If you’re in the market to move, it’s a time of excitement but also one of uncertainty. You get to look for new and interesting places to live, but the application process can be nerve-wracking. If you’ve moved recently, you may already know about the 3x rent rule and how it can affect your application process. If not, we’ll do a deep dive into the 3x rent rule so that you are fully prepared to meet the requirements of your next potential landlord.
Yes, in most cases, you will need to meet the 3x rent rule or at least be incredibly close to it. However, in situations where you may be receiving rent assistance or putting up additional security deposits, this may not apply. There may also be some “wiggle room” for generous landlords, who may not require you to meet the rule, but will still expect you to have a steady income that demonstrates your ability to pay the rent.
For example, someone who has been granted a section 8 housing choice voucher may not make 3x the rent, but the federal government is also subsidizing their rent burden. A section 8 voucher will generally cover 60%-70% of the rent for a home in the program, lessening the financial requirement of the tenant.
To calculate 3x the rent, you just need to multiply the rent amount by 3. For example, if you find an apartment with a $700 per month rent amount, you will need to show $2,100 in gross monthly income.
You can also calculate this on a yearly basis instead of a monthly basis. Using the above example, you'd first calculate the yearly rent ($8,400) and then multiply that by 3, so you would need a yearly income of $25,200 to be able to qualify for the apartment.
Showing your income can be as easy as pulling your last few bank statements and showing them to your potential landlord. For gig workers or those who are self-employed, this burden of documentation can get a little more cumbersome. In situations where you may not have a bank account or a traditional W-2 income, you might have to show 1099s or other information that shows a consistent and reliable income.
The short answer is that it helps protect them and you. When a landlord follows the 3x rent rule, they give themselves the best opportunity to find a tenant who can pay the rent reliably and consistently without jeopardizing their other financial obligations. This protects them from having to go through the unpleasant, though occasionally necessary, eviction process.
Many people don’t realize that when a landlord accepts tenants that fit the 3x rent rule, they are protecting themselves from financially overextending themselves. If someone doesn’t fit the 3x rent rule, they may still be able to afford the rent of a particular home, but it may set them up for failure when meeting other basic living expenses like utilities, food, and more.
There are some cases where you simply don’t meet the 3x rent rule, even though the amount of rent, when combined with conservative living expense estimates shows you should be able to afford the rent comfortably. If you don't make 3 times the rent, you can still try to get the apartment by putting up a larger security deposit, finding a guarantor, or demonstrating your fiscal responsibility by showing your potential landlord bank statements that show you being responsible with your money and discretionary spending. They may be willing to make an exception. Good money management is never a bad thing.
Since it’s not a law of any sort and just a general guideline for landlords and renters, there will always be the possibility of finding a flexible landlord.
If you’re looking for a new place to live, you will have to prove you can pay for it. Before you start your hunt, be sure you have gathered your proof of income documentation so that you can show you’re financially able to cover rent as well as living expenses. Even if you don’t make exactly 3x the rent amount, have some proof that you can pay the requested rent while still living within your means.