Renting an apartment can seem like a daunting task, especially when you consider all the requirements that come with the application process. If you are a first-time renter or you’re simply on the hunt for a new apartment, read on to find out what you will need so that the process is a little less hectic.
What do you need when renting an apartment? When renting an apartment, requirements that most landlords usually need from prospective tenants include proof of employment, rental history, your social security number, reference letters, pay stubs, proof of income, and any other paperwork that shows whether or not you’ll be dependable. You will also need a budget that is inclusive of everything, from the rent to the household items you might need to buy.
|Social Security Number
|Identification or Proof of Residency
Just like an application for a job, you will need several pieces of documentation when applying for an apartment you like. Simply filling out the application form with personal details and a list of apartments you have previously lived in just doesn’t cut it these days. Here is a list of things you should have when renting an apartment.
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List of things you should have when renting an apartment
1. Pay stubs
A landlord may check your pay stubs to ensure that you are employed and capable of paying the rent on a monthly basis on top of other expenses. Pay stubs usually show your name, the name of your employer, and contact information. Additionally, a landlord can also determine how much gross income you earn and how often you receive your paychecks. Keep in mind that only W-2 employees have pay stubs, so if you are self-employed, you will be required to show other forms in order to prove your income. Ensure that you bring two of your recent pay stubs, which you can get from your boss or online if you have direct deposit.
2. Bank statements
If you don’t have pay stubs, a great alternative is showing two of your most recent monthly bank statements. A landlord can verify your income this way since you will have provided them with your banking history. If you have several bounced checks or an overdrawn account, then the landlord may assume that you don’t have enough financial stability to rent their property. Bank statements are a great option if you are self-employed or you have an unusual income such as alimony, child support, or legal rewards in your cash reserves.
3. Tax returns
Tax returns can serve as a supporting document to either pay stubs or bank statements. It is recommended that you get the last two years of tax returns in order for the landlord to verify income. You can get your tax returns from your account, an online download, or directly from the IRS.
4. Social security number
Although you should generally keep your social security number to yourself, you do have to provide it to a potential landlord during your search for an apartment. The landlord will use this identification code to perform credit and background checks.
One of the most significant parts that factors heavily in background checks in the past decade is checking criminal records. If you have minor offenses such as unpaid parking tickets on record, you shouldn’t be too worried since landlords are usually more concerned with serious offenses like battery, assault, fraud, DUIs, and theft.
If you have a history of such offenses, make sure you obtain a copy of your criminal record before you start looking for apartments. To improve your chances at getting an apartment, you can ask the court if any of the offenses can be removed or amended to reflect any corrective measures you may have taken such as counseling or community service.
5. Rental history
Your rental history usually shows all the apartments you have lived in. It should additionally include addresses, the phone number of the landlords/property managers, how much you paid for rent and other expenses, how long you were there, and why you moved out. This report will show a prospective landlord how promptly you paid your rent if you ever had to pay a late fee, and whether or not you were evicted.
A spotless rent payment history is desirable, but a few hiccups along the way shouldn’t keep you from getting an apartment if you have valid explanations. If you have rented apartments in several locations, consider creating a comprehensive file that you can bring with you for the application process. This way, you can easily attach a copy of the document to the application form instead of filling out that section.
Other than references written by past landlords, consider bringing along statements of good character from employers and friends in respectable positions. Ensure that the references are written in formal letter format, and they should include the name, position, and contact information of the reference. In some cases, a telephone call or an email to an employer or your friend is usually enough.
Landlords usually require references so as to get an insight of your standing in life as an employer and in personal relationships. This information allows them to determine whether you will be a good fit or not.
7. Job history/résumé
It may not seem like an obvious thing to bring along, but a résumé detailing your current job and a few previous ones you have had may be just what you need to set you apart from other potential tenants. A resume shows the stability of the money you earn from your job. For example, if you have to find a new job every three months, then a landlord may be right to assume that your income is not stable, which means you may be turn out to be an unreliable tenant. On the other hand, if you have held a job position for several years, it shows that you are likely more financially stable and dependable.
You could give a potential landlord the basic information about where you have previously lived such as your previous landlord’s contact information, or you could save them the work by getting a well-written recommendation letter that they could refer to.
A recommendation letter could earn you favor from a potential landlord since it shows you were confident enough in your tenancy to ask for it, and you were a good tenant since your landlord was willing to take the time to write you one.
9. Identification or proof of residency
You will be expected to bring your driver’s license or other identification when you are applying for an apartment. Some landlords have restrictions in place when it comes to requiring this form of identification, but additionally having proof of residency can’t hurt.
If you don’t have a driver’s license, ensure that you bring along a state ID, a passport, or a green card to provide proof of your identity and show that you are a legal resident of the area.
10. Your checkbook
Don’t forget your checkbook! There might be an application fee to pay, or you may need to pay a holding fee in order for the landlord to take the rental unit off the market temporarily and reserve it for you.
Budget you should have when renting an apartment
It is important to have a comprehensive financial plan so that you don’t end up spending too much or forgetting to include key factors in your budget.
|Rent and Utilities
|Groceries and Food
1. Upfront costs
Some of the expenses you can expect to take care of when you move in include:
- Application fee – Many landlords usually charge an application fee that is meant to cover credit and background checks. Before you pay the application fee, make sure you find out if it is refundable in case you don’t get approved. Additionally, if you get approved and sign the lease, make sure you find out whether the landlord is willing to apply the amount you paid for the application fee toward your security deposit.
- Security deposit – The amount you will be required to pay as a security deposit varies from one state to another. Although many states don’t usually have a required limit you are expected to pay, others have one. For example, in Kansas, the security deposit for an unfurnished apartment is an amount equal to one month’s rent, while the deposit for a furnished one is one and a half month’s rent. Your credit score will also affect the amount you pay as a security deposit. If you have a low credit score, a landlord is likely to demand a higher security deposit. This amount is usually refundable as long as you haven’t caused any damage beyond the normal wear and tear to the apartment.
- Advance rent – In most cases, you will need to pay the first month’s rent, and possibly the last month’s rent as well before you move in. Of course, this is a lot of money upfront, so it is important to come up with a budget that includes these costs.
- Moving fees – If you are hiring professional movers to help with the move, you will need to include this cost in your budget. Similarly, if you are renting a truck or even relying on your friends to help with the move, you will still have to part with some money to get all your stuff to your apartment.
2. Rent and utilities
When it comes to the rent, a general rule of thumb is that you should not spend more than 30% of your total gross income on rent. Remember, making your monthly rent payments on time is important to avoid attracting late fees, so ensure that you have a concise financial plan that will allow you to make these monthly payments.
Utilities you will need to pay for when renting an apartment include electricity, heat, gas, water, cable, and internet. Other like garbage fees may be included in your rent, so, you will want to double check exactly what you are covering before moving in. The electric bill will likely be the highest, especially if you pay for air conditioning during the summer, so make sure you budget accordingly for this period.
3. Household items
You are going to need to furnish the various rooms in the unit especially if it is not a fully furnished rental. Make sure you include the price of a bed, mattress, couches, chairs, tables, kitchen utensils, and anything else you might need to use in the apartment. To save some money, you may want to buy items that serve multiple purposes
4. Groceries and food
You will need to stock the kitchen in your apartment so you will need to think about how often you will be buying groceries. If you plan to eat out, this also needs to be included in the budget.
If you have a car, the parking situation of the building you are moving into is an important consideration. Many apartments usually require tenants to pay for a parking spot, so make sure that you include this cost in your budget.
6. Renters insurance
It is important to have renter’s insurance in order to protect your belongings from potential damage. Although renters insurance is quite affordable, don’t forget to include it in your budget.
- How can I get an apartment with a low income? If your income is not at least three times the monthly rent, opt to search for houses for rent without proof of income. Although you won’t have a wide selection, this is arguably the easiest solution. Another option is to make your rental application as irresistible as possible. By adequately showcasing your best qualities to a landlord, you might just get him/her to overlook one area.
- What is the minimum credit score I need to rent an apartment? Many property management companies or landlords typically require the credit score of apartment applicants to be 620 or higher. If you have a credit score lower than 620, you may be considered to be a high risk, hence significantly reducing the likelihood of getting approved for an apartment.