Before Starting Your Apartment Search: The Checklist

Before you start looking for your next place, you need your documents in order. Although a landlord won’t necessarily require every single one of the following, any of them might be on the table:

Rental application

Most places will require you to fill out an application, complete with your personal details and other information. If you don’t remember key details well, such as your social security number, take them with you.

Proof of income

Your landlord needs proof that you are capable of paying rent every month. Different property managers may ask for different proofs of income, usually one or more of the following: employment verification letter, pay stubs, copies of (paid) bills, tax returns, and bank statements.

Credit report

All but the most trusting property managers will want to run a credit check on you. We recommend you request your credit score yourself and provide it to the landlord, if that’s acceptable to him; having other people run checks on you dings your score slightly.


If you don’t have the funds or the credit rating to reassure a landlord, you may need a co-signer, someone with better credit history or more financial resources who will sign the lease with you as insurance that rent will be paid. This is especially common for college-age renters who haven’t established good credit or don’t have regular employment.

Background check

Some landlords might want to run a background check. You probably won’t need to provide anything other than your personal identification information, but you should know what might come up!


You should have a few references on file, complete with contact information, in case your landlord wants to check on your renter’s history and overall reliability. You might be able to provide one or two “character references,” but be prepared to provide the phone number of your last landlord, too.


Nearly every apartment lease comes with a security deposit. You probably won’t need it for your first meeting with a landlord, but you should be able to come up with it soon after.

Application fee

Property managers sometimes require an application fee with your rental application, to weed out people who are less serious about pursuing the lease, and to cover some of their time spent finding new tenants. Show up with this money at the first meeting.

Information about roommates

Moving in with other people? Unless you’re taking on all the responsibility of master tenant, they’ll probably need to provide all the above information, too.

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