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11 Forms Needed to Rent an Apartment

September 22, 2021

You put in the hard work, found your dream apartment, and are ready to sign. However, landlords and property managers want to make sure prospective tenants are the right fit, financially responsible, and reliable before handing over the keys. Come prepared with all the paperwork you need with this list of forms; you need to document everything from income to rental history.

1. Paystubs

A landlord needs proof that you're financially covered to make rent every month. It's not enough to just think you can swing it; they want to see that your income is stable and realistic. What's realistic when it comes to rental payments? The rule of thumb is your rent should be no more than 30% of your gross monthly income.

If your potential rent costs $900 a month, landlords prefer to see your income is at least $3,000 a month. However, there are exceptions in expensive cities like New York and San Francisco.

Bring along several pay stubs to show your income stability. You should also look back through your apartment application. If you guessed the amount listed on your pay stub, make a quick correction. Make sure any information that you share matches up to what is stated on your pay stubs.

2. Bank Statements

If you don't have pay stubs readily available, bank statements can help provide proof of income. Bring along at least two months' work of bank documents to show your landlord it's stable. Make it easy on your landlord by highlighting all of your paycheck and side hustle income so they don’t have to scan through everything. They'll appreciate the extra effort, and it will make the process smoother.

Cities in a competitive market landscape sometimes require both pay stubs and bank statements. It's always better to come over-prepared when signing your next apartment lease.

3. Offer Letter

Securing a new job is the perfect time to find a new apartment or take a step up in your rent to enjoy a larger or nicer apartment. Of course, if you don't have pay stubs or bank statements yet, you'll need an offer letter.

Your new job can supply this information on a document with company letterhead. Showing your bank statements is still helpful in proving your past income stability. giving your landlord and property managers greater peace of mind.

4. Credit Report

Your credit report offers valuable insights into your financial past. A few late payments on credit cards probably won't deter a landlord, but activity from a collections agency about past rent or habitual defaulted credit cards and loans will hurt your chances.

Your landlord may request a fee to run a background check and credit report, or you may be asked to supply your own. Regardless of if you're responsible for handing over a report, you should still check it to know what to expect. Your credit report can be pulled for free once a year from the three major credit bureaus.

5. ID

Before you sign a lease for an apartment, you'll need to bring along a document verifying your identity. A driver's license, passport, or other proof of legal residency is sufficient.

6. Landlord Recommendations

Previous landlord recommendations can go a long way in securing your next apartment. Bring a list of prior residences and recommendations from your landlords whenever possible. Although landlords run background screenings of your rental history, having recommendations in hand puts you ahead of the rental competition.

7. References

If it's your first time renting or you live in a competitive rental market, personal references are helpful, as they can speak to your character and reliability. Make sure you're collecting quality references. Asking your buddies to write a reference letter isn't the best practice. Instead, focus on previous landlords, property managers, supervisors, and colleagues.

8. Vehicle Registration and Proof of Insurance

Vehicle registration and proof of insurance are only necessary for an apartment lease if you're bringing a car with you and parking on-site. The landlord needs to know that the vehicles parked on their property belong to the tenants. You'll avoid getting your car towed and having enough info to track you down in case of an emergency or construction that requires moving your vehicle.

9. SSN

Providing a social security number is part of the process when signing a lease. Of course, you might feel nervous about handing it out.. We all know these nine digits should be protected from wandering eyes. However, landlords and property managers need a social security number to run a background or a credit check on you.

If you provide your own credit report, you may be able to complete the process without disclosing your social security number. In situations where it’s unavoidable, ask for any documents with your digits back and shred them.

10. Additional Paperwork

Even with all the paperwork you gather, landlords sometimes request additional documentation. It's always a good idea to bring along extras just in case they want more


  • Canceled rent checks
  • Copy of your social security card
  • Past tax returns

It's more common for landlords to ask for extra documentation in a hot rental market or expensive areas with low rental inventory.

11. Your Guarantor’s Paperwork

A lease guarantor can be an essential part of the apartment signing process if you don't earn enough to meet the landlord's requirements, have poor credit, or have gone through an eviction.

Lease guarantors guarantee your rent if you can't pay. Because they're also financially responsible, the guarantor will need them to provide the same paperwork as you.

Final Thoughts

Securing an apartment takes some preparation but does not need to feel overwhelming. Come with all of the required documents and anything extra you can think of that would help along the process to enjoy a smooth signing.

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Angelina is a Marketing Specialist at Apartment List where she writes content on rental lifestyle. Angelina previously worked as a Russian and German language specialist at Facebook and Google, and has a BA in Applied Linguistics from UCLA. Read More
Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
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