Checklist: What you Need to Apply for an Apartment

If you’ve rented in New York City, you know the stress of finding an apartment. The good ones go fast, so it’s best to be prepared to put in your application as soon as you see something you like. To set you up for success, we put together the following checklist of documents you’ll most likely need to submit when you apply for an apartment. These can vary from landlord to landlord, but here’s a list of the most commonly asked for documents and why you need them.

Application Requirements

1. Copy of Your Most Recent W-2 or Tax Return

Most buildings require that tenants have an annual income of 35–50x the monthly rent. Your W-2 or tax return will show proof of income so the building can verify that you will be able to cover your rent each month.

2. Copies of Last 2–3 Pay Stubs

Depending on when you are applying for the apartment, the landlord will want to verify that you are still employed and getting paid regularly. Again, to ensure you won’t have a problem paying your rent.

3. Letter of Employment

You will probably be asked to provide proof that you are currently employed. Your HR department should write a letter on company letterhead stating your annual income and expected bonus, job title and length of employment.

4. Credit Check

As you can see, there’s a theme here. Landlords want to be sure their tenants are financially stable so they receive rent on time every month. Therefore, they will most likely run a routine credit check on you for your credit score. If you want to go the extra mile, you could have the credit check run before you apply and present it at the time of application, which could possibly speed up the approval process.

5. Social Security Number or Copy of Social Security Card

Make sure you have your social security number on hand or better yet memorized. You’ll be asked to provide it for the credit check. We don’t recommend writing it down on paper or keeping it in your phone where it can easily be stolen.

6. Copies of Last 2–3 Bank Statements

You’ll want to provide both your checking and savings account statements, if you have both.

7. Photo ID or Copy of Photo ID

A driver’s license, passport or any form of government issued identification will do. The management company will make a copy to verify your identity, or you can come prepared with a copy already made.

8. Landlord Reference Letter or Contact Information

Your future landlord wants to know that you’re in good standing with your current landlord. Ask them to provide a letter stating how long you’ve lived there and that your rent is up-to-date. They should also provide their contact information in case of additional questions. You may be asked for contact information for up to your last three residences. Have this on-hand so you’re ready to provide it when asked. If you’re a first-time renter, don’t worry if you don’t have this information to provide, the building understands.

9. Application

You may have access to the application online before you visit the apartment. If so, it’s smart to fill it out completely and bring it with you so you can present it on the spot and not waste time filling it out after the fact.

10. Method of Payment

There’s usually an application fee of $50–$100. You may also be charged for the credit check and a holding fee/deposit to temporarily take the apartment off the market while your application is being processed. Payment by check is acceptable. You can ask if credit or debit cards are accepted as well. Be sure to ask which fees are refundable and which are not. In the event your application is not approved, you’ll want to get as much money back as possible.

Note: If you have a roommate/s or guarantor, they will also need to fill out the application and provide the same paperwork.

Other Documents You May Need

11. Personal References / Letters of Recommendation

Personal references may not be required but it could be worthwhile to identify two personal and two professional references who will vouch for your character. Confirm they are willing to be a reference for you before you give their contact information to the landlord so they expect the call.

For more information on renting, see our Renter’s Guide: Getting Started.


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