How to Rent an Apartment

Four Parts:Searching for a Suitable ApartmentPreparing to ApplySigning the LeaseUnderstanding Rental Documents

Renting an apartment is sometimes as lengthy and tiring as buying a new home. Proper planning and in-depth research are necessary to rent an apartment that fits your needs and budget. If time and finances permit, consult a real estate agent. If you don’t have the luxury of hiring an agent, you have to do the footwork yourself.

Part 1
Searching for a Suitable Apartment

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    Search online. Before you can rent an apartment, you will need to find one that is within your budget and that suits your needs in terms of number of rooms, amenities, proximity to school and work, etc. The internet is a good place to start to see what is out there. You can do a search with the name of your town or city along with “apartments for rent” to find websites that list offers.
    • Try searching social media sites as well. In larger cities, there may be a group for people renting out apartments.
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    Look in the local paper. Although it is not so commonly used, you can sometimes find great ads for apartments being offered by private landlords who don’t have the know-how or resources to post ads online.
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    Post an ad in the local paper. Many people have the best luck when they post an ad in the local paper. Include your budget, the amenities you are looking for, when you want to move in, and your preferred location.
    • Be sure to include a way to get in touch. If you are not comfortable posting your private email or phone number, then create a free email account just for this purpose. This way, you won’t have to worry about strangers having a lot of personal information.
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    Post and ad on the internet. This works in just the same way, but on the internet. Post an ad on your social media, and ask friends to share it. Sites such as craigslist can be used to post the same ad that you post in the local paper.
    • Again, be cautious about sharing too much personal information in the ad!
    • Be cautious of scams. There are many scams out there where someone says they have the perfect apartment at the perfect price, but that you will have to transfer them a sum of money right away. Don’t believe it! These are very likely to be scams!
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    Drive or walk around your town or city. Simply driving or walking around in your city offers a good way to find apartment complexes. Most complexes will have a phone number posted to call if you are interested in looking at what they have to offer. If you’re really lucky, they may have an on-site office, where you can talk to someone, and maybe even see an apartment on the spot.
    • Be prepared to make an appointment, though. Apartment offices can be very busy, so it is not very likely that they will be able to help you without one.
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    Bring a pen and paper with you to every apartment you visit. Sometimes it can be hard to keep all the different apartments you visit straight in your memory. Bring along a pen and paper to make notes about the pros and cons of each apartment, the deposit, the monthly rent, and anything else that seems important to remember.
    • You could also consider bringing along a camera to take pictures, but be sure and ask the landlord if it is OK to take pictures first.
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    Do not procrastinate. Apartments can go very quickly, especially in larger cities. If you find the apartment you want, contact the landlord to begin the paperwork right away!

Part 2
Preparing to Apply

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    Gather documents that evidence your ability to pay for an apartment. Nearly all landlords will require that you provide evidence such as pay stubs and verification of employment (e.g. a contract). If there is a reason why you can’t provide a pay check stub, then you may also be able to provide bank statements. Some landlords may even ask for a complete employment history. Prepare one ahead of time and bring it with you to demonstrate your responsibility.
    • Be aware that many landlords will only accept you as a tenant if the rental price is 30% or less of your total income.[1] If this will be difficult for you to manage, consider finding a roommate. This way, the landlord will consider the total of your two incomes together.
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    Check your credit report. This can be done once per year for free at This website will provide you with information from each of the three credit reporting agencies. Most landlords will check your credit to make sure that you are responsible with your money and making payments.
    • If you have less than stellar credit, bring proof of on-time payments from at least one company you do business with. Utility companies are a good option. If you don’t have any positive credit references, ask the property owner if you can pay a higher deposit in lieu of a good credit score.
    • For those just starting out, who have little credit history (e.g. many college students), landlords may be willing to let you have a co-signer. This is someone, such as a parent or other relative, who signs an agreement stating they can afford to, and are willing to, cover your rent in the event that you cannot.
    • Be aware of websites that claim to offer free credit reports. There are many, many websites posing as the one posted above, but this is the only website that does so.
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    Bring identification. Even if you are only going to visit an apartment, you will very likely need identification. A state identification card, driver’s license, or passport should suffice.[2]
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    Prepare your rental history. The landlord may ask for the names and contact information of your last three to five property owners. They may also ask for letters of recommendation from previous renters.
    • If this is your first time renting, provide three to four references that can vouch for your dependability and character. Avoid letters from parents. Instead, try to ask for letters from employers, teachers, counselors, etc.
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    Bring your check book or money order. Many landlords will have an application fee. If you don’t have a check book, try to find out before hand how much the application fee will be, and purchase one. Many landlords will not accept cash because they want to have a record of your payment.
    • This is also good practice, as you will likely have to pay your rent with a check or money order.
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    Memorize your social security number. While you should protect your social security number, your potential landlord will likely need it to perform a credit check.[3] If you can’t memorize it, bring your card along.
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    Bring your vehicle registration and proof of car insurance. If you have a car, and if your desired apartment has on-site parking, the landlord may ask for these.[4] Some apartments come with an assigned parking spot, and this information is used to make sure no one is taking your space and that you are parking where you are supposed to.

Part 3
Signing the Lease

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    Read the entire lease before you sign it. Make sure that all terms and conditions are exactly what you were told when you initially inquired about the apartment. If you are unsure about anything, ask for clarification or take the lease to an attorney or trusted friend to review.
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    Walk through the apartment immediately before signing the lease. The landlord should be willing to let you walk through the apartment you will be renting just before signing. You should do this to check for any damages or defects. If you notice any, ask the landlord to note these in the contract before signing. Otherwise, the landlord may try to make you pay for these damages later on.
    • The landlord may want to accompany you on this walk through.
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    Arrange for your move. In some apartments, particularly in big cities with narrow streets and lots of cars, you may have to coordinate the use of parking spaces or service elevators to get your belongings into the apartment. Clarify these with your landlord at least a week or two before your scheduled move-in date.

Understanding Rental Documents

Landlords will often create their own documents, while others will use a standard template. These documents should give you a good idea of the information you might be required to provide when applying to rent an apartment.[5][6]

Sample Rental Application

Sample Lease

Sample Property Inspection Checklist


  • Don't give up! Renting an apartment can sometimes feel impossible. Especially in big cities. Keep looking and eventually you will find what you're looking for.
  • Be courteous with the landlord. You are more likely to make a good impression if you are patient and kind. Remember, you are the one wanting to rent an apartment. They get to choose who lives there.

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Categories: Renting