Apartment Hunting: The Paperwork

Rental application
So you've been hunting for an apartment and have finally found a few that you really like. After visiting them, meeting the landlord or property owner or broker, you decide that one of them is absolutely perfect for you and you want to proceed.

What's next? The one thing most new adults despise doing on their own for the first time: paperwork.

I'm going to walk you through some of the standard information that you'll need to have on-hand and what you should prepare in advance.

apartment lease

Personal Information

This is kind of obvious, but let's go through it anyway. When you're applying to rent an apartment, you will need your basic personal information. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Photo ID
  • Social Security number
  • Previous addresses
  • Job history/Resumé
  • Rental history*
  • Vehicle registration & proof of insurance*

*Rental history and vehicle information is only required if this pertains to you or the area in which you are looking to live. If you have never rented before, don't worry about it. As for cars, this mainly applies in situations where a parking spot comes with the rental.

For your photo ID, you should ideally bring a government identification, which most commonly is either a driver's license or passport.

Landlords need this personal information to verify who you are and will sometimes run a background check before confirming that you are approved.

Financial Information

Now that you've shown who you are, the landlord needs evidence that you will be able to pay the rent. It's important to bring the following financial information to your apartment viewing if you plan to fill out an application:

  • Pay stubs
  • Bank statement

Think about it this way - if you're looking at an apartment for $1500/month and your pay stubs show that you make $2000/month, the landlord is going to be hesitant about giving you approval.

Of course, you can apply with a co-signer if that is something offered as an option. However, this varies based on the requirements of the property owners or landlords.

Based on all of the personal and financial information above, the landlord may run a credit check to determine your creditworthiness (more about that here).


Some landlords have more required documentation than others, so you may want to check if the following are beneficial or pertinent to the application:

  • Reference
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Credit report

These are often great for bolstering your application or making you seem more appealing as a renter, so I wouldn't overlook them completely.

Once you've filled out the application and provided the necessary documents, you will almost always be asked to put down a deposit. This deposit will essentially hold the apartment that you want until your application is processed.

I would suggest bringing a checkbook or cash to the appointment and to ask ahead of time what the deposit would be so that you are prepared ahead of time.

apartment lease

Final Notes

Finding an apartment can be a drag when it comes to searching through the options and doing all of the boring paperwork. But, at the end of the day, you will have a place to call your own: home. I wish you luck in your search and congratulations if you have already found the spot for you!

If you have any questions, feel free to comment here or shoot me a message on Twitter.

Thank you!

Important Terms

  1. co-signer - someone who will guarantee that the required payments are made either by you or by them, as needed. Normally, this is someone with a better credit score or perhaps a more appealing bank statement. In the past, I have generally asked my parents to co-sign for me.


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