Friends moving into a new apartment.

Getting Approved On A Rental Application

Sarah Li Cain4-minute read
September 21, 2020

Preparing a strong application for a rental property can mean the difference between getting the apartment of your dreams and feeling frustrated over searching for yet another place to live. Sure, there are places that aren’t as high in demand, but hot rental markets like New York City can mean a lot of competition.

The good news is there are ways to help you get an approved application faster. It does mean you’ll need to be extremely prepared throughout the process. Here’s what you need to know about a typical rental application process and what you can do to increase your chances of being approved.

Apply Online with Rocket Mortgage®

Get approved with Rocket Mortgage® and do it all online. You can get a real, customizable mortgage solution based on your unique financial situation.

What A Typical Apartment Rental Application Process Looks Like

All apartments have an application that you’re required to fill out, though the exact process could differ depending on the property management company. Generally speaking, you’ll probably need to complete an online application form or fill out one directly with the landlord at their rental office.

During the application process you’ll need to provide certain details such as proof of income, employment information and previous addresses. This could mean that the higher your credit score, the more you’re seen as a reliable tenant. It’s a good idea to check your credit score to assess your situation. That being said, there are other areas where you can strengthen your application, such as having more than enough steady income to pay the rent. The bonus is that you’ll improve your personal finances in general.

Considering that your application is the first impression the management company or landlord will have of you as a potential tenant, you’ll want to make sure you provide ample proof that you’ll pay rent on time. This could mean paying a nonrefundable application fee that includes a background and credit check. Some might require that you pay a security deposit equaling 1 – 2 months worth of rental payments.

What You Need To Include In Your Application For A Rental Property

Again, specifics could differ, but you’ll generally need to provide the following items:

  • Credit check – You’ll need to give the landlord or management company permission to conduct a credit check. This will most likely be a hard pull. It indicates how financially responsible you are when it comes to paying bills on time.
  • Proof of income – Providing documents like your W-2, tax statements or recent pay stubs can show that you have ample cash flow to make rent payments. In some cases, the landlord or management company may call your employer to prove your employment.
  • References from previous landlords – References may not be necessary, but in a competitive rental market, it might help speed up the application process. There’s also the option of providing personal references, such as employers and college professors.
  • A cover letter with your rental application – If you’re not sure you’ll get the apartment (like if your situation is complex), then attaching a cover letter might help since it gives you a chance to explain your side of things. For example, you can explain that your bad credit was due to unforeseen medical bills, you had a spout of unemployment but have since gained steady employment, or anything you think would raise a red flag with the landlord.
  • Background check – Just like a credit check, you’ll need to give permission to the landlord or management company to conduct a background check (typically within the application form). This check shows who you are as a renter, whether you’re a reliable person who will most likely take care of the property. That means if you have pending charges or previous convictions, it could prevent you from getting the apartment. If you know something will pop up that looks like a red flag, take the time to explain it, as it can go a long way to helping your application get approved. You can include this information in your cover letter.
  • Co-signer application – In some cases, you might need a co-signer to strengthen your application, particularly if you have bad credit or you’re new to credit. This person is legally responsible for covering the rent if for some reason you can’t.

How Long It Can Take To Get Approved

Once you completed your application and paid the necessary fees, it can take 24 – 72 hours to find out if you’re approved. Of course, it’s a good idea to check with the management company or landlord to determine this time frame.

Sometimes management companies or landlords want to rent out their spaces quickly, so you could get a reply as soon as the same day you submitted your application. Or if you’re living in a competitive market, it might take a few more days as management companies could be more particular about finding the perfect tenant.

What typically takes the longest is the credit and background check. Once your rental application is approved, you’ll sign the lease – your co-signer will need to as well if you have one. Make sure to read over all documents carefully and ask questions if you need to. Don’t forget that you’ll also need to put down a security deposit or other related fees before you get the keys.

Finding an apartment can be tedious, especially when it comes to organizing all the information you need for an application. However, once you have it ready, you’re armed with what you need to make a strong case why you’re a worthy tenant. Good luck finding your new home!

Apply Online with Rocket Mortgage®

Get approved with Rocket Mortgage® and do it all online. You can get a real, customizable mortgage solution based on your unique financial situation.

Sarah Li Cain

Sarah Li Cain is a freelance personal finance, credit and real estate writer who works with Fintech startups and Fortune 500 financial services companies to educate consumers through her writing. She’s also a candidate for the Accredited Financial Counselor designation and the host of Beyond The Dollar, where she and her guests have deep and honest conversations on how money affects our well-being.