11 Documents You Should Bring to an Apartment Viewing

Anyone that has been on the hunt for an apartment before understands how frustrating the experience can be.

In addition to finding a location that is within your budget, and setting up a viewing, you may also be asked to present certain items.

What to Bring to an Apartment Viewing?

The exact items you will need to bring for your apartment viewing will vary depending on the landlord and location, but you can generally expect to present:

  • Filled-Out Application
  • Photo ID
  • Bank Statements
  • Pay Stubs
  • Job History
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • References
  • A Rental History
  • Social Security Number
  • Checkbook
  • Credit Report

Let’s examine each of these items to ensure you are prepared for your next apartment viewing.

Filled-Out Application

Most property managers ask prospective tenants or landlords to fill out an application before taking them for viewings.

Some apartment owners provide you with these application forms on the day of the viewing itself. However, filling out these forms can take some time.

To make the viewing process as efficient as possible, you may be able to find these forms on the building’s website, or by getting in touch with the property manager or landlord beforehand.

This may also give you an advantage over other competing tenants who wish to rent out the property at the same time as you.

Photo ID

A photo ID is simply any form of identification that contains your photograph.

You can present your driver’s license, passport, or another government-issued ID with a photograph at your viewing.

Some landlords borrow your photo ID and make a photocopy of it for their records.

Alternatively, they may ask you to bring a photocopy of the ID at the viewing. In either scenario, you can expect to present some form of valid photo ID.

Bank Statements

Landlords often ask prospective tenants to present their bank statements for the past several months.

They usually study your statement to verify that you have enough savings to keep up with the rent. 

If you do not have a large amount of savings, your landlord may look for your monthly income for confirmation that you can afford the rent they have set.

Some people are reluctant to present this confidential information to a landlord. In some states, you do have the option of declining the request. However, by doing so, you may jeopardize your rental application.

Pay Stubs

Some landlords accept a pay stub as a substitute for a bank statement. This pay stub helps confirm that you are indeed employed and that you are earning enough money to cover the rent.

It should be noted that some landlords may reject your application if they discover the rent is more than 30% of your monthly income.

In these situations, it may be useful to provide your bank statement and show them that you have more money tucked away in savings.

If you can demonstrate that your income and savings are large enough to cover the rent for the rental period, they may approve your application.

Job History

Your pay stubs can give your landlord confidence about your ability to pay the rent. However, they may also ask to see your job history.

This is a list of employers you have worked at over the years, along with their contact information and dates of employment.

An employment history provides landlords with information about your job stability. If you are changing employers frequently, they will have less confidence that your income stream is steady.

This may lead them to assume that you may miss some rent payments, or that you may end up moving to a new location for another job in the near future.

Also read: 11 Tips to Get an Apartment If You Just Got a Job

Letters of Recommendation

You may also be asked to provide a letter of recommendation from your previous landlord.

This letter should indicate the dates of your most recent lease, and whether or not your previous landlord encountered any issues managing you as a tenant.

Some landlords may be satisfied with simply being provided the address and contact details for your previous landlord, rather than a full letter.

But providing a pre-written letter may help speed up the rental application process.

References

Many apartment applications ask prospective tenants to provide letters of recommendation as well as references.

Letters of recommendations are provided by landlords, while references are usually provided by other individuals that can vouch for your character.

These references can be written by professionals you have worked with or people that run organizations you have volunteered for. That being said, all references aren’t created equal. 

You may be tempted to ask your close friends to write a reference letter for you, but it may be better to seek one from someone that knows you in a professional capacity.

Rental History

One item that is generally mandatory for apartment viewings is your rental history. This is a list of properties you have resided in for the past seven years or more.

This list should include the address of the residences, the contact number of the landlords, the dates of residencies, and the rent for each property.

There’s no guarantee that the landlord will contact the owners of your previous residences. Instead, they may check to see how often you have shifted between locations. 

For example, if a prospective tenant has moved through three different residences in one year, the landlord may contact previous property owners to ask why the tenant moved or whether they were evicted.

Social Security Number

Property managers also ask prospective tenants for their social security number. You should generally avoid giving this number out to strangers.

However, a property manager might request this so that they can perform credit or a background check.

Whether or not you trust the property managers with your social security number is entirely up to you.

If given to the wrong individuals, your social security number can be used to apply for a credit card, open a bank account, or rent vehicles under your name.

Checkbook

Once you have chosen to rent out a particular apartment, the property manager may ask you to pay a fee to get the unit removed from the market.

This fee will be used to hold the apartment until the lease is signed and completed. This prevents any other prospective tenants from renting out the property during that period.

This special fee can be paid via check, so you should remember to bring your checkbook for the viewing.

Credit Report

The final item that the landlord or property manager may ask you to bring is a credit report. This is a statement that contains information about your credit activity or present credit situation.

Your credit report will also include details such as your credit limit, your account balance, and account payment history.

Bringing your own credit report saves landlords from having to ask for your social insurance number and using it to retrieve your credit history themselves.

This can speed up the rental application process significantly.

What Can’t the Landlord Ask You For?

The aforementioned items can all be legally requested by the landlord or property managers.

However, there are certain things that are illegal for them to ask you. These include:

Age

The landlord of your future apartment may be able to deduce certain details about you from your photo ID.

However, they cannot ask you what your age is. This is because denying someone property due to their age is illegal.

Religion

Similarly, a landlord cannot ask you what your religion is, or to provide documents that verify your religion.

Discriminating against tenants for their religion is considered illegal. In fact, a landlord can’t even ask you if you are religious or not. 

Public Assistance

It’s not uncommon for some individuals to use food stamps while they are actively earning. This is because individuals with low income or large families are eligible for public assistance. 

Your landlord can learn about your employment history and income through the bank statement or pay stubs.

However, they cannot ask you if you have ever been on public assistance. Even if they were to discover this information, they would not be allowed to use it to discriminate against you.

Family Status

A landlord may ask you how many residents will be living at the property, as it may affect the utility bill for the apartment, as well as the general wear and tear of the unit.

However, they cannot ask you about your family status, or whether or not you intend to have children in the future.

This is because it is illegal for them to discriminate on the basis of familial status.

As you can see, there are plenty of things the landlord can and can’t ask you for when you are viewing an apartment.

Remember to keep these items in mind, as it may affect your chances of renting the property in the near future.

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