So you’re on the lookout for an apartment and may even have a few in sight. However, it can be confusing for a first-time renter to navigate the rental application process. With forms to fill, documents to submit, it takes patience and a lot of effort. Here is all you need to know about the steps and process of signing a lease.

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Steps of the rental application process

The rental application process can seem overwhelming if you are a first-time renter. This is nothing to be worried about. You will be absolutely fine if you take care and follow all the steps below! Be sure to look up information that is specific to your city before you proceed. These are steps that you will need to complete as a part of the rental application process in general.

1. Fill out your rental application:

A rental application is a form and a set of supporting documents. This application is used by landlords to screen potential tenants. The rental application process varies for each building or residence. The form can either be filled up online or collected from the landlord while you are touring the place. The form establishes your intent and allows you to be screened to be accepted as a tenant.

2. Submit the required documents:

You will need to submit certain documents as a part of the rental application process. This helps the landlord establish your identity and screen you. Be sure to submit all the required documents to ensure that there are no hiccups in the process. State ID cards are considered acceptable forms of identification for the tenant screening process. A driver’s license is the most commonly used ID. It may also be necessary if you are looking to get a parking spot as well.

3. Pay the rental application fee:

Generally, there will be a fee for you to pay as a part of the rental application process. This fee is usually between $30-$50 and varies based on location or the landlord. This fee is taken to fund background checks on potential tenants. In some cases, there may also be processing fees that may or may not be refundable. Be sure to ask the landlord for a break up of the fees and whether they are refundable.

4. Provide references:

Landlords will want to know if you had or caused any issues in the past. Proving that you have a good history is important. Landlords will not give an apartment on rent if you have caused property damage or broken the terms of your lease in the past. If you are a first-time renter and do not have any rental history, get personal references! Personal references can make or break an application in these cases. A figure of authority or supervisor can vouch for your character and dependability.

5. Sign the dotted line!

Provided all has gone well and you’ve been accepted, you will now have to sign your lease. Congratulations! This is the final step of the rental application process. Make sure you go over all the terms carefully. Also, take one final look at the premises and ensure everything is in order. This is also when you will need to discuss and pay upfront costs. It is standard to pay the first month’s rent and move-in fees or security deposits as required.

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What should I include in my rental application?

Here is a list of things that you will need to submit as a part of your rental application.

  • Contact information: Your email ID, phone number and address.
  • Cover Letter: Make an impression and introduce yourself.
  • Proof of Income: Submit proof of your employment if you are a working professional.
  • Social security number: This is needed for background and credit checks.
  • Documents: Identification cards or documents to prove your identity.
  • References: Have a past landlord or supervisor vouch for you.
  • Pets: Breed, size, and weight of your pet if applicable.
  • Vehicle information: The make, model, and registration of your vehicle if applicable.
  • Emergency contacts

Writing a cover letter

It is good practice to write a cover letter along with your application. Much like a job application, it lets you tell the landlord about yourself and make an impression. A cover letter also allows you to explain any issues with your history. You can explain prior convictions, failures to pay rent, evictions, or any other problems. A cover letter is an important part of the rental application process and shows you are interested.

How long does it take to process a rental application?

You can expect background and credit scores to be checked as a part of the rental application process. There will also be checks of your references, history and other documents you submit. The time it takes can vary from one landlord to the other, but on average is 24-72 hours. Some properties may take longer than this, but you will usually be informed in that case. If you have not heard back in 72 hours, you can contact the landlord and ask for an update.

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