How to get approved for an apartment

April 6, 2018 - 4 min read

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It used to be a lot easier to get approved for an apartment, but during the past few years, rental rates have soared. And landlords can be picky. The result is that you need more than cash to get an apartment — you also need a good rental application. Landlords want to see that you:

  1. Make enough income to make the payments
  2. Will care for the property and not disturb neighbors
  3. Show good financial management, so you will pay on time
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Landlords want to be certain that you can afford the property without missing payments. many landlord guidelines recommend that your before-tax monthly income be about three times the monthly rent.

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If you have no debt, great references from previous landlords and excellent credit, you may be able to push the envelope on this one. Or if you’re willing to put up a bigger deposit or add automatic payments.


It might seem odd that taking good care of the property is the leading issue for landlords. But you can see why the condition is so important. There is any number of people with cash to make monthly payments. But if a tenant makes payments and also damages the property, the value of those payments diminishes pretty quickly.

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As a landlord – and I am one – it’s understood that things break and that from time to time the place requires repairs and replacements. For instance, it really does happen that refrigerators fail. But not every year or two. Electric stoves burners can go bad. But if a tenant wants new burners every few months, you might be dealing with someone who doesn’t know how to cook. That’s not a stove problem. That’s a tenant problem.

You can help yourself get approved for an apartment in two ways. First, obtain a letter from your current landlord saying that you have taken good care of the property. Second, don’t be surprised if the landlord or the property manager wants to visit your current rental. Welcome them. Set out some food.

Consistent payments

To landlords, rental payments are like air. They must be consistent and dependable. Late and missed payments can sink a rental application, especially if recent.

Tenants often think of landlords as fat and happy people with plenty of cash. This is nonsense. Just like everybody else, landlords have expenses. Some expenses are directly related to rental units, including mortgage payments, property taxes, and repairs. Rent to a landlord is just like a paycheck to employees. Fool with the rent and landlords will see that as a direct attack on their income and well-being.

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The landlord is likely to check your credit, and many use rental reporting agencies which track tenants. However, not all landlords contribute to such services. If you pay rent in full and on time, then you really want to be included in such systems. It’s a good practice to ask your current landlord if he or she is part of rental tracking service.

If your current landlord does not use a rental tracking service, there’s an alternative. Make copies of your rental checks or bank statements showing electronic transfers for the last twelve months. Provide copies as part of your rental application to a new landlord.

Rental Applications

Your rental application is somewhat like a resume, it should provide a lot of good information about you with dates and numbers.

First, the landlord wants to know that you are you. Bring a government-issued photo ID such as a driver’s license or passport.

Who will live on the property? Is it just you? Will there be a roommate? If there is a roommate, that person should submit information which parallels your own.

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Next, we come to employment. Where do you work? How much do you earn? How long have you been with the same employer or been in the same field? Do you have a letter of recommendation from your boss? Who can the landlord call and verify the information with? Bring the last two or three pay stubs or two past tax returns.

What about pets? Pets are a big issue for some landlords because they can create a lot of damage. They also may present a significant liability for landlords in some jurisdictions. Always be sure that landlord pet policies are spelled out up front. If a landlord says “no pets,” look elsewhere for housing if that’s a problem for you.

Renter’s Insurance

Some landlords require renter’s insurance. While the landlord will have property insurance, it does not cover the contents of the unit. And landlords don’t like being sued by tenants who believe that landlords are responsible for theft or damage to tenants’ possessions. Renter’s insurance protects you both, in a way. Offer to get renter’s insurance whether required or not to boost your application.

Getting an edge

Offer to move in immediately or before the first of the month. You can pay on a daily basis during this initial period. This will help with the landlord’s cash flow.

Lastly, always have an explanation showing why you’re leaving your current rental. Do not complain about the current landlord. Good reasons to move include a better location near work or play, the need for more space, or a change of status such as the loss of a roommate.

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Peter Miller
Authored By: Peter Miller
The Mortgage Reports contributor
Peter G. Miller, author of The Common Sense Mortgage, is a real estate writer syndicated in more than ​50​ newspapers nationwide. Peter has been featured on Oprah, the Today Show, Money Magazine, CNN and more.