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Not many people enjoy looking for a new apartment. For most people, it’s one of those things that only gets done when it becomes an absolute necessity. But thanks to the Internet, the process of how to apply for an apartment is simpler and less stressful than it used be.

To make it even easier, use these guidelines to apply for—and ultimately get—a new apartment.

The Rental Process: An Overview

Depending on your location, the apartment application process you go through can vary. Generally, however, the process goes like this:

  1. Search for and identify an apartment you’re interested in
  2. Talk to the landlord
  3. Agree on a date when the landlord can show you the apartment
  4. If interested, apply for the apartment by filling out and submitting the application
  5. If the landlord requires a credit and background history check, authorize them
  6. Wait to hear whether you’re approved or not
  7. If you get approved, review the lease or rental agreement with your landlord and sign it if you agree to the terms
  8. If needed, be prepared to pay a security deposit once your application is approved.

How to Apply for an Apartment—Filling Out a Rental Application

Filling out a rental application may not be as easy as you think. Here are some of the most common sections on a rental application along with the details of what you need to complete them.

Contact Information

Contact information is one of the simpler parts of an application. This section is simply asking for your name, email address, phone number, date of birth, and any other information the landlord needs. Some applications may even ask for a short biography, which gives the landlord a better idea of who you.

Past Residences

Up next, you will be asked to provide your current address, how long you’ve lived at that address, and the contact information of your current landlord. You may also be asked to provide previous addresses as well as the landlord names, phone numbers, and previous rent for each.

Generally, if you lived at a residence without a landlord, such as in a dormitory or with your parents, you don’t need to complete this section.

By reviewing your past residences, a landlord can understand where you’ve lived and how often you’ve moved. Landlords may contact your former landlords for information on your habits as a tenant and rental risk.

Income and Employment

For obvious reasons, a landlord cares a lot about your income. He/she needs to know that you can afford the cost of rent payments. As such, this section asks you to provide your current employer, date of employment, and if applicable, the end date of employment. It may ask you to provide your last few employers, especially if you haven’t been at your current position for long.

Some landlords ask for contact information for your direct supervisor or HR department. Most rental applications also require proof income, which can be a copy of your pay stub or W-2.

 Application Questions

The next section asks questions about your personal, financial and rental history, such as pas bankruptcies, evictions and even criminal history.

Questions asked may include:

  • Have you ever been convicted of a felony?
  • Do you smoke?
  • Have you ever filed for bankruptcy?
  • Have you ever been evicted?
  • Have you ever refused to pay rent?

The good news is that most applications let you explain your answers. This way, you can give the landlord the full story behind your answers and, prevent the landlord from jumping to any conclusions and possibly denying your rental application form.


Almost all rental applications will require that you provide references. Most will want a work reference and a past landlord reference.

When you include a reference, do let the reference know you’ve provided his/her name. That way, your reference will know what to expect and can prepare for the call. Most employers are wary about talking about employees over the phone, especially about issues relating to income. Letting your employer know he or she is a reference makes it okay for him/her to talk freely with your potential landlord.

Also, when providing a reference, it’s important that you make sure all the numbers and email addresses you provide are correct. Givine a discontinued number or cancelled email gives the landlord the opinion that you’re trying to pull a fast one on your rental application.

Approve Credit and Background Checks

This step requires authorizing the landlord to run a credit check and do a background check on you. A landlord using a credit check to ensure that you’re financially responsible and have a clean criminal record. When a landlord requests authorization for a credit and background check, it’s a good thing. If he or she is checking you out, he or she is also checking out other tenants, so you can know that your fellow renters pass muster.

When reviewing your credit and background reports, landlords are on the lookout for the following:

  • If you’ve missed or made late payments
  • If you’ve the finances needed to pay the rent, including income, debt, financed purchases and so on
  • If you’ve been convicted of crimes, especially felonies

When you give a prospective landlord authorization to do credit and background checks, he or she will use an agency to pull the data. Depending on the agency being used, the credit or background check may affect your credit history. That matters because hard inquiries can affect your credit score. Soft inquiries, on the other hand, won’t affect your score.

So, find out what type of inquiry the landlord’s agency will do. And find out before you grant the authorization. Ask the landlord to use an agency who will only do a soft inquiry if possible. But, if he/she won’t and is stuck on an agency who does a hard inquiry, you may have to take the risk if you really want that apartment.

Know to how renting can impact your credit and how bad credit can affect your ability to get your apartment application approved.

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