When it comes to finding the perfect apartment, there are a lot of moving parts. You’ll spend more time than you’d like to admit scouring rental listings. You’ll dedicate multiple weekends to touring apartments. You’ll cruise the streets of your preferred neighborhoods looking for “For Rent” signs, and basically do everything you can to locate your next abode.
Once you find your dream place, the next step in landing it is to complete the rental application. This kind of paperwork can be overwhelming—but don’t panic! There’s a lot you can do to make the process easier. Here are five tips to help you nail the rental paperwork and eventually move into an apartment you love.
1. Organize your rental application documents
One of the best ways to ensure that your application process goes smoothly is to be as organized as possible. Find out ahead of time what important documents you need to complete the application. For a standard rental app, the main documents will usually include your last two years of tax returns, a copy of your credit report, proof of employment, a copy of your bank statements, and a letter from a previous landlord. These requirements can vary from state to state.
“Having all the necessary paperwork readily available so you can move quickly could make the difference between being approved or losing out on your dream apartment,” says Hilah Hadaway Williams, a real estate agent at Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Brooklyn, NY.
2. Details matter on your rental application
It’s crucial to pay attention to each and every detail of your rental application, or you’ll give the landlord or building management company a reason to skip over your application. Take your time, and read the instructions properly. Make sure the details you fill in are accurate. Remember to sign and initial in the proper places.
There are also ways to make your application stand out.
“Landlords love to be pleasantly surprised by positive reference letters from your previous landlord. You can take it to the next level by including a couple of personal and professional recommendation letters. And if you really want to knock their socks off, write a personal letter to the landlord introducing yourself and sharing with them all the reasons you’d love to live there,” says Jeanette Colgrove, a real estate broker at Brown Harris and Stevens of Brooklyn, NY.
3. Communication with the landlord is vital
Throughout the process, always try to keep your potential landlord and your real estate agent in the loop. If you need an extra day to track down a document, get in touch with a quick email or text to let them know. Your new landlord or real estate agent will appreciate that you are trying to keep them in the loop. It also shows that you’re conscientious and thorough.
4. Be honest about your history
When filling out your rental application, telling the truth is always the smartest decision. If your credit is not so great, or if you left a previous apartment on bad terms, the best thing you can do is to come clean and explain the circumstances. Odds are, your potential landlord or building manager has seen it all before.
If you do have a challenging application, a real estate agent can help streamline the process, so it might be in your best interest to seek one out.
“Be honest with your real estate agent, so if there are potential issues—low credit score, landlord or tenant disputes, etc.—they can help you solve the problem before you get rejected by a landlord,” said Williams.
5. When in doubt, call a pro
In general, having a professional real estate agent handle things can cut down on headaches or potential roadblocks. You may miss something major on the rental application, but real estate agents have experience filling out this type of paperwork.
Some real estate brokers also have pre-existing relationships with landlords. And in a business where relationships matter, having someone to guide you through the process—and keep your rental application out of the reject pile—can make a big difference.