Apartment Application Guide

May 26th 2024
Although not nearly as complicated as applying for a mortgage, applying for an apartment can often be stressful. However, getting all your paperwork in order and knowing what to expect can make the process less intimidating. To help you prepare, here is a closer look at how to apply for an apartment.

hash-markWhat is an Apartment Application?

An apartment application is a form you will fill out that gives a landlord a brief summary of your current employment, residence history, and general contact information. Some applications will be more in-depth than others. Still, it will contain basic questions about your employment, salary, and other relevant information that the landlord will cross reference against your financial paperwork. You may be asked to pay an application fee or an admin fee when you submit your application. The landlord will also require you to submit financial documents such as tax returns, bank statements, W-2s, and an employment letter along with your application. 

hash-markHow to Apply for an Apartment 

  1. Fill Out the Application
  2. Pay the Application Fee
  3. Provide Proof of Income
  4. Approve a Credit Check
  5. Approve a Background Check
  6. Get a Cosigner If Required
  7. Provide Past Landlords and Personal References
  8. Pay a Security Deposit
  9. Be Prepared to Wait 

1. Fill Out the Application

The first step in applying for an apartment is to complete the rental application. Most apartment applications will request your basic contact information, current salary and employment, recent references, and any other info the landlord deems relevant. Make sure to fill out the application clearly and be as truthful as possible to avoid rejection.

2. Pay the Application Fee

The landlord or the brokerage processing the transaction will require a fee to submit your application. This fee is usually between $20 and $50, although in some places, it can be as high as $100. In most cases they're require a fee for every application or one for every tenant who lives in the unit. 

3. Provide Proof of Income

One of the most important aspects of your application is your proof of income. Each landlord may require different documentation, but most will ask for an employment letter, bank statements, tax returns, and proof of any other income or assets to verify that you can afford the apartment. 

4. Approve a Credit Check

The landlord will also require you to pass a credit check. Again, some landlords are stricter than others, but most will want to see at least a 680 FICO score to be approved. They will also want to look for things like late payments, judgments, high debt, and anything else that may be cause for concern. 

5. Approve a Background Check

Your landlord may also require you to pass a background check to ensure you don't have a criminal record. This is to ensure the safety of the other tenants in the building and verify that you won't be conducting any illegal behavior in the unit. 

6. Get a Cosigner if Required

If the landlord is concerned about your ability to afford the apartment, you may need to find a cosigner. Cosigners are optional if you fulfill the credit and income requirements but may be necessary if you are on the cusp and the landlord isn't fully convinced of your ability to pay the rent. Cosigners must submit their own application and financial documents and be responsible for paying the rent if you cannot. 

7. Provide Past Landlords and Personal References

Some landlords may also ask for landlord reference letters or personal reference letters or both. Although financial documents can tell them about your employment and income, it only provides a partial picture of who you are. Therefore, they may ask for references from actual human beings to verify your sense of responsibility.

8. Pay a Security Deposit

Some landlords will also ask you to put down a security deposit to take the apartment off the market. The deposit is typically equal to one month's rent and will usually be due when you submit your application. You will get your deposit back if your application is rejected.  

9. Be Prepared to Wait

Once you've paid the deposit and submitted all the required documents, all that's left to do is wait. Some landlords will get back to you immediately, while others may take their time to review the application. On average, it takes between one and three days to get approved for an apartment. So if you have been waiting to hear back for more than a week, you may want to request an update. 

hash-markApartment Application Required Information

  • Personal Contact Information
  • Social Security Number
  • Driver's License Number and State ID
  • Current and Previous Employment Information
  • Proof of Income
  • Current and Previous Address / Rental Information
  • Past Landlords and Personal References
  • Vehicle Information
  • Emergency Contacts

Personal Contact Information

You'll be asked to provide your personal contact information, including your full name, birthdate, email address, cell phone number, and any other communication methods that may be relevant such as an office phone, home phone, etc. 

Social Security Number

You will also be asked to provide your social security number so the landlord can run a credit check. If you are uncomfortable writing it on the application, you can submit it to the landlord separately or supply your own credit report (if permitted). But it will also be listed on your tax returns, so the landlord can see it either way. 

Driver's License Number and State ID

The landlord will also request a copy of your driver's license, which they will likely photocopy and attach to your application. They may also request your full driver's license number on the application itself to verify your identity. If you do not have a driver's license, ask the landlord about other options, such as a non-driver's state ID or military ID. 

Current and Previous Employment Information

The landlord wants to know about your current employer and overall employment history. They will then use this information to cross-reference the financial documents to ensure everything you're telling them lines up. You will also likely be required to submit a letter from your employer verifying your salary, length of employment, and current position.  

Proof of Income

The most important part of your application is your proof of income. Your landlord will want to verify that you have enough income and savings to safely afford the apartment by checking your bank statements, tax returns, W-2s, pay stubs, and any other relevant documents.

Current and Previous Address / Rental Information

The landlord will also ask for info on your current and previous residences. They will likely ask for the address of the last 3 or 4 apartments you lived in, along with the name and contact info of your previous landlords. If you previously lived with family or paid a mortgage, you should indicate that on the application. 

If you aren't sure what the correct formatting looks like, check out our article on how to write an apartment address

Past Landlords and Personal References

Stricter landlords may also require references from past landlords and personal acquaintances. While not always required, it always helps to have these references on deck just in case they're requested. 

Vehicle Information

You may be required to submit information about your vehicle if the apartment building offers onsite parking. The landlord will want to know what type of vehicle it is and verify that you have the proper paperwork and insurance so they can keep an eye on any shared parking areas. 

Emergency Contacts

Finally, the application will likely ask for an emergency contact, just in case something happens, and they need to get in touch with your family or friends. Typically, a name and phone number will be enough.  

hash-markApartment Application Tips

Here are a few tips to make sure that the application process goes as smoothly as possible:

  • Be as truthful as possible, any intentional misrepresentation of facts can be grounds for immediate rejection, even if it's something minor.
  • Only apply for an apartment if you feel you can comfortably afford it. You don't want to waste time and money applying for apartments that are out of your budget only to be rejected.
  • Provide as much information as possible. The landlord may become suspicious if you are omitting facts and has to request more info.
  • Fill out your application neatly and submit it as soon as possible. The sloppier or slower you submit the documents, the higher the chances of rejection.

hash-markApartment Application Bottom Line 

Ultimately, applying for an apartment can be a smooth process as long as you are well-prepared. Make sure to collect all your documents beforehand and have all the necessary info ready to go before you apply. As long as you meet the credit and income requirements and submit all your paperwork promptly, you should have any issues being approved.