The ListedBuy Blog


Application for a Rental House: A Guide to Help You Through the Process

Application for rental house Finding your perfect apartment is enough to get anybody excited. Other than your lease, your rental application is the most important document within the process. It acts as the gateway to finding your ideal home.

As of 2019, approximately 44 million Americans rented, meaning landlords have a massive pool of tenants to choose from. Your application for a rental house requires you to demonstrate your creditworthiness and reliability. It’s your chance to stand out from other applicants.

Filling out a rental application is simple, but if you’ve never done it or haven’t applied in some time, here’s your guide to completing your next application.

What is a Rental Application?

Landlords must determine whether a potential tenant is a good fit for their property. The chances are you’re not the only person applying to rent a house, so your landlord needs a way to differentiate interested parties. This is where the rental application comes in.

So, what does an apartment application look like?

Your rental application will contain questions designed to establish your background. Landlords are free to rent to whomever they choose as long as they don’t reject someone in a way that breaks anti-discrimination laws.

These applications aren’t just box-checking exercises. More people are denied than you might think. According to one study, 25% of Manhattan rental applicants were rejected, making it a complicated process for many to navigate.

Following a house tour, you’ll usually be asked to complete your application online or on paper. It largely depends on the preferences of the landlord and/or the property management company.

How Much is the Application Fee?

In most cases, you’ll be asked to pay an application fee. The purpose of an application fee is to fund the landlord’s background and credit checks.

Costs range from $25 to $100, with most states seeing averages of $35 to $75. These fees are nearly always non-refundable.

Some states regulate application fees. According to Law District, some states that regulate application fees include:

  • Massachusetts – One of two states to ban application fees entirely (the other being Vermont).
  • New York – New York levies a $20 maximum limit for processing fees.
  • Washington – The application fee must match the cost of any background checks exactly.

Any fees will be paid directly to the landlord or the property company managing the apartment or home on their behalf. Minnesota is the one state requiring a partial refund if the cost of conducting checks falls under the application fee levied.

What Do You Need for a Rental Application?

Rent application requirements vary based on the landlord. Prepare yourself ahead of time by gathering the most commonly requested documents. In hot rental markets, it’s not uncommon for the person who completes their application first to win the lease.

Delays give other applicants an edge, especially if it’s an apartment with a lot of competition. Try to have paper and digital copies of your documentation to save time and speed up the rental application process.

The most commonly requested documents are:

  • Personal ID – Prove who you are with a state-issued photo ID, such as a passport or a driver’s license. Sometimes, you may need to provide two forms of ID.
  • Contact Information – Provide an email address, personal phone, or work phone.
  • Proof of Income – Tax returns, bank statements, current pay stubs, and W-2s are all ways to demonstrate your current income.

Landlords often ask for additional information to prove your income and lifestyle. Landlords may ask for a formal letter confirming your current employment or a contact number for your employer’s HR department.

You might even be asked for personal and professional references in more competitive markets to determine your character.

While not always required for processing rental applications, providing contact information for any previous landlords you’ve had in the last few years is always a good idea. Strong references go a long way to giving a prospective landlord peace of mind when renting.

Finally, make sure you provide upfront information about any pets you have. Real estate owners often specifically exclude applicants with pets. Even if pets are welcome, your landlord will want to know more about your furry friend.

What Factors Do Landlords Consider?

Application for rental property The first consideration for any landlord is whether a potential tenant has enough income to cover the rent reliably and if they look like they pay their bills on time. Your proof of income documentation and previous references answer these two questions.

Landlords today will usually dig deeper by conducting a credit report. It’s perfectly legal for landlords to conduct credit checks because by filling out an application for a rental house, you’re permitting them to carry out the check.

Your credit score shows how well you manage money. For better or worse, prospective landlords will be swayed by that number. In one study, tenants with a credit score of 650 saw their credit score drop by 14% by the time they moved out.

Statistics like these are why landlords now consider a reasonable 650 to be a “low credit score.” Whether you think it’s fair or not, landlords only care about the perceived risk involved in renting to you.

Income Verification

Your income is a critical part of your application for a rental property. Landlords don’t just want to know that you can afford the rent. They want to know it won’t take too much of your income because struggling renters might have trouble prioritizing this expense while trying to manage their basic needs.

Submitting recent tax returns, pay stubs, and W-2s demonstrates how much you make. If you’re self-employed, make sure you have two years of tax returns to show. Several months’ worth of bank statements is another way to show your income.

Landlords will also factor in your rent-to-income ratio. A good number depends on the local market. For example, the average rent consumes 28% of income in Chicago, whereas it can consume 40% or more in Los Angeles.

Past Convictions

Does your criminal history matter?

Yes. Your landlord is free to reject your application for a rental house based on your criminal record. Background checks are an insight into your character and a way to estimate how dependable you are.

Failing to disclose your criminal history is grounds for immediate rejection with no recourse, so make sure you’re upfront about your record. You’ll win points for honesty and have a chance to tell your story.

Letters of Recommendation

If you’ve already got a successful rental history, you’ll have the edge over everyone else. Someone who has never missed a rental payment in 20 years will always be a more attractive proposition than a first-time renter.

Letters of recommendation don’t have to come just from previous landlords. They can also come from:

  • Professors
  • Work colleagues
  • Previous employers

First-time renters can expect to face more scrutiny than someone with a lengthy rental history. Without a previous rental history, landlords will need more information.

The Federal Fair Housing Act and You

The federal Fair Housing Act is anti-discrimination legislation influencing rental applications. Under the act, you cannot be discriminated against because of your race, color, nationality, religion, age, gender, familial status, or disability.

Increasingly, individual states are also including sexual orientation in this category. You also can’t be asked about them on your rental application.

However, two areas where landlords can reject your application include whether or not you’re a smoker and whether or not you own a pet.

As previously noted, landlords can deny you based on your income, credit score, criminal background, rental history, and references.

Finally, you’re also not protected if your application is rejected because you were found to have lied or omitted critical details.

How Long Does the Application Process Take?

Rental application process Getting approved for an apartment is a streamlined process because the sooner the tenant signs their lease, the sooner they start paying rent.

As mentioned above, you can expedite the process by having all the necessary documentation ready when submitting your application.

If there are no snags, most applications will be processed within one to three business days. However, conducting background and credit checks can take even longer.

Either way, you should know the outcome within seven to ten business days.

What Happens When Your Renters Application is Approved?

So, your application has been approved. What happens now?

You’ll need to sign the lease. Your lease is a legal document with binding clauses. It’s an agreement that you will pay the rent on time for the lease term.

Signing Your Lease

These days you can usually sign your lease online. Some landlords complete all lease agreements in this way. Just click on the link the landlord sends you and append your electronic signature.

You’ll be asked to visit the leasing office if you need to sign in person. First-time tenants may also need to bring a cosigner to sign the lease and guarantee the rent.

Read through your lease carefully and ask any questions before you sign.

Remit Payments

When your lease is signed, you’ll be required to send the first month’s rent to receive the keys to your new home.

Some properties may require you to send a security deposit or move-in fee. You also may be asked to pay an additional pet fee if you own pets.

Move In

After you’ve sent the first month’s rent and paid any other fees, you’ll receive the keys and be ready to move in. Sometimes, you won’t receive the keys immediately and will be asked to pick them up at a designated time.

Before your move-in date, you should know whether you’re responsible for the utilities separately and any parking fees you need to pay.

Once this process is complete, you can move into your new home!

Find Quality Rental Listings with ListedBuy

Rent application requirements Moving into a new place is exciting, but first, you must find the perfect spot. At ListedBuy, we specialize in helping landlords and tenants connect in all 50 states. With our platform, you’ll see all the quality rental listings in your area. If you’re searching for houses for rent, browse our classified ads to get the details on rental opportunities near you. Choose from hundreds of listings at any one time and find your next home. Learn more about classified apartment rental listings with ListedBuy and prepare for your next move now!

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