For those moving, upsizing, or downsizing, here’s what you need to know for your apartment hunt

Renting an apartment isn’t only about having the income for rent payments. Landlords screen dozens of applicants to ensure they have a steady salary and a track record of good behaviour.

A landlord’s criteria changes depending on supply and demand. A rental market with more prospective tenants than supply means a stricter application process (and higher rent prices!). In contrast, a renter-favoured environment means loosened criteria.

Your tenant application package provides prospective landlords with a picture of what you’re like. It generally includes a tenant application, proof of income, references, and your credit report. But certain property owners may ask for other documents.

This article discusses what documents you generally need to rent an apartment. Read on to learn more about exactly what you need to score your dream rental!

Related: Condo vs. Apartment: What’s the Difference?

What to Prepare for Renting an Apartment

You should have the following documents ready when you begin your apartment hunt:

  • Tenant application
  • Pay Stub and Proof of Income
  • References
  • Credit Report
  • Proof of Tenant Insurance

Related: The Ultimate Apartment Moving Checklist

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Tenant Application

A lot of landlords start with a tenant application. This is the easiest way to get all your information, including your

  • contact information;
  • current living situation;
  • country of residence;
  • income; and,
  • occupation

If you’re applying for an apartment complex that’s specifically for renters, you can usually find the application on the apartment’s website. Individual owners may send you a form after you contact them, or they’ll ask for some key points.

Pay Stub and Proof of Income

Your income is a critical part of your rental application. Generally, someone renting out their property wants a tenant whose income is at least three times the month-to-month rent price. So, if an apartment’s rent costs $1,900 per month, the ideal tenant would make at least $5,700 per month or $68,400 per year.

But this three-times criterion is not an absolute rule — just a general guideline. Landlords become flexible when there’s more supply than demand for rental units or if a tenant has spectacular qualifications, such as a strong credit score.

You want to provide at least two pay stubs to prove your income. This ensures the landlord you’re not puffing up your salary to make your application more competitive. If you’re moving to a new city for a new job, you can ask your employer for a proof of income letter instead.

If you’re self-employed, property owners often request two years of tax returns to evidence your income. Your last few months’ worth of bank statements may also work. You can also include any upcoming or ongoing contracts as proof you’re receiving a stable income as a self-employed person as well.


Property owners want to understand that you won’t cause significant trouble or disturbances in the unit and that you can pay rent on time. References are a key part of this due diligence. It allows a landlord to verify your application, like ensuring you actually worked where you claimed to have worked or lived where you claimed to have lived.

An excellent rental application should have two personal references (friends or family), two work references, and two references from prior landlords. This provides the person screening tenants a full picture to verify details and rental history.

Credit Report

Your credit report is a snapshot of your financial history. Financial institutions, employers, utility companies, and landlords use credit reports to understand the likelihood that you can make on-time payments.

A credit report also reveals the loans you’ve taken out (including lines of credit or credit cards) and any prior bankruptcies or consumer proposals. A poor credit score is a major red flag for landlords. Your credit check quickly makes or breaks your application.

There’s no cut-off for the credit you need to rent an apartment. It depends on the rental market. But, a 660 is generally reasonable. Anything less than 660 is considered “below average.”
Credit bureaus like TransUnion or Equifax usually let you pull your report for free.

Proof of Tenant Insurance

Although your rental application won’t need proof of tenant insurance, most landlords require it to finalize your renting process. After you’ve signed the lease, the property owner usually gives you a week or two to buy renter’s insurance and show proof of coverage.

Tenant insurance reduces you and your landlord’s liabilities. It ensures that an accident causing significant damage to the apartment or an injury to a guest won’t cause financial harm to you or your landlord. Instead, your insurance company would pay damages or repair costs.

Not all landlords require tenant insurance, but it’s an important policy to purchase. For a few hundred dollars a year, you’re protected from millions of dollars worth of potential damages.

Related: How much does tenant insurance cost

Final Thoughts on Documentation for Renting an Apartment

Renting an apartment requires a lot of work. You can ease the process by preparing your application package ahead of time. Fill out application forms, prepare your proof of income, find references, and pull your credit report. This way, you’re not scrambling to find these items last minute.

APOLLO’s custom coverage can help make the insurance part of finding your next home feel effortless. Get a free quote, speak with an adviser, and purchase coverage online in under five minutes.

Related: What do I need for a first apartment?

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