Income verification can be a frustrating part of the approval process for a new rental, particularly since the income requirements are so high in some major cities. But it's pretty much unavoidable if you want to land an apartment—so it's best to go in prepared. We'll walk you through the documents landlords use to check your earnings and how the process changes if you're a freelancer.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, any credit reports or other screening reports legally can’t be shared, and must be trashed in accordance with rules set by the Federal Trade Commission.
Income verification for traditional employment
If you work a full-time, salaried job then you can expect to be asked for at least two of the following types of income verification. Some are more commonly requested than others—you’ll pretty much always need to supply pay stubs. The others are more likely to be requested if the landlord is having a tough time actually verifying what you make on a regular basis.
Tenants typically provide recent pay stubs or income statements from their employer. These documents show the tenant's income, deductions, and other relevant details. You can send a photo of your two most recent pay stubs if you receive them as hard copies. Alternatively, if your employer uses a payroll management software program then you should be able to log in and download your recent pay stubs.
Landlords will likely want to contact your employer directly to verify that your pay stubs weren't falsified. You can provide them with the contact information of your direct supervisor or the head of HR. Remember to use your reference's work email and/or phone number. A landlord might ask them for confirmation of job title, length of employment, and monthly or annual salary.
Some landlords may request bank statements to review the tenant's financial activity. Reviewing your recent bank statements allows a prospective landlord to see regular income deposits as compared to regular (auto-debiting) expenses and all of your discretionary spending. This lets them get a better sense of how much cash you have on hand each month for the rent.
In certain cases, landlords may request copies of your tax returns, especially for self-employed individuals or those who do not receive regular pay stubs. When it comes to assessing your financial health, there are two main benefits of reviewing your tax returns. First, they provide a comprehensive view of your income over a longer period of time than would be possible by just reviewing your two most recent pay stubs or bank statements. Second, since tax returns are submitted to the government there is a higher bar for falsifying them - this makes them more trustworthy from the landlord's perspective.
Offer Letters or Contracts
If you recently started a new job then you'll be asked for a signed copy of your offer letter or employment contract. This will serve as your proof of income until you get your first couple of pay stubs.
Proof of government-funded income
Some tenants may receive income from rental assistance programs or government subsidies. Landlords can verify this income by contacting the program administrator or agency responsible for providing the assistance.
Unemployment, pension, or disability payments are also forms of government-funded income that you would need to document.
Income verification for the self-employed
If you’re a freelancer, sole proprietor, or just don’t have traditional income, verification can be trickier. You don’t have a typical W2 to show a landlord, so you’ll have to provide more documentation that covers a longer period of time. If that still doesn’t convince a landlord that you can pay your rent, you may have to consider getting a guarantor to cosign your lease, or putting several months’ rent down upfront.
A letter from your CPA, along with their contact information, can verify your average annual and monthly income for the previous one or two years. This type of letter may also include an income projection for the next year.
Landlords might request to see copies of past 1099s and recent tax returns (either Schedule C or Schedule E tax forms.
Bank statements can show regular deposits from your clients or customers. They provide another way to demonstrate your current income level on average.
References and client contacts
Landlords may ask for references from clients or customers and copies of active contracts that you have with them. This lets them verify not just that you've earned enough in the past but also that the same level of income will continue into the future. This may involve reaching out to the individuals or businesses with whom you have a professional relationship.
Business license or registration
A landlord may request proof of your business registration or license. This helps confirm that the tenant is operating a legitimate business.
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.