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What Documents Do I Need to Rent an Apartment?

An Essential Document Checklist for Renters

Finding the perfect apartment to call home can be just half the battle. Another key hurdle to overcome will be proving to the property manager that you are the right renter for the property. Typically, the “right” renter for most landlords will be someone who is responsible and dependable.

So, how do you prove that you’re the right renter for your dream apartment?

Put together these key documents to share with the property manager as part of your rental application.

7 Documents to Compile for a Rental Application

Gathering these important documents before you start looking at apartments can help you quickly and easily apply for rentals. It can also:

  • Give you a competitive edge over other renters if you ever need to compete for a hot rental property.
  • Facilitate the application review process, helping you get an answer from a landlord faster.

1. Paystubs, W2s, or Income Statements

Proving your income and financial resources with these records shows landlords that you earn what you claim to be earning and that you can cover rent costs. Generally, landlords will want tenants whose monthly income is at least three times the monthly rent.

TIPS:

  • Bring two to three paystubs: One paystub usually is not enough to establish income for property managers. So, if you’re bringing this documentation, bring at least a few paystubs.
  • Highlight relevant areas: Make it easy for landlords to find the info they’re looking for on these documents.
  • Bring copies: Don’t give the originals to landlords.

2. Bank Statements or Employment History

Sometimes, property managers will want these documents, along with proof of income documents. That’s usually the case when renters are self-employed, when they have inconsistent income from month to month, or when other circumstances apply.

With these documents, landlords will want to verify that renters have:

  • Enough in the bank to cover rent costs if their monthly income fluctuates
  • Steady employment that brings in income and that may keep renters in an apartment for a longer period

TIPS:

  • Black out sensitive, irrelevant info: This can protect your privacy while making it easy for a landlord to find the specific details (s)he’s looking for.
  • Print an up-to-date résumé: This will make it easy to show the details of when and where you have worked, so you don’t have to recall or transcribe this info on each application.

3. Credit report

Earnings and financial resources are meaningless if renters can’t be trusted to honor their financial obligations. That’s why landlords run credit checks and check scores. In fact, a credit score can be the final word on who gets an apartment if multiple renters are vying for it.

TIPS:

  • Know your credit score: Before you start looking at rentals, figure out what your credit score is. If you have bad credit, there may be some extra things you can do to make renting easier.
  • Ask landlords about credit bars: Sometimes, property managers won’t rent to people who don’t have a certain credit score. Before submitting an application—or checking out an apartment—ask about any credit bars upfront, so you don’t waste your time on a unit you may not be eligible to rent.
  • Be ready to explain problematic things in your report: Landlords may be willing to overlook issues on credit reports if there’s a reasonable explanation. So, if your credit report includes some bad debt or other issues, be ready to explain those things. It could keep you in the running for some rentals.

4. Photo ID

This can include a driver’s license, identification card, passport, or some other proof of residency.

TIPS:

  • Make copies ahead of time: While you may want to make physical paper copies, it’s also a good idea to scan or take a picture of your photo ID so you have a digital copy handy as well. A digital option can be convenient if you can’t access the physical copies (or a copy machine) at any point.
  • Bring the original with you: Some landlords may want to verify your identity with the original ID. So, bring it with you when applying for an apartment.

5. Rental History

Will you be a good tenant? Beyond paying on time, can you be trusted to respect the property and the existing tenants that may live in the apartment community?

That’s what a rental history generally shows. While it can list the places you’ve rented in the past, it may also need to include references or statements from former landlords.

TIPS:

  • Create a renter’s résumé: Like a job résumé, your renter’s résumé can be a useful resource for detailing your history as a renter. It can include dates, addresses, and landlord contact information for everywhere you’ve recently rented, so you don’t have to dig up these details with each application.
  • Get a letter of recommendation: If possible, ask your current (or a prior) landlord to write a letter of reference for you. Sometimes, it can be helpful to draft these letters on behalf of a landlord, so they can just sign them.

6. Other Records

Depending on your situation and where you want to rent, you may need to gather some other important documents, like (but not limited to):

  • Reference letters for pets: These can show that your pet isn’t dangerous and that you’re a responsible pet owner.
  • Vehicle-related documents: Proof of insurance and registration will usually be required if you have a vehicle that will need to be parked on the landlord’s property.

TIPS:

  • Call the property manager ahead of time: Ask what documents you need to provide so you don’t leave anything out.
  • Create an electronic file with the standard key documents: This lets you easily attach the standard required documents as part of any e-application or an email with supplemental documents.

7. Checkbook

While there may be a fee for running your application or checking your credit, you also want to be ready to put down a deposit if your application is approved. So, carry your checkbook with you. If you do, you’ll be prepared to cover whatever financial demands come with applying for or renting an apartment.

TIPS:

  • Ask about electronic payment options: Some property managers accept eChecks. If that’s more convenient for you, ask about this payment option.
  • Ask how your payments will be used or refunded: Sometimes, application fees may be credited towards a deposit, and any deposit on a rental can be subject to a partial or full refund upon moving out (as long as certain conditions are satisfied). Make sure you know upfront how your money will be applied and/or refunded, so you get the credits, rebates, or repayments you’re entitled to.

Putting a little time upfront into gathering and preparing these key documents for rental applications can save you a lot of time and hassle later when it’s time to apply for your dream apartment.

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