How to make sure your rental application is approved

Finding the perfect apartment is the easy part; now you've got to go through the rental application approval process. Learn what landlords look for when reviewing candidates and best practices on how to get your rental application approved.

January 16, 2024

7 min read


Once you find a rental apartment you like, it’s often a huge relief. But the process of securing it is far from over because you still need to submit a rental application to be approved. 

With landlords and property managers inundated with numerous applications, you’ll need to make a lasting impression to stand out from the crowd. To increase your chances of getting your rental application approved, learn what landlords look out for and follow our tips and strategies to distinguish yourself as the perfect applicant.

What landlords are looking for

Before you submit an application, be aware of what factors landlords consider when evaluating your candidacy. Depending on individual landlord preferences and the specific property, the importance placed on each factor may vary.

Generally, landlords and property managers are looking at factors like: 

Income and employment stability

Landlords prioritize tenants with a steady income to ensure consistent and timely rent payments. Typically, they seek applicants whose income is approximately three times the monthly rent. This standard provides a safety margin, assuring landlords that you have the financial capability to comfortably afford the rent without compromising other essential expenses.

Rental history

A positive rental history speaks volumes about your reliability as a tenant and can directly influence a landlord's decision. To assess your accountability, landlords will often request references from former landlords in your application. 

Strong endorsements from past landlords serve as evidence of your commitment to lease terms, demonstrate that you can maintain the property responsibly, and ensure consistent and timely rent payments. Additionally, personal and professional references can strengthen your application by showcasing responsible behavior.


To determine whether or not you’re financially dependable, landlords often run a credit report. Your credit report offers insights into your financial habits, providing landlords with information regarding your payment history, outstanding debts, and overall creditworthiness. 

A positive credit report, characterized by a history of timely bill payments, a manageable debt-to-income ratio, and a high credit score, is a strong indicator that you’re a trustworthy tenant. Conversely, a poor credit report with late payments, outstanding debts, or defaults may raise concerns for landlords, potentially swaying them to deny your application.  

Background checks

Landlords and property managers conduct background checks as a precautionary measure to assess potential risks associated with your potential tenancy. Background checks aim to identify any past convictions or criminal offenses that might pose a threat to the property or the community. 

While every state has different rules regarding how background checks are conducted and utilized, they are an integral part of the rental application process. By conducting background checks, landlords can ensure a safe and secure living environment for all occupants.

Pets and additional factors

If you have pets, landlords might consider their behavior and any damage they could cause to the property as a mark against your application. Other factors, like the number of occupants or smoking habits, might also influence their decision. To ensure that the property remains well-maintained and free from disturbances, your landlord may request further details about these factors to ensure you, your pets, and potential roommates are a good fit for the property.

Consistency and long-term plans

Landlords generally favor applicants who demonstrate an intent to stay for an extended period of time since it minimizes turnover and guarantees stability for the property. This preference for stability ensures a mutually beneficial relationship, because landlords are able to minimize vacancy rates while tenants don’t have to worry about finding future housing.

Complete and accurate application

An organized and complete application that includes all necessary documents demonstrates your attention to detail. Before you submit your application, ensure all details are accurate and thorough, leaving no room for ambiguity. Providing false information on your application is never a good idea. 

Meets lease requirements

If you meet all the requirements outlined in the lease agreement, including adhering to rules and policies, you automatically increase your chances of approval. Showing you meet all the basic criteria set by a landlord shows you’re a good fit for their property and can contribute to a more harmonious landlord-tenant relationship. 

Get your documents ready for the application

Once you have a good idea of what your landlord is looking for, gather the essential documents before starting the application process. Typically, these include:

  • Identification (a copy of your driver’s license, passport, or other government-issued ID)
  • Proof of income (pay stubs, employment verification, or bank statements)
  • Social Security number
  • Credit report
  • Rental payment history
  • References (from previous landlords, personal, or professional)
  • Job history

While your landlord may not request all of these, having the necessary documents ready in advance simplifies and expedites the application process. It also demonstrates your proactive approach and preparedness. It’s important to remember that landlords can’t just ask for any documentation they want, as they must follow the Fair Housing Laws

How long does the approval process take?

Although it usually takes one to three business days to be approved, it can be faster or slower depending on individual circumstances. For example, larger property management companies might take longer than private property owners to process and approve applications. 

Online applications can be approved in a matter of hours or a couple of days. Keep in mind though, because background checks typically take 48 to 72 hours, it can potentially slow down your rental application. On the other hand, paper applications may take longer to be approved due to manual data entry, potential delays in receiving the documents, and the necessity for physical handling and processing.

Expert tips to become the ideal candidate

Improve your credit before you submit an application

If you have a credit score of 740 or higher, you have little to worry about. However, if your credit score is on the lower end, there are steps you can take to improve it. Consider paying off outstanding debts and get into the habit of paying your bills on time. If necessary, seek out a co-signer—such as a parent—to support your lease agreement. A co-signer's involvement can provide additional assurance to the landlord regarding the financial responsibility associated with your tenancy.

Collect references

References can help highlight both financial stability and personal reliability. For example, a reference from a prior landlord can convey whether or not you were a responsible tenant who paid rent on time and respected the property. Similarly, a reference from your employer can prove you have a steady income. While the upfront investment in gathering references might require some effort, it can significantly increase your chances of your application being approved.

Include a cover letter with your application

Writing a personal letter in addition to your application is an excellent opportunity to introduce yourself to the landlord or property manager. It allows you to articulate your enthusiasm for the property, highlight your strengths as a tenant, and express your commitment to maintaining the rental unit.

You can include any additional information that might not be captured in the application, such as your stable income, responsible renting history, or willingness to abide by the lease terms. Writing a cover letter also gives you a chance to provide context for any red flags a landlord may find concerning such as criminal history or an eviction. 

In you letter you may want to explain why you would be a good tenant or even add a personal touch by including a profile picture. A compelling cover letter also demonstrates your professionalism and attention to detail, leaving a positive and lasting impression that can distinguish you from other applicants vying for the same rental unit.

Customize the application

Fine-tune your application by tailoring it for the specific landlord and property. Research the property, get to know the landlord's preferences, and align your application accordingly. Whether it's emphasizing your commitment to property maintenance or addressing shared values, taking a personalized approach exhibits a thoughtful and genuine interest in the property, helping you stand out from the crowd.

Fill in any gaps

If there are gaps in residency on your application, proactively explain the reasons why. No matter if it’s due to travel, temporary living situations, or personal circumstances, offering context helps your landlord make a more informed decision about accepting your application. Being transparent goes a long way in building trust with a future landlord.  

Highlight your financial stability

To give your prospective landlord peace of mind, present evidence that you can meet your financial obligation by including proof of a steady income that surpasses the rental cost. You can also mention your liquid savings to help landlords feel confident you’ll be able to pay your rent in the case of an economic downturn. By proving that you’re capable of paying rent consistently and on time, you establish a strong foundation for a trustworthy and reliable tenancy.

Offer a higher security deposit

A larger deposit gives the landlord confidence that you have additional funds available to cover potential damages or unforeseen expenses, demonstrating your willingness to protect their investment in the property. 

Prepare for the possibility of an interview

On occasion, some landlords may want to meet you or speak with you on the phone. It gives them the opportunity to get a better understanding of who you are beyond just the paperwork. If you’re asked to meet them in person, be sure to dress appropriately. Whether you meet them face-to-face or have a casual conversation by phone, be prepared to answer questions about your rental experiences, employment history, and personal background. 

Maintain clear communication

Stay prompt and responsive throughout the application process. Timely responses show that you are a serious prospect and are committed to the property and landlord. With consistent and responsive communication, you’ll establish trust with prospective landlords and show them you’re always available for conversation. 

Always follow up

If you don’t hear back from your landlord within one to three business days after you submitted your application, reach out to them. Politely inquire about the status of your application, seeking clarification or updates. Staying informed about the progress of your application enables you to explore other options if necessary.

Applying for your next home

Because the rental market is so competitive, you need to be well prepared if you want to make sure your application is approved. 

RentSpree revolutionizes the rental application experience, offering you a hassle-free and efficient way to apply for your next home. Our secure platform not only makes the application process easy, but also enables you to make online rent payments and provides the opportunity to boost your credit score. 

Ready to get started? Apply today. 


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