Congratulations! After weighing your many options, you’ve found the perfect new apartment.

You’ve taken the time to painstakingly consider how much you should pay in monthly rent, searched for apartments and toured potential homes, and have now narrowed down your choices to your favorite. All you have to do now is fill out the rental application. This part happens pretty quickly compared to the rest of the apartment hunting process. To make sure that some other prospective tenant doesn’t swoop in and snag your dream home before you even get a chance, you want to streamline your application process by proactively preparing all of the information that you need. Here’s an overview on the information and documentation that you’ll need in order to apply for an apartment, and tips on ensuring your approval.

What does a rental application look like?

Once you solidify your interest in renting a particular apartment, the first step will be to fill out a rental application. A rental application is the document required from a landlord or management company to complete with their information so a credit history and past rental history can be reviewed for approval. Rental application forms may be on physical paper to be submitted physically through the mail or at an office, or electronically via email or an online rental application portal. 

The application will ask you for personal information such as: 

  • Name 

  • Address

  • Contact information

  • Employment information

  • Income information

  • Background information

  • References (previous landlord or personal/professional)

Image of a renter filling out an apartment application form

You may be asked to provide copies of the following: 

  • Bank statements

  • Pay stubs 

  • Tax returns

  • A full credit report

  • A copy of your driver’s license

  • A letter of employment 

Approval for applications can take several days depending on the landlord, so it’s always a good idea to ask how long you should expect to wait. To that end, the best prospective tenant is one that responds quickly. After all, communicating with a potential renter is an inherent part of the tenant screening process. You may not be able to rapidly improve your credit history or erase a misdemeanor from your criminal background, but you can always try to reply to a property owner promptly and prove yourself otherwise.

ProTip: Make sure that you trust the person or company to whom you are providing this information. Sharing official documentation like your driver’s license, details like your current address and social security number, or a personal reference’s sensitive information should be done through a secure portal or in person, to reduce the risk of a potential rental scam

The application fee

Applications often come with fees that fund the credit checks and background checks that landlords often run on potential renters. The fee that you pay will differ depending on the needs of the landlord and can generally run anywhere from $35 to $75 per applicant. 

Common fees that may come with your rental application or soon after are: 

  • Fees to pay for a background check and/or rental history screening

  • Credit check

  • Broker’s fee

  • Pet deposit

  • In some cases, a security deposit 

Sometimes a landlord requires the security deposit before you are approved or have signed a lease. This is one upfront cost that you can avoid with Rhino, security deposit insurance that can replace a cash deposit deposit. Renters save thousands upfront with Rhino, and instead pay a non-refundable monthly payment as low as $4 to protect their landlord from rental unit damage or unpaid rent. Rhino can also act  as a guarantor

ProTip: Remember to ask the person to whom you're submitting your application if there are any fees that you can recover if your application is not chosen.

What is a co-signer?

A co-signer is a financial guarantor for your application, and is typically required if a person has a low credit score, an eviction in their rental history, or generally if property managers have any reason to doubt that a prospective tenant might not honor a lease agreement. If a landlord asks for a co-signer or guarantor, then the co-signer will also need to fill out and sign a portion of the lease, and will likely have to provide proof of income as well.

Image of three renters excitedly looking at their phone.

How to read and sign a lease

If you’re approved for an apartment, the next step before moving in will be signing your lease agreement. Oftentimes, every potential tenant approved for a lease, such as all roommates jointly renting a multi-bedroom apartment, must sign the lease together.

The lease will cover a landlord’s expectations for renters as well as what the renters can expect from the landlord over the terms of the housing agreement, which can range anywhere from a year to 18 months, if not month to month. Make sure to read the lease carefully and ask questions about anything that is unclear to you.  The terms of the lease can include: 

While there are several steps involved with applying to rent a new home, but if you are able to familiarize yourself with the typical application process and prepare ahead, you can not only save yourself time and money but avoid the heartache of missing out on your dream apartment.

a headshot image featuring kt heins-nagamoto
KT Heins-Nagamoto

KT Heins-Nagamoto is a senior brand writer at Rhino. They advocate for security deposit alternatives and renter rights in everything they write.