All about the rental application process

By 

Lighthouse

Updated

June 23, 2022

All about the rental application process

Before packing your boxes and moving into your new home, you'll need to fill out a rental application. Now, just the thought of this process induces stress in most people. Nonetheless, it has to be done. It lets landlords know if you're a good candidate for their rental unit.

The biggest step to conquering this process is to supply comprehensive documentation. It will not only make you look good but help you rent out your perfect home (a win-win in our books)! 

That's why we've curated a beginner's guide that fits most rental application processes.

Chapter 1: Putting in an application for your first rental

Chapter 2: Compile the paperwork for your rental application

Chapter 3: Check your rental eligibility criteria

Chapter 4: Verifying your proof of income

Chapter 5: Approval or denial of your application

Chapter 6: Rental application fees

Chapter 7: Unacceptable questions to ask on a rental application

Let’s get started!

Chapter 1: Putting in an application for your first rental

Every rental application is going to ask for a set list of information and documents from you. Think something along the lines of a summer camp checklist, but way more formal. 

This includes anything from your contact information to criminal record checks. 

We've listed the information you'll have to provide (in most cases) when applying for a rental. 

Personal Information

All rental applications are going to ask for your basic personal information. This will include full name, contact information, date of birth, and mailing address. If you're renting a unit with roommates, you'll each have to complete this process. 

Legal Information 

Pay close attention to this section of your application. Upon filling out a rental application, landlords are free to search your background. This applies to any legal items that may need your sign-off. Think credit history, criminal record, rental history, or employment verification.

Financial Information 

Providing your banking information is vital for any landlord. Applications will generally need you to supply banking statements and employer information. They may also ask for proof of assets, funds, and income paperwork. 

Chapter 2: Compile the paperwork for your rental application

Many supporting documents are needed to submit your rental application. If you take away anything from this article, it's that you have to be diligent with this. Gathering ALL the necessary paperwork will increase your chances of being accepted. 

Here is a list of the documents you should include with your application: 

▪️ Proof of Income 

▪️ Pay Stubs

▪️ Employment Letter

▪️ Bank Statements

▪️ Credit Check 

▪️ Rental History

▪️ References

Chapter 3: Check your rental eligibility criteria

The eligibility criteria for renting out a unit will vary among properties. One thing is certain though- a landlord's only goal is to pick a high-quality tenant. 

For that reason, they review the following points when determining your tenant eligibility. 

Monthly income

Your monthly income is a big factor in your eligibility for a rental property. Landlords want to know that your monthly funds can sustain the cost of the rent. If your salary can pay the rent, then that tells them that you’ll most likely make on-time payments. 

Credit history

Your credit score will reflect on how well you make payments or if you have any ongoing debts. 

Now, a lot of us have poor credit scores. Don't let that discourage you though! It won't disqualify you as a prospective tenant. Despite this, it will make you less eligible than someone with a higher credit score. 

Police records and criminal history

Some rental buildings will ask for a criminal history check before accepting you as a tenant. 

You may also encounter the common question "Do you have a criminal record?". 

The reason for this all is really quite simple- landlords just want to know who their tenants are. Many of them also believe this adds to the safety of their building. 

With that said, most landlords will have legal access to check your criminal history. And they're allowed to refuse your rental application because of criminal history. What they can't do is discriminate under the pretense of a poor criminal record. That's a direct violation of the Fair Housing Act. 

If you do have a criminal record, here's a tip. If at all possible, expunging or sealing your record will help make you more eligible for rent.

Rental history report

Some landlords are also going to ask for a rental history report. If you sign a rental history release agreement, the landlord is allowed to go sleuthing about. They'll be able to check your references, eviction history, and fully screen you. 

They may contact previous landlords to ask questions. These could be: 

▪️ If rent was paid on time

▪️ If any property was damaged

▪️ If you broke your lease

▪️ If you violated any building policies. 

Chapter 4: Verifying your proof of income 

Before any application is accepted, landlords will verify your proof of income. It also doesn't matter how you're making that cash. Landlords will welcome various methods of verification. 

Below is a list of acceptable documents to prove your monthly income:

▪️ Pay Stubs

▪️ W-2 Income Statement

▪️ Employment Letter

▪️ Government Assistance Statements

▪️ Worker's Compensation

▪️ 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income Form

▪️ Unemployment Compensation Statements

▪️ Severance Statements.

Providing documents from the list above will help portray you as a compliant and good tenant.  

Chapter 5: Approval or denial of your application

After submitting your application, landlords usually take between 24-72 hours to process it. Throughout this time, they will review and verify your information. 

Your application may get approved at a faster rate if your paperwork is thorough. On the flip side, the approval process can also take longer than usual. That'll happen if the landlord investigates your rental history or calls your references. 

Usually, the big news will come after a few days! You'll get notified on whether your application was accepted or denied. 

Chapter 6: Rental application fees

Rental application fees are now the norm (although we all wish they weren't). 

Depending on your location, application prices will vary. Rental application fees usually range between $35-$50 throughout the U.S. 

Despite this, rental application fee laws do differ depending on every state. That means that some unlucky Americans may live in a state that has no limit on rental application fees. 

Chapter 7: Unacceptable questions to ask on a rental application 

It's important to note, landlords can't just ask tenants whatever question comes to mind. Asking tenancy-specific questions is completely acceptable. Asking discriminatory questions, not so much. 

Some questions landlords cannot ask on a rental application include the following. 

▪️ What is your ethnicity, race, or religion? 

▪️ What is your age? 

▪️ What is your relationship status? 

▪️ Do you have kids or plan on having kids? 

▪️ What is your sexual orientation? 

▪️ What is your gender? 

▪️ Do you receive government help? 

▪️ Do you have a disability?

▪️ Do you have service dogs or pets? 

Conclusion

We'd like to hear from you! 

Tell us what new rental application tip you learned from this article. 

Share this post if you think it could help out any friends and family!

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