How to Get Approved for an Apartment: 5 Things to Know
Applying and renting an apartment can be a complicated process. Especially with the rental market heating up, apartment applications can be competitive too. Whether you’re a first-time renter or a seasoned professional, we layout everything you need to know on how to get approved for an apartment.
You’ll also find answers to questions such as: What do you need to get approved for an apartment? How long do apartment applications take? And, how can I increase my chances of getting approved for an apartment?
1. Find apartments in your budget
One of the most reliable ways to increase your chances of getting approved for an apartment is to find apartments within your budget. In general, it’s recommend that your monthly gross income is at least three times your monthly rent, including pet rent, parking, and any other fees you have to pay every month.
In your apartment search, you may find that some buildings only require you to earn 2.5x your rent. The latter is most common in big cities, especially New York.
When you first move into an apartment, you may have to pay extra fees such as a security deposit, pet deposit, and parking. Check each apartment building’s website to see what their move-in fees are, and make sure that you can cover them in your monthly budget.
2. Improve your credit in advance
If you are considering applying to an apartment, you may want to check your credit score. Or, if you haven’t already, start building your credit. Most landlords will complete a credit check, and apartment buildings you apply to may have credit requirements. For example, an apartment complex may have a minimum credit requirement of 600. The higher your credit score, the higher your chances of getting approved for an apartment.
If there is a big gap between your credit and the property’s minimum credit requirement, or you don’t have much credit history, work to improve your credit as much as you can. You can do this in many ways, especially by keeping your credit card balances low and paying off other high-interest debts and loans. Improving your credit in advance will help you get approved for an apartment.
How to get an apartment with bad credit
It happens to the best of us. Whether you’re saddled with student loans or just haven’t been able to build up your credit, the majority of people know what it’s like to have bad credit.
While many apartment buildings have credit score requirements in order for you to rent, you may have a chance of getting approved for an apartment even if you don’t meet all their requirements. Regardless of your credit score, what you need to do is prove to the property manager that you have the resources and are a reliable tenant. Some actions you can take to make up for bad credit are to:
- Apply with a co-signer who has better credit
- Provide letters of reference or testimonials, especially from previous landlords
- Settle outstanding balances, such as credit card and other high-interest debt, before applying
- Submit evidence of having a savings built up, such as a bank statement
3. Come prepared when meeting with landlords
Meeting with a landlord is easy, right? Well, not exactly. First off, the landlord or property manager may not be the person giving your tour. So you may have to set up a separate meeting with them to discuss your application.
When you do meet the property manager, come prepared. It’s best to read up on rental requirements before your appointment with the landlord. That way, you’ll know if you qualify for the apartment by yourself or if you will need to ask the landlord for accommodations, such as applying with a cosigner.
You should pay close attention to the rules of the apartment complex. That way, you don’t waste the landlord’s time asking questions when trying to rent an apartment that are already answered on their website, like whether or not they allow pets. And you won’t waste their time and your time by touring an apartment you likely won’t be approved for.
Know what landlords are looking for in an applicant
First and foremost, landlords want applicants, which may be future tenants, to be honest, reliable, and responsible. They don’t want to call you multiple times to request additional documents for your application. And they certainly don’t want to find incorrect information in your application. If you submit an incomplete application or don’t return their emails, the property manager may doubt your reliability and responsibility.
To increase your chances of getting approved for an apartment, submit a complete, honest application. And be available by email, phone, and text for a couple of weeks after submitting your application so that the property manager can get in touch with you.
Lastly, a landlord’s ideal tenant has a flexible move-in date. Especially in colder climates, property managers may ask that you move during warmer months to reduce the risk of damage to the apartment building. So if you can, flexible on your move-in date.
In the end, property managers want a tenant who will make payments on time and be a positive, respectful member of their community.
4. Prepare all documentation needed to get approved
Once you’ve found the perfect apartment, you’ll need to know how to get approved for an apartment.
Most apartment buildings will have a number of application requirements, and they won’t just be about your income. In addition to checking your income, landlords may request documents attesting to your character as well as your rental and work history.
To be prepared and to increase the potential for a quick approval for an apartment, have access to the following documents when you meet with the property manager:
Financial & work history
- Bank statements: Apartment complexes don’t always require bank statements. But you can use them to increase your chances of getting approved for an apartment. You can also submit bank statements to show that you have paid off credit balances which may not be reflected in your credit score yet.
- Job history: A huge part of how to get approved for an apartment is to have a consistent work history. The company that manages your potential apartment building will often request a few years of job history. They just want to make sure you’ve had consistent employment and, that you’ll be more likely to consistently pay rent.
- Paystubs: To confirm that you meet income requirements, you may likely have to submit at least a few months of paystubs to your potential landlord. You can usually access these online, or you can request them from your HR department at work.
- Rental history: Many apartment buildings require that you have at least a year or two of rental history in order to get an apartment approval without a cosigner. Your rental history is just a list of all the previous places you’ve rented before along with your property manager’s contact information.
Other things you may need
- Cover letter: Cover letters are short letters you can use to make your case. Include details such as why you want to move into the apartment, your rental history, and your employment status.
- Pet information and/or interview: If you’re renting with a pet, the property manager will likely ask for the pet’s breed, weight, and other information. They may also hold a short meeting with you and your pet to ensure that your pet will not disturb the community.
- Photo ID: To get an apartment approval, you’ll likely need to provide a driver’s license, passport, or similar photo ID. Property managers use this to confirm your identity.
- References: Property managers won’t usually ask for references. But you can offer character references from your employer or previous landlord to strengthen your application.
- Social security number: Your social security number may be used to verify your identity, income, and employment history.
It is also important to note that most landlords will run a background check using the information in your application.
Use supplemental documents to get an apartment approval
Some of these documents, such as a cover letter and references, aren’t always required in an apartment application. But, they can help you get an apartment approval, especially in competitive rental markets like San Francisco. And supplemental materials like an employer reference can help make up for a weaker part of your application, such as a short employment history.
5. What to expect after submitting your rental application
Once you hit submit on your apartment application, you may wonder, how long do apartment applications take to process? Unfortunately, the answer varies quite a lot by property manager. Some buildings may get back to you within a couple of hours, while others may take weeks.
There are many factors that affect how long apartment applications take. For example, the processing time will be shorter if you filled out an application online. Also, if your new landlord doesn’t have to reach out to references or previous landlords, if you meet all rental requirements, and if you filled out all parts of your application completely the process for being approved can be rather quick.
Some property management companies use third parties to process apartment applications, which unfortunately lengthens the approval process.
What to do if your apartment application is denied
If your apartment application is denied, you’ll want to double-check your application and ask the property manager what went wrong. Some things which may result in an application denial are:
- Background check
- Credit history and/or score
- Employment history
- Incomplete application
- Incorrect information
- No references, or negative references
- The apartment does not allow pets
- Rental history, especially evictions or damage to property
- You are applying with too many tenants for one unit
And, of course, your application can be denied if someone else already rented the apartment and the apartment is no longer available.
What to do if your apartment application is approved
Once you get an apartment approval, you can read and sign your lease. Your landlord may also ask you to pay:
- First month’s rent
- Last month’s rent
- Renter’s insurance
- Security deposit
- Pet deposit
- Any other fees, such as parking fees
Whether your application is approved or denied, read up on your rights as a renter wherever you live. Some areas, like Seattle, have many renter protections. For example, if you are the first qualified applicant to apply for an apartment in Seattle, the property manager is obligated to rent the apartment to you, instead of waiting for a more ideal renter.
Also, some buildings require that you tour a unit before you apply, while others allow you to apply sight unseen. Knowing your rights will help you be a better and more informed tenant, and it can even help you get an apartment.
Rental rules and regulations vary quite a bit by region, city, and even by individual apartment buildings. To maximize your chances of getting approved for an apartment, read up on the properties you want to move to. Make sure to check out each building’s credit, income, and rental history requirements as well as rules regarding pets and number of renters per unit. And you’ll want to research your local renting regulations, just in case your apartment application is handled unfairly or denied by mistake.
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