In a hot rental market, standing out on your rental application can mean the difference between landing your dream space and ending up taking whatever is left. A successful process that ends in you moving into the best apartment begins with a well-planned application. Read on to understand what information you are expected to provide and some tips on standing out from the pack!

How To Succeed in the Rental Application Process

Landlords apply a screening process to ensure the tenants they rent to are qualified and can pay for the space. Succeeding in the rental application process requires you to be truthful but also present yourself in the best light.

Keep in mind

Landlords have strong rights to rent to who they think are the best tenants. Other than federal, state, or local laws banning discrimination based on race, sex, religion, disability, and other protected classes, tenants have few protections if turned down by a potential landlord.

Think of the rental process as a job interview, with your application functioning as a resume. A rental application gives the landlord your basic information, but a well-crafted application can make you stand out in a sea of applicants.

How To Fill Out a Rental Application

Finding a new apartment can be daunting, and the application can seem excessive. Why does the landlord need to know all these personal details? Remember that the landlord is seeking someone they can rely on to pay the rent, not wreck the property, and be a good neighbor to other tenants.

Make sure that every potential tenant fills out their own rental application. Tenant screening can go wrong if you try to sneak a roommate or significant other through the process without informing the landlord.

When filling out the rental application, there are some standard pieces of information you should expect to provide. There are also ways to stand out above other potential tenants. Remember to always be honest while painting a picture of your best self.

Personal Information

All rental applications will require your legal name, current address, phone number, and email. Provide any past names or nicknames you went by to assist the landlord in easily tracking your history. Additional information requested can include your driver’s license or photo ID and emergency contact information.

History of Residence (Previous and Current)

Tracing your history is an essential part of tenant screening. List your current address along with all your prior addresses (within reason). Be careful to list the correct dates that correspond to your residencies, as landlords may look negatively on someone who moves too often.

Employment History and Proof of Income

How are you going to pay the rent? Be honest about where you work, how long you have been employed there, and how much you make. Prepare to share tax documents like your W2 or 1099s and recent pay stubs with the landlord. If you have income sources from outside of employment, explain how that money can be used to cover your rent.

Credit and Financial Background Check

Landlords will seek your signature to authorize an official credit report. If you have any adverse history, it is better to be proactive and disclose it on the application rather than wait for the landlord to be surprised.

Co-signer as a Guarantor

Depending on how you will look on a credit check or through your proof of income, a co-signer can definitely help set you apart. The co-signer guarantees to cover any rent you are unable to pay. If you have a low credit score, seeking a co-signer with pristine credit may be your best option. A guarantor is frequently a close family member, so understand what you are genuinely asking them when requesting their co-signature.

Previous Landlords or Employees Contacts

References can make a difference. If your past payment history has been spotty, but your last landlord says nothing but great things, it can prove you are stable. Additionally, having your work supervisor show faith in you can reduce worries about your future job prospects.

What Happens During the Rental Application Process?

If you have found an apartment and want to commit into a residential lease agreement, seek out the landlord’s rental application. Operators of large complexes or numerous rental units likely have websites for simplifying the process, while smaller landlords may still require paper applications. No matter what, fill out the application completely and attach the appropriate rental application fee.

To help explain yourself, consider adding a cover letter and references to your paperwork. Especially if you have potential red flags in your past like a bankruptcy or eviction notice, a cover letter can add significant value. For example, many people have suffered bankruptcy due to past medical debts. Explaining what happened and when it occurred shows that you are an honest tenant. It can also shine a different light on your application, showing how far you have come since then by pointing out your current income and stability. Your references will also show that you can be a great tenant now before the screening turns to a negative past.

A lot of renters want to know how long does it take to process a rental application? The answer is it depends. Most large property management companies have dedicated staff that can review applications within 24 to 72 hours. Smaller landlords may take more time to process a credit check and call references. If you are using a co-signer, the process may take longer. Because there are more backgrounds to check and credit reports to pull, it may be a week before you hear back.

Once you have submitted your fee and application, be prepared to answer follow-ups. If a landlord is caught up on a particular part of your history, they may reach out for clarification. Be personable and exercise good communication skills. Respond promptly.

The process will hopefully end with your approval and signing of a lease. Make sure you can write a check or transfer the full amount of rent and security deposit needed upon signing. For additional tips or to have experts review your application before submitting, contact LawDistrict’s team of legal and real estate professionals today!


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Helpful Resources:
Fair housing rights and obligation HUD
Housing discrimination
Fair housing Act