Last Updated on September 3, 2022

If you’re looking to rent an apartment, you’ll need to fill out a rental application form. Your rental application will help the landlord decide if you’re a good fit for the property, so you’ll want to make it stand out from the crowd

While not every rental application will look the same, there are some standard questions you will be asked. To help you prepare, we’ll go over the questions you can expect and how to answer them, as well as the documents you’ll need to provide. Follow these tips to submit a winning rental application.

What do apartment applications ask for?

Personal/contact information

This is standard information you’d expect on most applications. You’ll likely be asked your name, current address, phone number, birthday, and email address. Make sure you provide an email that you check regularly, so the property manager can reach you.

Financial questions and employment information

The landlord will want to assess your financial situation to be sure you can make rent payments on time. The rental application may ask about your current employment status, employment history, and current income. Most landlords will look for someone with a gross monthly income of at least three times the rent. If the rent is more than one third of your income, consider finding a roommate

Some landlords may ask if you’ve ever declared bankruptcy. If you have, but repaired your credit, you likely have nothing to worry about. Make sure you’re honest, because it could come out during your background check.

There will also be questions asking if you can pay the application fee and the security deposit

Rental history 

Your potential landlord will also want to know about your history as a renter. They might ask why you’re moving and if your current landlord knows. They might also require landlord references, so you’ll likely be asked for your current and past landlords’ contact information from the past few years.

The application form will also ask if you’ve ever been evicted or broken a lease. If you have, be sure to take the time to explain why. It might not be a strike against you if you had a legitimate reason. 

credit check rental history

Screening information

The landlord will most likely run a background check. Be sure to use the space on the rental application to explain anything that may come up in your history.

The apartment application process also requires a hard credit check, so you’ll need to provide your social security number. Your potential landlord will be more concerned with the information on your credit report rather than your actual credit score. 

For example, a good tenant will have a history of on-time payments. You should check your credit score before you apply, so you can explain any credit issues on your rental application. If you have bad credit or no credit history, you might have to ask a friend or family member with good credit to be a cosigner on your lease.

Lifestyle questions

Your rental application may include lifestyle questions, like if you will have pets. Be aware that landlords are not legally allowed to ask if you have a service animal or an emotional support animal. You may also be asked if you will have roommates and if you smoke. Some landlords prefer renters that are non-smokers. 

Personal references

Your landlord or property manager may also ask for personal references. Current or past supervisors or teachers may be able to provide a good letter of recommendation. Past roommates can also attest to how well you cared for an apartment. 

What documents do you need for an apartment rental application?

  • Photo ID (driver’s license or passport)
  • Proof of employment (offer or letter of employment)
  • Proof of income (recent pay stubs, tax returns, bank statements, etc.)
  • Asset documents (evidence of stock holdings, real estate, etc.)
  • Vehicle information and registration
  • Landlord, personal, or professional references
  • Contact information for you, your cosigner, and your past landlords
  • Information about your pet
  • A signed lease agreement
  • Payment (first month’s rent and security deposits)

What if you’re missing some of the required documents?

Reach out directly to the property manager or landlord and ask if you can provide substitute documentation for any categories you may be missing. Not all rental applications will require the same information, but renters should do everything they can to make their rental applications stand out.

What do apartments look for when you apply?

When landlords or property managers review a rental application, they look for reliability and responsibility. They want to see a history of regular, on-time rent payments and responsible use of the property. 

The factors that go into getting approved for an apartment can vary. Most landlords will conduct a background check in addition to a credit check for you and your guarantor (if applicable). Some may also ask for personal or professional references and a recommendation from a past landlord. 

What landlords cannot ask on rental applications

There are some questions a landlord cannot legally ask due to the Fair Housing Act. The FHA ensures that renters are not discriminated against based on certain characteristics. Landlords and property managers can’t ask about the following personal information:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex (gender identity or sexual orientation)
  • National origin
  • Familial Status
  • Physical or mental disability

There should not be any questions on the rental application or in any interview which bring up any of these characteristics. If such questions are asked, simply decline to answer. You can file a complaint online with the Department of Housing and Urban Development

Looking for a great new apartment? Dwellsy can help

Dwellsy has over 13 million rental property listings to choose from. Since it’s a free platform, you won’t need to sift through sponsored listings to find the right rental for you. Listings on Dwellsy include a wealth of information for each property, such as what you’ll need for the application, as well as walkability, transit options, and biking scores for rental listings. 

Contact us today to start your rental search.

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