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What Do You Need to Rent an Apartment?

What Do You Need to Rent an Apartment?
4 min. read
Young guy just moved into new rental

Image: WAYHOME studio / Shutterstock.com

Moving into a new apartment is an extremely exciting process, especially if you’re renting for the first time. The newfound sense of independence can be a little overwhelming at first, but you’ll soon come to love it!

However, it’s not quite as simple as choosing your dream apartment and handing over the rent. Instead, you’ll need to prepare a few things in advance before you can start your rental journey. In this guide, we’ll discuss six essential things you need to rent an apartment.

Let’s find out more.

1.   A solid budget

The very first thing you need before you start browsing rental listings is a realistic budget. Without crunching the numbers, you might find yourself in an apartment that leaves you very low on general living expenses. There’s far more to think about than just how much you’ll need to pay each month in rent.

First, you need to figure out how much your total income is after taxes and other outstanding debts. A general rule of thumb to follow is to reserve around 20-30% of your entire net income for paying rent. Aside from rental payments, you need to remember the other costs associated with renting an apartment:

  • Security deposit: This needs to be paid up-front and will be returned when your lease is over, as long as the apartment is in a satisfactory condition. Normally, the security deposit is equivalent to one month’s rent.
  • Moving costs: Sometimes, you can do the moving yourself, but if you need to hire a van or a moving company, be sure to factor this cost into your budget.
  • Utility bills: These aren’t always included in your rent. If not, you’ll need to figure out how much per month you can expect to pay in utilities. Your landlord should be able to give you a good idea.
  • Renters insurance: This is worth taking out, as it covers your possessions in case of theft, accidental damage or loss, as well as your personal liability in case of accidents.
  • Transportation: Be sure to factor in the cost of commuting to work or college when figuring out your budget.
  • Food: Depending on where you’re living, you should include at least $100-$200 per month on food expenses.

Another useful budget rule to follow is the 50-30-20 rule, with 50% of your income being spent on needs, 30% on wants and 20% going to savings.

2.   Apartment application form

Once you have an idea of how much cash you have to work with, you can start browsing relevant listings. When you find a place you like, you’ll need to apply using an apartment application form. It normally costs anywhere from $30 to $100 for the application, but this typically includes the cost of your credit check.

Landlords use the application form to screen potential tenants and gather essential information about them. Different landlords ask for different information, but in general, you can be expected to provide the following:

  • Personal information, including name, address, date of birth, phone number, etc.;
  • Property details;
  • Your residence history;
  • Employment and income information;
  • Pets, vehicles and other miscellaneous information

3.   Proof of income

As part of your application, you’ll need to provide information about your income. This lets the landlord know that you earn enough to afford the rent and bills comfortably and aren’t likely to miss a payment. Generally, 3-month’s worth of recent pay stubs are enough, though if you’re self-employed, you may need to submit your latest tax return.

It’s worth noting that many landlords are looking for an annual income around 40 times more than the monthly rent payment.

4.   A healthy credit score

You’ll almost always be required to submit to a credit score check. Generally, you’ll need a credit score of at least 620 to be considered by landlords, particularly in competitive markets. If yours is lower, or you don’t have enough credit history to perform a check, it may still be accepted.

In this case, you will likely need a co-signer or guarantor to vouch for your lease. In case of non-payment, they will be legally obliged to cover the cost. For most first-time tenants, a parent typically acts as a co-signer.

5.   Photo ID

You’ll need to provide a photo ID with your application to prove you are who you say you are. Usually, a driving license is acceptable.

6.   Reference letters

Reference letters from previous landlords can be a fantastic way to stand out from the crowd. If you have pets or a low credit score, positive references can put your new landlord’s mind at ease.

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