Landlords need to make sure you’re going to be able to pay your rent before they sign on to have you as a tenant. That’s why you will be required to meet a specific income requirement to rent an apartment. If you're looking for ways to get around income requirements, bear in mind that this will only be possible with private landlords as opposed to property managers of large apartment complexes.
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What is the income requirement for apartments?
Landlords typically require that your annual or monthly income hits a certain threshold. Or, if you have roommates, then the collective income of everyone living in the apartment needs to meet the income requirement.
The formula for deriving this minimum income number varies by location and landlord preference. In most of the U.S., your monthly income (or the combined monthly income of everyone living in the rental) will need to equal at least three times the rent. So a $2,500 apartment would require you to earn $7,500 monthly, or $90,000 annually.
Here’s a breakdown of common income requirements across several major U.S. cities:
- New York City: Forty to fifty times the monthly rent (per year)
- Chicago: Three times the monthly rent (per month)
- Dallas: Three to four times the monthly rent (per month)
- Los Angeles: Forty times the monthly rent (per year)
- Philadelphia: Three or four times the monthly rent (per month)
- San Francisco: Three times the monthly rent (per month)—but since San Francisco has such a high cost of living, some landlords are more flexible about these requirements
- Seattle: Three times the monthly rent (per month)
Guarantor income requirements
Since a co-signer or guarantor would ostensibly be paying for their own monthly expenses in addition to yours, guarantor income requirements are stricter than the requirements for a regular tenant. They are also required to make 80-100 times the monthly rent each year, even if they have a lot of assets in the bank. So, if you plan to apply for an apartment that costs $2,000 per month, your guarantor would need an annual income of at least $160,000.
Do I report my gross (pre-tax) income or my net (after-tax) income?
When you apply for an apartment, landlords will be looking at your gross income—how much you make before tax—to see if you can afford their apartment. They may check your tax documents to determine what your net income is, but usually, gross income is standard when you're filling out a rental application.
Why do I have to earn so much more than the monthly rent?
Although rent may be one of your biggest monthly expenses, it certainly isn’t your only one. Maybe you have student loans that you’re paying off, or monthly car payments. You’ll need to budget for food, renters insurance, and transportation costs. And, of course, there are always unexpected expenses—medical expenses (maybe for you, or maybe for a pet) or replacing a broken phone or computer.
These are all reasons why landlords set income requirements so high. They want to make sure that, even with everything else you pay for each month, you can still comfortably afford rent.
Is there any way to get around income requirements?
It is always possible to persuade an apartment owner or manager to accept you as a tenant even if you don't meet their exact standards. Speaking generally, you'll want to play up the aspects of your application that make you a great tenant even if you don't make as much in income as they would like. You will find that persuasion tactics work much better with private landlords as opposed to large, professionally-managed apartment complexes.
Can I still get a rental if I make slightly less than the income requirement?
If you come close to meeting the requirement but don't quite make it there's always a chance that you can reason with the landlord and convince him or her to accept you as a tenant anyways. This will be a factor of how close you get to their minimum threshold as well as other factors like your credit report and rental history.
How do I get approved for an apartment if I have no income but lots of savings?
If you don't meet the apartment's income requirements at all but have a lot of savings you may still be able to get the rental you want. Ask the landlord to accept a larger amount of upfront rent (assuming this doesn't run afoul of security deposit laws in your state) and prove that your assets exceed the total annual rent by a multiple of two or three. You will need to supply documentation of your liquid assets such as bank statements or a CPA letter.
What if I don't meet any of the requirements for an apartment?
If you don’t meet the requirements you can find a guarantor or co-signer to add their name to your lease. There are also services that will act as your guarantor for about one month of rent depending on your credit history.
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.