Proof of current, sufficient and stable income:
A general rule of thumb is that landlords hope to find tenants whose monthly rent will be roughly 1/40 of their yearly income before taxes. So, if you make about $3,000 a month, you might have a tough time getting a living space that will cost more than $900 per month. However, that doesn't mean it's impossible. Landlords will also be looking at the stability of your job. Therefore, it might also be wise to provide documentation of the fact that you've been employed a the same place for an extended period of time, as opposed to just handing over your latest pay stub. If for some reason you don't meet the income requirements of a prospective landlord, you may seek the help of a guarantor or co-signor. A guarantor guarantees your lease will be covered. Guarantors typically need to fill out an application and landlords expect them to make at least double the salary of the apartment's applicant and have strong credit. This eases the risk taken on the part of the renter and can help you find your own place to live if you have yet to procure a high work wage or built up your credit score.
Proof of sufficient income is just one of the many factors landlords consider in handing over a set of keys to a new tenant, so if you don't meet this criteria, don't be completely dissuaded from applying.
If the recent headlines of the alleged liberties taken by the NSA in monitoring cell phone calls makes you feel a little paranoid when you hear the phrase "background check," remember that when your prospective landlord tells you he or she will be conducting one, you shouldn't be afraid (unless you really have something to hide!). No, you should welcome this because it probably means they asked for one from everyone else in the building. So, you'll be about as secure as the landlord is!
Submit positive references from prior landlords:
Have you lived in your apartment for a while and never had a conflict with your landlord? Has that been the case on other occasions? Ask your current or previous landlords for contact information so that you can give it to your prospective landlord. And take the initiative! Offer the references before the landlord asks for them. It'll show the landlord you're open, honest, and eager to rent in their building.
You don't necessarily have to be debt-free or have a spotless credit history, but it does help to have a credit score of at least 700. This simply indicates that you pay your debts off in a timely fashion. So, if you're $50k in the hole in school loans, don't worry about it, as long as you make your payments consistently.
Landlords may have various policies regarding how much money needs to be provided up front. When you're researching potential places to live and you spot an apartment within your budget, remember that you're going to need a lot more money saved up than what is equal to just one month's rent. Landlords need to be reassured that their apartment is going to be occupied for a while. Remember, when their space is empty, they don't have revenue coming in and they have to go through the rigors of finding new tenants. So, they, essentially, ask for two month's rent right away. They also like security and will ask for money ahead of time in the form of a deposit that may be used for damages to the apartment incurred while you stay there. In short, if you're renting a place for $1,000/month, expect that you might have to actually hand over either $2,000 or $3,000. But you can get your security deposit back once you move out if, when you leave, the apartment is in the exact same condition it was in when you initially occupied it. Here's another tip: save some money and paint the apartment yourself if it's needed before you move out. Some landlords will anticipate repainting your apartment to make it look in tip-top shape for views from potential new tenants. They will usurp that cost from your deposit and you won't know what they'll charge for that until after you're gone. Instead, buy the paint and brushes yourself, then do the work and let them know the fresh painting is all taken care of. Clean the apartment vigorously too and if it was furnished when you moved in, sorry, but you have to leave the furniture there.
Present yourself as though you're going to a job interview:
Maybe you don't have to show up in a business suit, but look presentable when you're first meeting the landlord. Be prepared to answer questions and have the materials we discussed earlier in this post at the ready. (Sound like a job interview to us!) You'll show them that you're a person who's "got it together" and worthy of renting to.
As always, feel free to share some stories of your experience in dealing with prospective renters in the comments section below and best of luck to you!