When you apply to lease an apartment, you may expect it to be a smooth sailing process. If you have a full-time job and can access some pay stubs, it's likely you can prove to the management company that you can cover the rent. You might even use a tax form to show how much income you were responsible for paying taxes on to help you land an apartment. But while your prospective landlord may not run you through the wringer, getting an apartment might be a little more complicated than what you'd imagined.
How Apartment Complexes Screen Tenants
Whether you freelance, run your own business or work for someone else, you'll have to qualify for a lease on a new place. Apartment complex managers want to know that you have a steady income stream and can afford your monthly rent. But, depending on the landlord, you may find that an apartment complex or its management company is more or less flexible than you might assume. When a landlord screens a tenant, he may not use a formal landlord employment verification letter, but there are a lot of factors that he considers.
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Your Source of Income
One factor that carries a lot of weight is the potential lessor's income. Whether you have multiple sources of income or just one, you can often get an apartment if you can document how you'll pay the rent.
In fact, it might be illegal for a landlord to discriminate on the basis of a renter's source of income. A housing voucher is as valid as a paycheck from a job or child support, as long as it's documented and steady.
The key is to have the documentation to prove that the rent and fees don't account for more than 30 percent of your gross income.
Proof of Income
It's unlikely a landlord will ask you to complete an official apartment employment verification form. You can use a pay stub, show a landlord a letter from your employer confirming your income, pull out a copy of a freelancing contract or a copy of a tax return to prove your income, but prove it you must. If you have multiple sources of income, but just one W-2 form from one employer will qualify you for an apartment, there's no need to show more.
A Co-Signer's Income
If you don't work full-time or lost your job recently, it will be hard to rent an apartment on your own. If you know someone who works full-time who is willing to co-sign a lease, that may be an option. In this case, the co-signer takes on full liability if you don't pay your rent, just as if the lease were her own.
No Credit, Bad Credit and Debt
Most apartment complexes or management companies will run a credit check on a prospective applicant. Not surprisingly, bad credit is a common reason for turning down an applicant.
If there's a story behind your bad credit, it may not be an automatic disqualification. If you have bad credit that is the result of something like a recent divorce, an apartment complex might give you a chance. That's assuming that factors other than your credit score check out.
Management companies may be more understanding of a bad credit report due to medical debt or student debt than credit card debt. But when applying for an apartment, it's a situation when an explanation will be in order. You may want to call or email the company about the situation before you go there to apply.
The same is true if your credit report will alert the apartment manager that you owned a home that was foreclosed on. That is a fact a company will consider on an individual basis. Your income would need to prove that you could pay your rent at a less expensive place.
If you have a tricky financial issue, it doesn't rule you out from being seen as an acceptable renter by an apartment company or an individual who rents properties. It does mean you'll need to provide documentation that confirms your employment or income sources, and that you may need to explain something on your credit report.