If you’re on the hunt for your first apartment and wondering about the rental application process, it’s important to keep in mind that the timeline can vary depending on where you’re looking. However, having a general idea of how long the process takes can make it easier to plan your move.

The application itself provides landlords and property management companies with information to determine if you meet their resident criteria. Reviewing this information can take a bit of time, which is one of many reasons why it’s important to start looking for apartments sooner rather than later. 

So, exactly how long does a rental application take? Read on to find out and learn more about the application timeline in general. 

How Long Does it Take to Process a Rental Application?

Rental applications usually take about five days to process. The landlord or property manager needs time to review all aspects of your application, contact references and more. 

There are some instances where rental applications are processed more quickly. For example, if your income and credit score significantly exceed the requirements, landlords may not contact your references which means you could potentially be approved faster. Alternatively, if there are multiple co-applicants or a significant amount of information to process, it may take a bit longer. 

Rental Application Processing Steps

After you’ve submitted your application, the landlord will verify each component to ensure you are being truthful and that you meet their requirements. Here are the steps they will take to process your rental application. 

1. Application Overview

The landlord will start by reading through the application to look for any errors or missing information. If anything pops up, they will contact you right away to give you a chance to fix it. 

2. Background Check

Many landlords conduct background checks to verify your personal information and check your criminal record. How long does a background check take for an apartment? In most cases, just a few hours. 

3. Credit Check 

The credit check is another important component of your rental application, as it gives landlords an idea of how likely you are to make timely rental payments. Many landlords will require renters to meet a certain credit threshold for approval. 

4. Review Employment 

Once you pass the credit check, the next step is to verify your employment. They will review any pay stubs and other employment information you have provided and make sure that you have the ability to pay the monthly rent. Your landlord may also contact your supervisor to further verify this information. 

5. Contact Previous Landlords and References 

The final step is to confirm your rental history. If you’ve provided additional references, your prospective landlord may need to contact them for this purpose. This is often the most time-consuming step of the process, as it can take time for everyone to return their calls. 

6. Verify Co-Signer Information (Optional)

If you plan to use a co-signer on your rental application, they will also need to fill out an application. Your prospective landlord will verify their employment and credit information to ensure they meet the qualifications. Their credit score, income and employment history will be checked just like yours.

How To Help the Rental Application Process Go Faster

There are a few things that you can do as a renter to speed up the application process and get approved quickly. By following these tips, you’ll make it easier for your landlord to process your application. 

  • Clarify the requirements before applying. 
  • Provide all requested documents. 
  • Let references know ahead of time that you’re applying. 
  • Have your co-signer apply at the same time. 
  • Double-check your application. 

Clarify the Requirements Before Applying 

Before you put in a formal application, talk to the landlord about their income and credit requirements and if they accept co-signers. This way, you can avoid applying for apartments if you know you don’t qualify. 

Bring All of Your Documents with You

When you visit an apartment, have your ID, pay stubs and any other helpful paperwork readily accessible so that you can apply right away. If you don’t have physical copies of your paperwork, keep digital files readily accessible in a secure folder on your smartphone. 

Let References Know Ahead of Time That You’re Applying

If possible, let your previous landlords, employer and any other references know ahead of time that you’re applying for apartments and that they may get a call from a prospective landlord. The faster they respond, the faster the landlord can process your application. 

Have Your Co-signer Apply at the Same Time

When applying with a co-signer, it’s best to have them fill out the application with you, rather than doing so later. 

Double-check Your Application

Finally, make sure there are no errors before you submit. This will save time by reducing any back and forth with your prospective landlord.

Common Questions About Rental Applications

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about rental applications and how long they take to process. 

When Will I Hear Back About My Rental Application?

In most cases, you’ll hear back from the landlord as soon as they have processed your application, which usually happens in about five days. They will let you know if you have been approved or declined and, if you’ve been approved, they’ll provide you with next steps for signing the lease

If you’re worried about the timeline, be sure to ask your prospective landlord how long rental applications generally take at their property.

How Long Does a Background Check Take for an Apartment? 

It usually takes one to three hours to run a background check, depending on the service used and when the background check is requested. However, processing your application typically requires more than just a background check, which is why it can take more than a few hours to hear back. 

What Can Cause Delays with Rental Applications?

There are a variety of things that can slow down your rental application. One of the most common is errors on your application, which often make it impossible to run a background and credit check. It can also take extra time to process your rental application if your previous landlords and/or references don’t respond to calls or messages right away. 

Your application might also be taking a while if the information you initially provided doesn’t match the information the landlord finds in the background check. This alone doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t get approved for the apartment, but your landlord will have to vet your application much more thoroughly before making a final decision. 

Applying Is Easy with Southern Management

At Southern Management, we aim to make applying for apartments as simple and straightforward as possible. Our team is here to help you through the process. 

We have apartments for rent throughout the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore areas. Be sure to explore our apartment communities and get in touch to learn more.