5 Steps to Getting the Apartment of Your Dreams

You found the apartment of your dreams. Now what? The next step is to qualify. The apartment application process can seem very overwhelmingly tedious, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Below is everything you need to know to make your apartment dreams become a reality.

1. What is an apartment application and where can I find one?


An apartment application is a form and supporting documents used by landlords and property management companies to screen potential tenants. Oftentimes, applicants are required to pay non-refundable fees in order for your application to be processed.

The apartment you're interested will most likely be posted online, with the listing agent’s contact info. Be sure to contact that agent to get more information. You can also stop by the leasing office that’s handling that listing and pick up a rental application. Fill it out as soon as you can, to make sure you get that apartment you have your eyes on.

2. What information is needed on an apartment application?


In a perfect world, whatever apartment you’re in love with will magically become yours. Think Oprah “You get an apartment, and you get an apartment, and you get an apartment, and you get an apartment….” In the real world, there you would have to provide some personal information to the landlord, because the landlord wants to know that you’re reliable and will PAY YOUR RENT. Here’s what you’ll need during the application process:

  • Personal contact information-Contact information such as a valid phone number, email, etc. will provide the landlord a way to get in touch with you if need be.

  • Social security number-Your social is usually needed to verify identity and can be done through a background check. The landlord, property manager or rental agent you are working with will make a copy and give you back the original.

  • Vehicle information-If you are looking to apply for a parking spot, you will need to provide details about your car. Have the make and model, year, and license plate number information all on hand. It is possible that the property manager will also ask for the car’s insurance information.

  • Driver’s license number or state ID-This information is proof of your identity and may also be needed for that parking spot you’re after.

  • Current and previous address/rental information-With this information, the landlord may want to check in with your previous landlords for referrals.

  • Current and previous employment information-The landlord wants to know that you are working and have the ability to pay the rent. In addition, previous employment information shows stability in your working history. If you are often unemployed or have huge gaps within working, that’s not a good sign. Your employment #MUST be verified.

  • Proof of income & Asset-Usually the last 2-4 pay stubs depending on pay range, last 2 tax returns, latest 2 months banks statements.

  • Past landlords and personal references-A potential landlord will likely want to speak with your previous landlords to verify your rental history and conduct as a tenant. They may also ask for personal references, such as your boss, to confirm your employment and character.

  • Emergency contacts-In case the landlord is unable to reach you or a medical emergency takes place, they may need to contact someone close to you, so choose wisely.

  • Cover letter-Think of your apartment application as a job interview process. To better represent yourself and answer any questions that may arise, you can put together a cover letter. Other people get to talk for you in your personal references, but this is where you can be your own advocate.

  • Cosigner application-A cosigner would be needed if the applicant alone doesn’t qualify for an apartment, usually because of credit and/or income. The usual income in NYC needed to qualify for an apartment is 40 times the rent. For ex: if your monthly rent is $1,500, you’d have to make at least $60,000 per year to qualify. A cosigner is someone who signs the lease with you and agrees to pay your rent and fees in case you fail to do so. If you have a cosigner, make sure that they fill out their part of the application, too.

3. Approve a credit & background check

After you have filled out the application you would give permission to run a credit and background check. The property management company or landlord will require you to authorize a credit and background check in order for them to proceed with your rental application. They conduct a credit score check to make sure that you are a fiscally responsible person, as well as to determine how timely you are likely to be with your rent payments.

A landlord may see a low credit score as an implication of poor dependability.

Make sure you don’t have open bankruptcy cases on your file, as this too can lower your chances of success in getting the rental property you’ve applied for. In case this applies to you, consider finding a cosigner or talk to your roommate about using their credit score.

The landlord will conduct a background check for the same reason as a credit check. They want to know how dependable you are. Previous convictions or pending charges may interfere with your ability to get a hold of the apartment you’re after. If you have anything in your past that may raise questions, you might want to provide an explanation ahead of time.

Please note, according to new rental laws stipulated in New York, application fees for apartments are limited to fees for background checks and credit checks and cannot exceed $20. Additionally, if the potential tenant provides a copy of a background check or a credit check conducted within the past 30 days, the $20 fee must be waived.

4. Security deposit

You will need to put down one month’s rent and one month’s security deposit. Note that this is the norm, but it can vary. If your application is denied, you’ll get your deposit back, but not your application or credit check fees, if applicable.

5. Prepare to wait

Typically, waiting time for an apartment application approval is 24 to 72 hours. In some cases, you can be approved the same day you applied.

Keep in mind, at the end of the day it will depend on the individual landlord or property management company. Make sure to ask this question prior to submitting your application, especially if you are in a hurry to move out of your current apartment.

If your application is accepted, and you decide to indeed rent the apartment and sign a lease, then your application deposit will likely be put towards your security deposit.

*Now that you have your dream apartment, I’m so happy for you. If your application was denied, don’t fret, there are many more fish in the sea-take time to regroup, enhance your application, and start from the beginning.*

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