After days or weeks of apartment hunting, you’ve finally found the ideal apartment within your price range. Eager to land the apartment, you ask to fill out an application, only to discover that you need proof of employment. You’re not sure how to go about providing proof and wonder why the landlord finds it necessary. Rest assured, you’re not alone.
Why a Landlord Needs Proof of Income
A landlord needs proof of income for reasons which may not be apparent to someone who has never owned rental property. The primary reason is that your landlord wants to ensure that you can pay the monthly rent. Even if you are certain that you can afford the apartment, the landlord needs proof.
Your inability to pay the rent creates a number of problems for the landlord. From a landlord’s perspective, rental income is necessary to meet the expenses of owning and maintaining the property. If steps must be taken to evict you for nonpayment of rent, legal fees are incurred, and your landlord may have difficulty collecting the back rent from you. In such a situation, the landlord pays out-of-pocket expenses related to the rent lost from your actions (i.e. loses money).
All landlords want to make money on their rental property. Consequently, they take steps to find and retain good tenants. This includes requiring proof of employment to show a source of income.
Proof of Income and the Screening Process
When applying to rent an apartment, expect to be asked to provide proof of your financial standing as part of the screening process. Through this process, the landlord tries to determine whether you’re financially stable, with a history of paying your bills on time and if you’re living within your means. Proof of being a good tenant, who pays your rent on time, is also important.
To prove your ability to pay the rent, you will need several months of pay stubs. In the absence of pay stubs, you can provide contact information for your current employer to verify your income. If you’re self-employed, income tax returns can demonstrate your annual income.
Your landlord expects the rent to be a certain percentage of your gross income (your pay before deductions). This percentage varies, depending on the location and apartment complex. As a general rule, your rent should be no more than 30 to 40 percent of your income.
Another reason for requiring proof of income is to gauge your reliability. Most landlords require you to have worked for your current employer for at least six months, prior to applying to rent the apartment. When working at a new job, be prepared to show income from your last job and how long you worked there. You may also be required to have worked a minimum number of years to prove your ability to hold down a job and earn steady income. In short, evidence of income means reassurance for your landlord.
Lisa Bernstein: As a long-time apartment dweller and seasoned condominium trustee, I have dealt with numerous landlord-tenant, property management, and day-to-day apartment complex issues. My extensive, direct experience has led to invaluable insights into apartment life from both the tenant and management perspectives.