Before you submit an application, make sure you qualify to rent the apartment. Landlords usually charge an application fee (generally $35-$50) per adult occupant to process an application. If you are declined for any reason, the application fee is forfeited
Ask about age requirements, occupancy allowances, pet limits and required income ratios before you apply. Be upfront and honest. If you are not sure about something, ask. By doing so, you may save yourself $35 and the disappointment of being declined.
Landlords generally rely on three information tools for approving residents -- credit report; employment and income verification; and previous landlord history.
Know Your Credit Report
Three major credit bureaus offer credit reports on individuals to landlords. You can check your credit for free, either via the Internet or by submitting a written request by mail. If you don't know what's on your credit report, it would be a good idea to check it before submitting any applications.
If you have a poor credit rating, a foreclosure, a bankruptcy, collection items (particularly liens from apartment communities) or other unusual items on your credit report, discuss them with the landlord prior to application. Some landlords have policies in place to accommodate poor credit; many do not.
Policies include additional security deposits, payment of two months’ rent up front, or a qualified cosigner on the lease. A cosigner is generally qualified if he is local, has good credit, and meets the landlord’s income and employment requirements.
A cosigner may also be requested if the applicant does not meet other landlord requirements, like age and length of employment. A cosigner assumes all the obligations of the lease, if the lessee fails to meet them.
Employment and Income
Landlords generally rely on an income ratio to determine an applicant’s ability to pay the rent. The average is 3 to 4. Multiply the monthly rent by the landlord’s income ratio. The result is the minimum annual gross income required to qualify for the apartment. If you make that much or more, you’re qualified. You may be asked to provide a pay stub
If current employment is less than two years, information on previous employment may be requested. Be prepared to supply a supervisor's name, title and telephone number for verification to your prospective landlord.
Previous Landlord History
Most landlords will ask for a landlord reference. If your current lease is less than two years, you may be asked for a previous landlord reference. Be prepared to supply names, addresses and telephone numbers.
Applications are generally submitted in writing, accompanied by funds (either in the form of check or money order) equal to the security deposit and application fee. The security deposit acts as earnest money on the apartment.
Beware: if you apply for an apartment, are accepted, and then fail to sign a lease, you may be charged all or portions of your security deposit to compensate the landlord for holding the apartment off the market on your behalf. Read the terms of your application carefully.
Know exactly what to expect from your landlord, and when to expect it. If you have any questions or don't understand the wording, don't hesitate to ask. You are entering into a legally binding document -- make sure you know exactly what you are getting into.
The above information is merely advice, based on Apartment Search’s 20 years of experience in the St. Louis apartment industry. As our property information sheets say, the information is deemed reliable, but is not guaranteed. Before entering a legally binding document, always consult an attorney.