money to pay your rent.

Take in two months’ worth of bank statements, showing how much money you have and how much you get paid. It can help to highlight the lines for your paycheck, to save the landlord the trouble of having to process everything on a long list of transactions.

Driver's license, passport, or other proof of residency

Bring your driver’s license or other identification with you when you tour apartments or when you go to fill out an application.

Some landlords are stricter than others about needing this documentation but having proof of residency with you can’t hurt. If you don’t have a driver’s license, a state ID, passport, or green card can show you are who you say you are and can legally live there.


A recommendation shows that you were a good tenant in a previous apartment community.  You don’t usually have to get an actual letter. Most landlords will accept basic information about your last apartments, such as the property manager’s contact information, so that they can call. Still, having a letter ahead of time can save them the work.

It’s a good idea to get one of these letters before moving from your current apartment building.  A referral letter that you were confident enough to ask for – and received – says a lot to a manager.

Vehicle registration and proof of insurance

If you’re bringing a car with you, the landlord needs to know what cars to expect on the property full time.

Some buildings have a limited number of parking spaces per unit, so landlords want to make sure only the approved vehicles are in the lot. It can also help to tell if a car seems abandoned – they can check with you to make sure you’re just out of town for a while, not leaving your car abandoned.

Social Security number

Your parents may have warned you not to give out this precious nine-digit identification code, but you do have to provide it to a potential landlord. Property managers use this number to perform credit and background checks, to help tell if you’ll be a good tenant.

You shouldn’t have to provide a copy of your social security card, so memorize your number instead.

Hot Tip:  Do not store it on your phone or leave it visible in your apartment.

Rental history

You’ll need to provide your rental history, listing all apartments you’ve lived in. This should include addresses, the phone number of the property manager, how long you were there, how much you paid, and why you left.

If you’ve rented in several locations, it might be a good idea to go ahead and create a file of this information for yourself, so that you can take it with you when you apply.  You can always update it with each move. That way, you can make your application quickly, by copying the information, or simply providing a copy of the document with your application, instead of filling out that section.


Most applications have a section for references other than previous landlords. You should have a mental list of both professional and personal references, in case the landlord wants both. Just make sure to ask the people you plan to use as references for their permission, since they’ll be receiving a phone call.

These references can come from businesses where you’ve worked, non-profits where you’ve volunteered, even your church. Choose established and responsible adults as your references; your 20-year-old college dormmate isn’t as reliable in the eyes of a landlord as your 40-year-old boss.

Job history/resume

Someone who can hold a job is more likely to be able to pay the rent. Include a resume, with your current job and a few previous ones. Keep this information on hand so you can reference it when you apply for apartments.

More than just the salary, this shows how stable the money coming in is. If you leave every three months, your income isn’t stable, and thus isn’t reliable. If, however, you’ve had a job for five or more years, the 12 months you’ll be at this apartment will likely be a financially stable time.


Finally, bring your checkbook when applying for apartments. You may have to pay a fee to apply or to take the unit off the market until you sign the lease . That way, no one else can swoop in and take your dream apartment while you’re waiting for the OK.

Have all these items on hand when you tour a place in case you want to fill out an apartment application on the spot. It’s better to have it and not need it, than to wish you had everything with you and have to wait to fill out the application. Happy hunting!



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