Many people assume that once they find the apartment they like, moving in will be a breeze since landlords require the rent anyway. However, it is important to take into consideration that there are probably other prospective tenants who applied for the same unit you want to move into, which means the landlord will have to make some tough decisions.
How soon can you move into an apartment? In order to potentially move into an apartment, you need to apply for it first. The landlord will then screen your application, a process that can take 24 to 72 hours. The screening process involves a number of things, including background checks and credit checks. It is only after your application for the rental unit gets approved that you will be able to move in.
Moving in is the final step of a long process of getting approved for an apartment. It is important to be informed on the process of application so as to have an idea of what to expect. Here is the general step-by-step process of applying for an apartment.
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The step-by-step process of applying for an apartment
1. Filling out the application form
Of course, the first step of applying for the apartment is filling out the application form. Usually, you can fill the form online, but you can also opt to do it in person. It is important to fill an application form as soon as you can in order to secure an apartment of your choice before someone else can.
2. Pay the application and processing fee
Most applications usually require that you pay for an application and processing fee. The application fees are usually non-refundable, and they have to be paid in order for your application to be processed. The fee may be as high as $100 or even more in some areas, and this is charged per person. An application fee may go towards rental history verification, background checks, and credit checks.
3. Provide proof of income
In order to move into your dream apartment, you need to prove that you can afford to keep up with the monthly rent. A rule of thumb that generally prevails is that your monthly income should be at least 3 times the amount you are to pay for the monthly rent. The landlord may contact your employer in order to prove that you have a steady job, as well as ask for pay stubs or bank statements.
4. Checking your credit
During the application process for an apartment, the landlord or property management company will require you to approve a credit check. The process of checking your credit score is necessary in order to verify that you are a financially responsible individual. This is used as an indicator of how timely you are likely to be when it comes to paying the rent. A low credit score may compromise your dependability, but you should be upfront about it during the application process so that you can be informed on alternative options you have.
5. Background check
The background check serves the same purpose as the credit check-to gauge your dependability. On the application, there will be a section where you need to approve the background check, as well as a provision for you to explain anything that stands out on your record.
Some of the provisions that may be required in connection to your background include:
- Rental history – Rental history comprises of the places that you have lived in the past, as well as the period of time that you spent in those places. This information will show the prospective landlord the patterns of how you paid rent and whether or not you ran into problems with your previous landlords (evictions and late fees)
In the event that your rental history is not perfect, a prospective landlord may still consider your application if the issues are minor and as long as you provide valid explanations.
- Work background – A prospective landlord will check your work background in order to ensure that you can pay rent in full every month. You can provide evidence in the form of pay stubs, which can help to confirm that you make a certain amount of money in a month/year. You can also obtain a statement from your employer to vouch for your reliability and commitment.
- Bank statements – Bank statements may be requested in place of pay stubs in order to prove that you have a steady income. This may come in handy if you have an unconventional source of income.
- Criminal record – A prospective landlord may check to see if you have any history of committing crimes during the verification of your background. Petty offenses such as unpaid parking tickets may be overlooked, while serious offenses such as theft, assault, DUIs, and fraud are a cause for concern.
Other important details required during the application process are as follows:
- Proof of identity – Almost all the apartments that you apply for will want to verify your identity. For many, a valid driver’s license or state identification is fine, but it is advisable to have other forms of identification just in case a prospective landlord or property manager asks for more information. Other forms of identification you may consider bringing along to support your application include:
- A passport
- Your social security card
- A permanent resident card
- A birth certificate
- A military ID
- Contact information
In order for the landlord to keep in touch, you will need to provide your contact information, which may be your email address or your phone number.
6. Finding a co-signer/lease guarantor
A co-signer or a lease guarantor is someone, most likely a close relative or friend, who signs the lease agreement with you to show that they are legally responsible for paying your rent in case you are unable to. A lease guarantor is a good option if you are a first-time renter and you don’t have a rental history that your landlord can use to gauge your dependability. It is also convenient to have a lease guarantor if you have poor credit or if your income is less than what is required by the landlord.
7. Past landlord and personal references
A great way of proving your dependability is by providing evidence of how well you worked with previous landlords. References from previous landlords are especially useful if there are some minor issues in your rental history or your background check, as well as if you have a low credit score.
If you can’t get in touch with previous landlords or you are a first-time renter, you can opt to use personal references. In this case, you would want to provide references outside of your family. Try seeking for personal references from employers or college professors, so that they are able to convey to the prospective landlord your work ethic and dependability.
8. A cover letter sent with the application
If you feel like you are not adequately qualified to secure the apartment you want to move into, consider sending a good cover letter to help you justify your case. This is a great option if your application has red flags such as bad credit or a criminal. A convincing cover letter may not be enough to get you the apartment, but including more details may give your landlord a sense of who you are, which may just be what you need.
9. Pay a holding fee
A holding fee refers to the deposit you make in order to reserve an apartment. This is usually paid to the landlord to show that you are committed to renting the apartment, and if the landlord accepts the fee, it shows that they are committed to renting the unit to you. Once you pay the holding fee, the landlord should take the property off the market for you until you have signed the lease contract. You can confirm if they have done this by checking to see if the apartment that is being reserved for you has been taken off the market.
Once the lease is signed, the holding fees that you paid will typically go to your security deposit, or you can even receive a refund in some cases. Consider asking a prospective landlord to confirm in writing how your holding deposit will be used before making any payments.
Do not feel pressurized to pay a holding fee just because there are other prospective tenants interested in the property. If you feel uncomfortable, you can always take a step back to evaluate whether the property is really worth it.
10. Signing the lease
If the screening goes smoothly and your application gets approved, you will then be able to finally sign the lease and move in as soon as you can.
- Do you pay a security deposit and first month’s rent at the same time? In order to secure your apartment, you will have to pay a refundable security deposit and the first month’s rent. This is typically paid at the same time.
- Do all apartments have income requirements? Most landlords today require proof of income, but there are ways you can use to get around these stringent rules. They include looking for a lease guarantor, moving into an already occupied rental, and showing any unusual sources of income you might have.