Applying for a rental is similar to applying for a job. In fact, most landlords consider their rentals a business aimed to generate income and will scrutinize your application as closely as any employer. And while landlords are aware that everyone has to start somewhere and that first-time renters do exist, it’s your job to convince them that you are the best possible candidate — or, in this case, tenant. Here’s how:
Prove That You Have a Stable Income
The first step towards making sure your rental application is approved is showing the landlord that your income is stable. It’s also the first thing the landlord or property manager will check to make sure you’ll be able to pay your rent on time. Use pay stubs from the last three months and, if possible, tax forms from the previous tax year as proof of income. Also, aim to rent within your budget. If your financial figures show that you would be spending more than 30% of your gross income on rent, the landlord may deny your application.
Improve Your Credit Score
Apart from a stable income, the second most important thing a landlord will check is your credit score. This, along with your credit report, will help them determine how well you can handle your financial affairs — including rent payments. Although the credit score requirements for renting aren’t as stringent as those for taking out a loan, most landlords will look for a score of around 600. Meeting that figure will increase the chances of having your application approved, especially if you’re renting for the first time.
Ask for References
As a first-time apartment renter, you won’t have references from previous landlords, yet there are other ways you can prove your accountability and professionalism. The easiest way to do so is to ask your current employer for a reference letter. Another solution is to ask for a character reference from previous employers, co-workers or even professors and coaches. However, avoid references from family and friends. Most landlords will consider them biased, and they can also indicate that you’re trying too hard to provide references.
Have All Your Paperwork Ready
One of the easiest ways to make sure that your application is approved is by getting all your paperwork ready. After all, the landlord won’t be inclined to spend time chasing you for additional details and will just choose another tenant, especially in a hot market. Also, having a file ready when you apply is yet another proof that you’re a reliable tenant. The rental documentation should include:
- Your rental application
- Pay stubs and bank statements
- Photo of your ID or driver’s license
- Social Security/Insurance Number
- Employment history or resume
- Credit report and credit score
Write a Cover Letter
Landlords don’t typically require a cover letter with your application, yet submitting one can improve the odds of being approved. The letter can explain, for example, why you have no previous rental history. You can also use it to explain why you want to move into that particular apartment and why you believe you would make a great tenant. Think of it as a cover letter for a job application: even if you have no prior work experience, the letter can highlight your positive qualities and why you could be a real asset.
Be Honest about Having Pets
Although more than 70% of renters have a pet, most landlords aren’t keen on the idea of allowing a dog or cat on their property. Pets can increase the odds of property damage and disturbing the neighbors, which is why even pet-friendly rentals come with hefty pet deposits or limitations on pet size and how many you can have.
As tempting as it is, never hide the fact that you have a pet from your landlord. In the worst-case scenario, this can result in an eviction. Instead, try to prove that you are a responsible pet owner. Write a resume for your pet, set up a meeting where the landlord can see the pet for themselves and address any questions or concerns before signing the lease.
Consider a Co-signer
Even if you have a stellar set of references and a compelling cover letter, you may find that, sometimes, your credit score or income is just too low for the landlord’s requirements. In this case, bringing a co-signer along can improve the odds of your application being approved. The best candidate is usually a family member who can act as a guarantor for your lease. This will put the landlord’s mind at ease regarding who will be taking responsibility for making the rental payments.