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What You'll Need to Rent an Apartment

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The apartment hunting process can be both exciting and daunting at the same time, and between trying to decide where you want to live and trying to find the perfect apartment that suits you and all of your needs, it can be a chaotic time in just about anyone's life. Once you find your apartment though, you'll know it right away, and the next step is taking care of all of the paperwork involved.

When you rent an apartment, there are a number of things that you'll need to have ready, even before it comes time for you to sign any papers or put your name on any lease. The process of renting an apartment is a lot more involved than buying a new TV and even more so than buying a new car, so the owner or the landlord of the apartment that you're renting are going to need to see some documents before you sign, such as proof of identity, credit score, and a few other documents that can prove that you're financially stable enough to rent.

This guide will provide you with a list of the necessary things you'll need when renting an apartment and it will also give you some tips on how to make sure that you're prepared and that all of your finances are in order before getting ready to sign your lease papers and make that new apartment your home.

Before you begin your search

Finding an apartment to rent can sometimes be a long and frustrating process, however once you do find that place that's perfect for you, things can move pretty quickly. In major cities such as New York, there is often a lot of competition for available apartments in popular areas of the city, so when you find the apartment you want, the last thing you want to do is delay the process any longer and allow someone else to jump in and take the place at the last second. That's why it's important to have all of your financial documents and paperwork all ready to go even before you find the place you want.

Although the documents and specific paperwork that you'll need to furnish before your application for the apartment is approved and you're able to sign your lease will ultimately vary, here is a list of a few of the most important things that you should have prepared and ready to go before you begin the search for your apartment:
  • Photo ID - If you have a driver's license, this will usually be enough and you won't have to worry about having it on you, since you most likely carry it at all times anyway. However, if you do not have a driver's license, be prepared to have some other form of government-issued photo ID, such a non-driver's identification card, a passport, or a school ID. If you are a student and will be renting an apartment for school, be prepared to have a copy of your transcript in addition to your school ID, as proof that you attend the school.

  • Recent bank statements - Renting an apartment is a major financial commitment, so the owner or landlord that you'll be renting from will need to see that you have sufficient funds to be able to cover your rent each month and will need to check out your recent financial history, so bank statements are necessary, although usually only the last two months of history or the previous two statements will be enough.

  • Pay stubs - This goes along with the previously mentioned bank statements, in that the landlord or owner will want to see that you are gainfully employed and will be able to have the financial backing to make your monthly rent payments.

  • Employment letter - In addition to your pay stubs, you also may need to provide an employment letter stating how long you've been employed at your current job and also any information pertaining to your pay at your current job. The letter may have to be signed by your supervisor or manager, depending on the circumstances of your employment and depending on what is requested by the management company of your apartment building.

  • Tax returns - Much like your bank statements, your most recent tax returns will also need to be furnished before signing off on the apartment, as further proof of your financial history. You will usually only need to provide your most recent tax return, however sometimes you will be asked for your last two years, so have both prepared and ready to go, just in case.

  • Past renting history - This is only applicable if you've rented before, if this is your first time renting an apartment, you won't have to worry about it. However, if you have rented before, you'll usually have to provide a phone number or other form of contact information for your previous landlord so that the management company can obtain a recommendation.

Importance of your credit score

In many major cities where available apartments are in high demand and there is a lot of competition for good apartments, credit checks are highly important and a vital part of the apartment renting process. While having bad credit does not necessarily mean you won't be able to rent an apartment, it will certainly make things a lot more difficult for you and there will usually be more hoops that you'll be required to jump through if so.

One possible exception is if you are going to have a co-signer on your apartment. If you have someone with excellent credit who will be co-signing for your apartment with you, then you shouldn't have a problem. Most management companies will perform a credit check on you when you apply for the apartment, so it's best that you check your credit score before you begin your apartment hunting to make sure that there are no inaccuracies. If there are, you'll have enough time to clear them up and straighten everything out before you decide on an apartment and have the inquiry run on your credit score.

Deposit and first month's rent

In addition to all of the paperwork and financial documents required when you're ready to apply for an apartment to rent, you're also going to need to come up with some money as well when you sign those lease papers. Typically, you'll need to furnish at least the first month's rent payment, your security deposit, which is also usually equal to one month's worth of rent and a broker fee if you used a real estate broker to assist you with finding the apartment.

For example, if you are renting a $1,500/per month apartment, you'll need to provide $1,500 for the first month's rent and $1,500 for the security deposit, which means you'll need $3,000 ready to go on the day you sign the lease, and that's without a broker fee. If you used a broker, you'll need to add to that total, whatever percentage you need to pay the broker. One important thing to remember is that you won't be able to write a personal check for this amount, the funds must be readily accessible, so that means that you'll need to have the cash ready to go and you'll need to obtain either a certified check from your bank or wire the money directly to the owner or landlord when you're ready to sign the lease.

Robert Moreschi  Posted by Robert Moreschi on June 18, 2013

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