Renting 101: Application Requirements and Process

Before you begin looking for a rental property, it’s smart to know what to expect.  While every landlord will have their own policies and procedures, there are some commonalities.

BASIC CRITERIA:  Landlords and their agents will likely be basing their decision about whether or not to lease to you after reviewing qualifications in three major areas:

  • Credit: Landlords are typically looking for a score of 700 or more, but some are more flexible.
  • Rental or Housing History:  Landlords will contact your current and former landlords for a reference.  A bad rental reference will very likely get you denied.
  • Income:  Be prepared to provide evidence of income at least 3 – 4 times the rent.

WHAT IF you don’t meet the “preferred” standard criteria?  Well, there are as many answers as there are renters, and honestly it’s largely dictated by market conditions.  If rentals are leasing quickly, landlords can afford to be choosy.  If rentals are leasing slowly, they will have to adjust their criteria so they can find a renter.

Don’t panic!  It’s not uncommon for people to be just starting out and have no credit, or new to the area with a new job, or to have someone who is from another country and doesn’t have a credit report, or someone who has some less common type of income.   But if you don’t fit the “standard” criteria, my suggestion is that you talk with your agent or the sales person and ask what the criteria is, and then discuss concerns up front.  This will save you a lot of time,  frustration and some money in application fees.

If you are unsure of your credit situation, you can get a free copy at  You can also obtain your credit score for a fee.

Other requirements:

  • Be prepared to present a photo ID.  You may need to present this when you go to see a home, and you’ll likely need to present it when you submit your application.
  • It’s more common with apartment communities, but in some cases you will be asked to permit some level of criminal background check.

PROCESS:  You found the right place, you’re pretty sure you meet the requirements… what’s next?

  • FILL OUT THE APPLICATION – Fill out the required application.  There are many versions, but most are pretty typical credit applications.
  • SUBMIT DOCUMENTATION – Be prepared to provide evidence of income (ie paystubs).
  • PAY THE APPLICATION FEE – Application fees are $25 to $60 per person and sometimes are required to be paid via money order or certified funds.  My suggestion – bring a check book and cash.  If you like the home and need to go to a 7-11 to buy a money order you’ll have the cash to do so.
  • PAY THE DEPOSIT – Processes here vary but many landlords ask for a deposit when you submit the application.  Ask before you go to see the home so you can be prepared.  A deposit may be as little as $100, or as much as a full month’s rent.  In all cases this is fully refundable if you do not move forward with the lease.

Once submitted, you wait….. expect the process to take up to 5 days before you are approved or denied.  It may not be that long, and it could be longer….it depends on the work load, who is processing and how complicated  your situation is.

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