What You Need to Apply for a Rental Home
Getting a rental home takes a lot. It’s not just about finding the right place — you need to apply for it and hope that you do well enough to be accepted as a tenant. If you’ve found the perfect place for you, here’s what you’ll want handy to apply for a rental with the best shot at getting it.
This is obvious, but the most important thing for a reason. Fill out any forms the landlord/management gives you out completely. If they ask for anything that’s not listed here, make sure you get it —- we’ve done our best to be comprehensive, but sometimes places ask for unusual things. If anything there makes you uncomfortable or might be illegal to ask for, don’t fill it out. It may feel like the perfect place, but anything that feels discriminatory or illegal isn’t worth it.
You need to show who you are and that you can legally live there. A driver’s license is usually good enough for most places, but have some additional ID ready in case they ask for more to show who you are and residency status (such as birth certificate, green card, or passport).
References, contacts, and rental history
You want people who can vouch for you or be contacted in case of emergency. Trusted friends and family members make up this first set of references: they can attest to your character and trustworthiness, and if something goes wrong, they’ll be good people to contact.
But, more than that, you want a rental history. Contact previous landlords and get recommendations from them if you can. Showing that you can and have paid the rent on time is the most important thing to your new landlord, so you want as much good evidence there as possible.
In addition to how well you’ve paid your rent in the past, your new landlord needs to know how well you’ll be able to pay your rent starting now. Being able to show them pay stubs, bank account statements, job offer letters, or anything else to establish how much money you have now and how much income you have coming in will help with them thinking you can do a good job of paying rent on time.
A cover letter
This isn’t always required, but can be helpful. A cover letter gives you a chance to talk about why you’ll be a good tenant, and especially lets you explain anything that looks bad in your rental or credit history.
Did your credit get worse because you lost a job? Or had a severe medical problem and the bills that come with that? Explaining those things in your own words and being straightforward about it from the beginning helps to make a good impression. If they find out while looking through a credit report or background check, it might look like you’re running from it or trying to hide things. The more honest and straightforward you are, the better.
If you have a pet, they’ll need to know about it. Get records from your vet to show what kind of pet you have and any relevant information. Different landlords may have policies based on the type of animal, breed, and size, while different states and localities may have regulations on registration, immunizations, and the like. Get all of this information together in advance so you’re not scrambling to get it later.
There are application fees, processing fees, and many other little things that start to add up. Make sure to have multiple options to pay so you can do whatever they need to take. A debit card, checks, and some cash should cover the most common ways of paying these fees.
If you don’t have great credit, having a co-signer may be essential. If you have one, get all their information to add their name as a co-signer. They’ll likely still need to sign papers and get them back, so it’s best if they can come with you. If you can’t, having their information ahead of time will make that part of the process go by much more smoothly.
Don’t forget your roommates
Your roommates, who are going to be listed on the lease, need to be accounted for as well. Make sure that they have all of the same information and documents that you have. The landlord decides to rent based on everyone who is going to be living there, so they need that information for everyone. You don't want to lose your chance at a great place because someone else messed up their paperwork.
If you have the above, you should be set for applying for most rentals you’ll find out there.