An impressive application is the first step in landing a rental. Dot your i's and cross your t's when applying for a rental home, as attention to detail can help you outshine the competition and instill confidence in potential landlords. Show landlords that you are financially stable, even if you've had previous credit or rental problems. Property management companies may require more background information and may set more stringent eligibility standards than independent landlords, but being prepared can help you put your best foot forward regardless of the type of landlord you're submitting the application to.
Check Your Credit
Stay a step ahead of landlords by checking your credit first. You can pull a free credit report every 12 months at annualcreditreport.com. Review your scores so you know where you stand from the get-go and whether you can improve your scores before you submit your rental application. Look for errors, and pay off collections. For a fee, a third-party rapid rescoring company can officially update your credit report and generate improved scores. Otherwise, be prepared to explain credit errors and provide landlords with proof that you've paid delinquent accounts.
Thoroughly Complete the Application
Fill out the rental application fully and accurately. Sloppiness or missing information can stumble the landlord or property management employee who is processing the application, causing delays and possibly pushing you to the back of the applicant list if competition is stiff. Landlords scrutinize your employment and rental history, so provide correct dates, addresses and contact information for each of these over the requested period. If completing a joint application with a spouse or roommates, make sure everyone provides all required information.
Be Ready With References
In addition to providing a verifiable rental history, provide letters of reference from former landlords who aren't related to you. If you lack rental references, collect recommendation letters from employers, colleagues, former roommates and friends who can eloquently attest to your good character and financial soundness.
Show Them the Money
Landlords typically require recent pay stubs, bank statements and even tax returns and W-2s. Skimping on these items may render your application incomplete; therefore, make sure joint applicants provide them, too. Landlords use these financial documents to verify that you have sufficient income and assets to cover the rent and that you're not headed for financial distress after move-in.
Prepare to Pay
Landlords charge anywhere from $20 to more than $100 for each applicant. Application fees are non-refundable, meaning they keep the money even if you don't get the rental. You may also have to put up a portion of the security deposit to hold the rental while your application is processed. Get a receipt to ensure it goes toward your deposit after your application is approved.
Karina C. Hernandez is a real estate agent in San Diego. She has covered housing and personal finance topics for multiple internet channels over the past 10 years. Karina has a B.A. in English from UCLA and has written for eHow, sfGate, the nest, Quicken, TurboTax, RE/Max, Zacks and Opposing Views.