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How to Glide Through the Rental Application Process

Landlords and property managers use rental applications as part of their screening process to determine if potential renters will be good tenants

rental application form

At last, you’ve found an apartment that ticks all of your boxes. Whether your search has been long or short, there’s a certain satisfaction and sense of promise that comes with finding what you’ve been looking for. But now what?

The next step is to fill out an application for your potential new apartment. Here’s everything you’ll need to know to move through the process smoothly:

You will most likely have the option to fill out the rental application in-person or online. Whichever route you choose, you will need most (if not all) of the following information for you and any other occupants over 18 years old.

  • Contact Information
    You’ll need to share your basic contact information (name, address, phone number, and email address) while filling out your rental application, so the landlord or property manager knows who you are and how to reach you. This is also pertinent for any credit or background checks that may be part of the application process.
  • Social Security Number
    Rental applications will typically require you to share your Social Security number. This number is used for conducting in-depth credit and background checks. If you feel hesitant about sharing this sensitive information, be sure to ask the landlord or property manager about their privacy policy and how your information is kept secure.
  • Driver’s License Number
    Your driver’s license number is often used to verify your identity, ensuring that your license information matches up with your credit report and that you are who you say you are. This number alone is not sufficient to pull a credit report, which is usually why landlords and property managers ask for both your driver’s license and Social Security numbers.
  • Employment Information
    Landlords and property managers are primarily concerned with your ability to pay the rent. They can usually discern this by verifying your employment and your income. You will likely be asked to present recent pay stubs and/or W-2 forms to achieve this end. If you’ve just been offered a new job in a new city and don’t have any pay stubs yet, you can submit your job offer letter as well.
  • Bank Statement/Bank Account Number
    If you don’t have any available copies of your recent pay stubs or W-2 forms, you can also share a recent bank statement. A landlord or property manager may ask for your bank account number to ensure that you actually have a bank account and make enough to cover the rent.

    They may also want your bank account number in case you miss rent payments. Know that as a third party, they can’t do anything with your bank account number unless given permission by a court ruling. Keep in mind that this number is also listed at the bottom of any personal checks you may use to make payments.
  • Residential History
    In addition to your ability to pay rent, landlords and property managers want to know if you’ve had any issues causing property damage or breaking the terms of your lease agreements in the past. So, they will usually conduct a tenant background check and ask you for the last three years of your rental history, including the addresses of your former rentals, your reasons for moving, and your previous landlords’ names and phone numbers.
  • Cosigner Information
    If you’ve made it this far and realized you’re missing some, or all, of the previous information (it’s okay, it happens to everyone), you will likely need a cosigner to vouch for you. Whether you have no credit or bad credit, a cosigner can help you get approved for an apartment. A cosigner takes on a big responsibility by agreeing to pay your rent if you default on any payments, so be sure to ask someone you trust to cosign for you.
  • Vehicle Information
    Your vehicle information is usually requested so landlords and property managers know which vehicles parked on the property belong to residents. Some communities have parking restrictions or towing policies, which you should definitely be aware of. Even if a community doesn’t have any parking restrictions, they’ll want to know who to contact if a vehicle on the property needs attention.

Filling out a rental application is usually comes with an application fee, which varies in price but tends to average between $30 and $50. Side note: If you use to fill out a rental application, you pay $24.99 and can apply for up to 10 participating rentals within 30 days.

The landlord or property manager uses your application fee to pay for your tenant screening, which often includes a credit report, background check, and any eviction filings. Check your state laws to see if there are any regulations regarding application fees in your state. Ask the landlord or property manager if the application fee is refundable or if it can be applied to the first month’s rent upon your application’s acceptance.

Processing a rental application can take anywhere between 24 and 72 hours, on average. If you’ve been waiting to hear back about a rental application you submitted more than 72 hours ago, contact the landlord or property manager to see what’s going on. They could be waiting on any number of factors, so it’s best to check in and see what you can do to speed up the process.

There are many reasons why a rental application could be denied. Some of the most common reasons are:

  • Insufficient income
  • Poor credit report
  • Prior evictions
  • Damaging references
  • Any inaccurate application information
  • Another renter has already been approved for the rental in question

Whether your application has been accepted or denied, your rental journey isn’t over yet. Here are your next steps after the rental application:

  • If accepted
    Congratulations! If your rental application was accepted, it’s time to sign your lease agreement. You’re also on the hook for any security deposits, move-in fees, or pet fees mandated in your lease agreement.
  • If denied
    Don’t be discouraged. Get back on that rental horse and keep looking for your next place. Contact the landlord or property manager to find out why your rental application was denied and see what you can do to improve the chances of your next rental application being accepted.

Rental applications can be tricky to navigate. But once you know what to expect and how the process works, you can move forward with ease. Go forth and apply for that rental of your dreams.

Published May 29, 2020 courtesy of Renterverse