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How to Rent an Apartment [2023 Rental Application Guide]

September 21, 2022
Learning how to rent an apartment can be overwhelming. Continue reading to learn the basics of renting an apartment and renter tips to help you get approved.

You’ve scoured area rental listings, found the perfect place, and are ready to take an apartment tour. But before you can sign a lease agreement and move in, you’ll also need to complete the apartment application process. It’s part of the requirements to rent an apartment and something everyone does.

Although it’s not complicated, all the steps involved can feel overwhelming. Don’t worry. We’ve rounded up all the info you need for renting an apartment, including how to apply for an apartment, the documents required for the application process, and tips to help ensure you'll get approved.

1. Complete the Rental Application

How do apartment applications work, and how long does it take for an apartment to approve you? Well, once you apply for an apartment, the waiting time for approval is typically 24 to 72 hours.

Here is a list of some of the required information needed when applying for an apartment:

  • Name
  • Social security number (for background checks)
  • Proof of ID
  • Current address
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Income verification
  • Previous addresses
  • Emergency contacts
  • Pets (if applicable)
  • References

2. Pay the Application Fee

Another one of the steps to rent an apartment includes applicants paying a non-refundable application fee of about $30 to $50. The landlord charges these fees to cover the costs of screening renters, sometimes including background and credit checks.

3. Prepare for Credit and Background Checks

The next part of the process includes credit and background checks.

Credit checks are usually part of the application fee and require your authorization. The landlord also conducts a background check to assess your criminal history and see how dependable you are.

4. Send Over Proof of Income

Proof of income is critical when applying for an apartment, as it shows that you have a reliable source of income to pay rent. Bring two to three pay stubs, tax returns, and two to three months' worth of bank statements to include in your application to speed up the process of renting an apartment.

Getting an apartment application approval requires proof of income in the form of:

  • Pay Stubs
  • Tax Returns
  • Bank Statements
  • Income Letter From an Employer
  • Court-Ordered Payments
  • Social Security Documents
  • Unemployment Documents
  • Pension
  • Severance Statement
  • Disability Insurance
  • Worker’s Compensation
  • W-2 Income Statement
  • 1099 Form
  • Annuity Statement
  • Interest and Dividend Income
  • Bonus and Incentive Payment Statement

5. Determine if You Need a Co-Signer

If your income (or credit score) is not high enough to secure the apartment, consider asking a trusted person to be your co-signer. A co-signer or guarantor is someone who signs the lease with you and is legally required to pay your rent if you fail to do so. They are common for those with poor credit or unstable income.

6. Provide Rental References

Prospective landlords want references from previous landlords to verify your rental history and reliability as a prospective tenant when getting an apartment.

They want to ensure your responsibility. To confirm, your prospective landlord might also call your previous landlord to ask about your reliability and ability to pay rent on time.

7. Consider Including Personal References

If you are new to the apartment renting process and don’t have previous rental history, bring personal references from a boss or superior that speak to your trustworthiness and reliability. Make the process easier with these rental reference letters as an example.

8. Sign the Lease

Once approved, it’s time to sign the lease. Make sure you read through everything and understand each detail. After all, it’s a legally binding document!

9. Provide Your Security Deposit

A security deposit is a sum that a new tenant pays to a landlord or property management company before moving in. Security deposits provide landlords insurance for tenant damage beyond normal wear and tear. It’s common for the amount to be between 1-3 months' rent.

10. Move Into Your New Apartment

While moving into your new apartment may seem overwhelming, it’s an exciting time in your life. Many of the first apartment checklist items you likely already have handy. If you don’t, buying brand new is not your only option.

7 Tips to Get Approved for an Apartment

There are a few things to know about the rental process that could impact approval. For example, most landlords are looking for applicants who pay rent on time, are excellent communicators, have steady incomes, are good neighbors, and treat the property as their own.

Keeping these factors in mind, here are seven tips to help move the renting process along:

  1. Speed up the rental application process by providing copies of your credit report and rental reference letters from your employer and previous landlords
  2. The property management company won’t proceed with apartment applications if individuals decline the application fee
  3. Typically, ~650 is the minimum credit score needed when applying for an apartment
  4. Before landlords run your background check during the apartment rental process, disclose if there’s anything noteworthy, like an old arrest
  5. If you don’t have pay stubs because you just got a new job, provide an offer letter from your new employer when applying for apartments
  6. Call ahead to ask which payment method landlords prefer between cash, checks, or credit cards
  7. If you’re on a budget, some move-in specials will waive the application fee to entice more renters to apply

Final Thoughts

Now that you have a better idea of the renting and application process, you'll be approved in no time! But if you’re having trouble finding the right place for you, we can help. Find your next apartment on Apartment List today!

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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
Emily is a professionally trained writer who covers a wide range of topics but specializes in business and hospitality content. With over a decade of professional writing experience in the hospitality industry, Emily comes from a strong background in the field backed with a BS from the world-renowned William F. Read More
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