If you’re not used to it, the process for applying to rent an apartment can be a bit confusing at first. It seems much easier, after all, to just deal privately with a landlord/landlady him/herself.
In the U.S., many apartments (or should I say most?) will require that you apply just in order to even be considered as a prospective tenant in their building. The good news is that the process can be quite simple and can take place in as little as just 24 hours.
Applying Through a Leasing Agent
A leasing agent is a representative, usually of an apartment finding service like apartments.com, for example – and he or she will often be your first contact when you go to respond to an ad about an apartment. The agent will show you the apartment and if you don’t like it they’ll usually also take you to see other apartments in your price range and area.
Most of the time there is no fee to use an apartment finder’s service. It’s free for you – they get paid, of course, but by the property managers themselves, who pay for the service so that they don’t have to deal with the initial client process, showing apartments, etc.
Once you find an apartment you like, the leasing agent will answer your questions about the application and they’ll tell you what you need to apply. Then they’ll forward the application to the property manager, who will be the one who does the ultimate approval or rejection of your application.
Apply Directly Through Property Manager
Of course, you can just apply directly through the property managers (or building owners). Let’s say you walk down a street and see a building you know you’d like to rent in. There’s often a sign out front with the management’s number on it. Look them up online and/or give them a call to check for vacancy and a viewing time.
It will be the same application, so there will be no difference to you on the front end whether you apply through the property managers or through an apartment finding service. Each has access to a different set of properties, but with either one you should be able to find something very close to what you’re looking for.
What They Check For Lease Application
The lease application will vary somewhat between different property managers. In general, though, there are three things they are checking for:
Most places will do a credit check. As long as you have no major gaffes or bankruptcies, you should be fine – except in higher end buildings that may be looking for a specific credit score just to determine eligibility.
In some form or another, managers want to verify your income. If you have a nonstandard employment or income situation, you should be able to provide photocopies of proof of your income, and that should suffice. Otherwise, copies of your two or three most recent pay stubs will work, too.
Managers might want to verify the relationship you’ve had with your current or previous landlord or residential manager. You’ll need to provide their address, name, and phone number and consent to a release.
Not all managers are going to check employment and residence information, but they will perform a basic credit check. This is why it’s important to get a credit history going – although I’ve also been told that even having no credit history might be ok since it is also proof that you haven’t been involved in bankruptcies, etc.
Documents for Apartment Application
All of this means you’ll want to get your papers ready in order to apply for the lease. Photocopy your driver’s licence, proof of income, and have your social security and other identification information on hand. Know your employer’s information and your residential manager’s information.
That’s it. Some places will tell you it takes 2-3 days for the whole application process – this might be because they’re very busy. If all they’re performing is a credit check, though, it should only take one day.
If Your Tenant Application is Rejected
If you’re rejected, ask why, but don’t stress too much about it. There are so many property managers and a different one might have less stringent credit restrictions, so give it another shot. Just don’t go through more than a few, however, because it does impact your credit record since they will be doing hard pulls on your credit history.
If you can stay where you are currently, do so, and take the time to build up a better credit history for your next move.
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