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Documents you need before starting your apartment search

Updated: Mar 7, 2023

What documents do you need for an apartment rental?


Getting your necessary documents in place before you start your apartment search can make the difference between whether your application for your dream apartment is accepted or rejected.


What documents do I need to rent an apartment

Renting an apartment in NYC is often a hectic activity. It’s not uncommon to hear stories of people losing out on an apartment because they didn’t have their application ready to go that day. The best thing you can do to improve your chances of getting the apartment you want is to have all of your required documents ready to go before you start your search.


The checklist below includes everything you need to put together a successful application for your NYC apartment and will ensure you don’t miss out your next apartment. Also, make sure you check the true rental price of an apartment with RentPeek before signing a lease.


Rental Application


The actual application will vary from landlord to landlord, but typically it will cover all the details of the applicant (you) and some details around the process and any fees associated.


The application may have a something for you to sign saying you agree to a background check and credit authorization. It should also specify the application fee and detail how payment is expected to be received. The application will also include details on who the applicants are, things like name, date of birth and social security number. There may be some general screening questions as well such as asking if the tenant is a smoker or has pets.


Financial Documents


A landlord's main concern is making sure a tenant has the ability to pay the rent. As a result, they require a lot of upfront documentation detailing the applicant’s financial situation.


Bank statements

You will likely be asked to show your last two months of bank statements detailing the starting and ending balance. It is helpful if you can show at least 2-3 months of available rent as your balance. For example, if the apartment is $2,500 per month, showing a balance of $5,000-7,000 will greatly increase the strength of your application.


Pay stubs

Most applications will ask you to include the previous two or sometimes three months of pay stubs you received.


Tax filings

You also will be asked for your last two years of tax filings. This can be your W2 or a 1099 if you are an independent contractor.


Investment accounts

Showing investment accounts is unlikely to be required by landlords, but it can help improve the strength of your application. Examples of investment accounts include any employee sponsored plan like a 401k, a savings account or your personal brokerage account.


What documents do you need to rent an apartment

Employment Documents


Employment letter

An employment letter shows the landlord that you are currently employed and earning a salary. The letter should contain your position, your salary and your length of employment. It should also contain the company’s address and the contact information of HR or your hiring manager.


Self-Employed

If you are self-employed, then you will need a letter from your CPA that states your prior year's income and estimated income for current year.


Other Documents


Previous landlord referral

This isn't typically a required document but if you can get a reference from your prior landlord, it can greatly improve your chances of your application being accepted. The letter should include the fact that you paid your rent on time, you left the apartment in great shape, and were respectful of other tenants.


Photo ID

You will need to show a copy of a government issued photo ID. This can be your driver's license, passport, military ID or any other valid photo ID.


Personal and/or business references

If you are renting an apartment in a Co-op building, they will typically ask for several references from your friends and coworkers. Most regular rental buildings will not ask you for these references, but if you can provide them, it will only strengthen your application.


Have your documents ready to go before you start your apartment search


While it is definitely a pain to get all of the documentation together upfront, it is a lot better than losing out on an apartment because you took too long to submit an application. Brokers and agents in NYC value prospective tenants who are able to move quickly and are even more likely to offer rent concessions if you are able to sign that same day.


In addition to getting your documents lined up, make sure you've gone over all the things you need to do before starting your apartment search. Getting all of your required documents lined up before you start your apartment search will greatly improve your chances of getting accepted on your first application.


Want to know what renters are actually paying for their apartments? Check out our rent comparison tool to find out.



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