Once you've settled on the perfect apartment, the real stress sets in: waiting to find out if you’ve been approved by the landlord or property management company. It can seem like a mysterious, closed-door process—but here’s what’s really going on behind the scenes while you wait.
What happens after I submit my application?
The first thing a potential landlord does once they have all your application materials is pull your credit report, which generally takes just a few minutes. At that point, the landlord will review everything else included in your rental application—things like tax returns, pay stubs, government identification, and any letters of recommendation. This could take as little as two to three hours. For some landlords, that’ll be enough for them to reach out and approve you immediately.
Others will want more information, which extends the timeline. They’ll likely reach out to your employer and to past landlords to get a sense of both your ability to pay rent and your behavior as a tenant (like if you paid on time, had a lot of maintenance requests, and what shape the apartment was when you moved out). This is the part that most often causes delays—if your landlord ends up playing phone tag with a hard-to-reach boss or previous landlord, it'll take longer for you to get an answer.
How long will it take to hear back?
Generally, it takes between one and three days to hear back about your rental application. Private landlords could take less time if they’re just pulling credit (which takes minutes) and looking over all your application materials themselves. If you’re going through a broker or management company, it could take longer because they'll need to pass your materials along to the landlord, who will review them and potentially reach out to references.
The 24- to 72-hour turnaround time is pretty standard across the country, although we’ve seen landlords mention timelines up to two weeks if they’re having a lot of trouble getting in touch with prior landlords or employers. You should also check the laws in your state that deal with rental applications—in Texas, for instance, applications are automatically considered rejected after seven days.
Is there any way to speed up the approval process?
You can try to speed up the process by putting together an extra-thorough application, including additional income verification materials, letters of recommendation from past landlords, a copy of your credit report (if the landlord will accept one from you), and a letter from your employer.
How will I know if I’m approved or denied?
You’ll get a phone call from whomever you applied with—either an agent, the property management company, or the landlord themselves. They’ll let you know whether to start packing (or keep looking).
Pro tip: if your application was denied because of something on your credit report, the landlord is legally required to tell you.
Will my past rental history have an effect on my application?
Unless you have a really unconventional landlord or management company, then yes—your rental history will almost certainly have an affect on your application. Some potential landlords reach out to past landlords to discuss what type of a tenant you were, and a bad review from one of them (or an eviction on your rental history report) could mean trouble.
What could delay the approval process?
A delay could crop up for a number of reasons. If your potential new landlord wants to reach out to past landlords in order to get comments about you as a tenant personally, that could take a while. There’s no timeframe for how quickly a previous landlord needs to respond.
If your application is missing any materials (if you forgot to submit your pay stubs, for example), that could slow things down. And if you have unexpected issues with your credit, a lack of verifiable income, little to no savings, or a large amount of debt, you’ll need to further prove that you can pay the rent in full and on time—though this type of issue most often results in a denied application, so be up front about any issues they might find when you apply.
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.
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