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How Long Does it Take to Get Approved for an Apartment?

Kate Smalley

Sep 27, 2022 8 min read

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How Long Does it Take to Get Approved for an Apartment?

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If you’re applying for apartments, you’re probably wondering how long it will take to get approved. It’s nerve-wracking! You might feel unsure of what prospective landlords are looking for or be worried you’ll forget something.

You can typically expect to hear back from within 24-72 hours. However, there can be delays. There are some parts of the application process that you can control, and others you can’t. Knowing what’s in your control and what to expect will help you speed up the process and avoid unnecessary delays. 

In this article, we’ll outline the most common apartment application requirements so you can make the approval process go as smoothly as possible.

How Can You Get Approved Faster?

Knowing the application requirements, having a clear understanding of your financial situation, and having your documents ready will help you get approved for apartments faster.

The most important thing you can do is be thorough. Make sure your application is complete so the landlord or property manager doesn’t need to follow up with you. Incomplete information will stall the apartment application process. It also displays poor attention to detail, which might be a warning sign to a prospective landlord. If English is not your first language or you’re worried about missing something, ask someone to help review your application.

In general, landlords are looking for tenants who are responsible and trustworthy. A strong rental application proves that you’re financially responsible, respectful of the properties you live in, and honest about who you are. Everyone has a different background. Some aspects of your application will be stronger than others. That’s okay. You can compensate for weaker areas, such as poor credit or unstable income, with strong references or a co-signer. 

Approved for an apartment

Keep reading to learn exactly what you can do to be a strong applicant and speed up the approval process:

Provide the Proper Documentation

Have all the required application documents together and completed before you submit your application. Your landlord, listing agent, or leasing office will give you a complete list of documentation required to submit your application. Turn this into a check list for yourself and prepare everything before submitting it all together. This makes it easier for someone to review your application and shows that you’re responsible, organized, and a good communicator. All desirable qualities in a prospective tenant!

The exact documents requested will depend on the landlord. The most commonly requested documents are:

  • Letters of employment or recent pay stubs 

  • Bank statements or tax returns (this is more common for people who are self-employed to prove monthly income or display access to savings)

  • Credit report and credit score

  • Letters of recommendation from previous landlords

  • List of personal references

  • Copy of your driver's licence

Supporting documents

Prepare for a Background Check

A landlord may ask for a background check to help them decide if you’re a desirable tenant. By running a background check, they’re looking to confirm that you are who you say you are and that your education or employment history matches what you’ve shared with them. They’re also looking for warning signs in your history that may indicate you’re a risky or irresponsible tenant, such as criminal convictions. 

Keep in mind that all previous legal convictions or pending charges will show up on a background check. Be prepared to explain any blips on your record. Show how you’ve taken responsibility for your past or are working to resolve any outstanding issues.

Make Sure to Meet the Minimum Credit Requirement

Landlords often ask for your credit history, which includes your credit report and credit score. That’s because it’s a standard indicator of how financially responsible you are and how likely you are to meet your financial obligations. A strong credit history gives future landlords the confidence that you will pay your rent on time and in full. 

There is no standard minimum credit score to get an apartment, however candidates with an above average score have a good chance of being approved. In Canada, a score of 660-712 is considered above average or fair. A score from 713-740 is considered good and a score above 741 is considered excellent. With a good or excellent score you have the best chance of being approved. 

If you’re not in a rush to secure a new apartment, do the work to improve your score before applying. You can boost your score by paying your bills on time and in full, paying down your balances, keeping your credit utilization rate low, and disputing any errors on your credit report. Don’t apply for any new sources of credit in the months before making your rental application as that can cause a temporary dip in your score. 

If you have bad credit or simply don’t have a credit history yet, communicate that clearly in your application. Strong references, providing a co-signer, showing proof of savings, or paying a few months of your rent upfront may all help your chances of being approved. Don’t shy away from explaining your personal circumstances. Landlords are people too and might be willing to work with you if you take a proactive approach.

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Be Reachable

It sounds obvious, but make sure you’re reachable during the rental application process. Check your phone and email regularly. If you’re in a competitive rental market and are unable to respond to a call or email quickly, a landlord may pass you up for another candidate. Depending on your employment situation and phone or internet access, this can be challenging. 

Do your best to return any calls or emails quickly. If you can’t give information right away, be sure to tell them when you will get back to them with that information (i.e. tomorrow by 10am). This shows that you’re responsible and have good communication skills, two things that will go a long way with a future landlord. 

Credit check

Make Sure to Have a Co-signer Ready

If you have bad credit or no credit history, you might be asked to provide a co-signer. This is common for students and new immigrants who have little to no credit history. It’s also common for self-employed people who have a harder time proving their income. 

Family members are the most common co-signers. Keep in mind any co-signer will have to do an income and credit check. They need to be able to qualify for the apartment on their own. A co-signer takes all legal responsibility for the apartment, so make sure they understand the risks involved. If you don’t pay your rent for whatever reason, they will be on the hook for it. 

If you have poor credit, no credit history, or have difficulty providing proof of income, it’s helpful to have a co-signer ready just in case. 

What Can Delay the Approval Process?

The most common thing that delays the approval process is incomplete information. If you didn’t complete the full rental application or submit everything they asked for, they’re going to have to follow up with you and ask. That’s why it’s so important to be prepared. If the landlord or property manager follows up asking for additional information (bank statements, a co-signer, etc.) and you don’t submit it quickly, that can delay the approval process.

Other common factors that delay the process are if they can’t reach your references. If previous landlords are unreachable or unresponsive, that will make the approval process take longer. Having to run a background check or assess a co-signer can also lead to delays because it’s a third party you don’t have control over.

Be proactive about the things within your control and patient with everything else.

How long does it take to get approved for apartment

What to Do If You Don’t Hear Back?

If it’s been over 72 hours since you’ve submitted your application and you haven’t heard back, reach out to the landlord, agent, or leasing office to ask about the status of your application. Check to make sure they have all the information they need. Don’t be forceful; be kind and direct. Show that you’re willing to provide additional information and cooperate with any reasonable requests.

Will My Past Rental History Affect My Application?

It can. Your future landlord might ask for references from previous landlords. They want to know not only that you paid your rent in full and on time, but that you took good care of the property. If you had noise complaints or left the property in poor condition, you might get a bad reference and a future landlord might not be interested in having you as a tenant. 

Future landlords want to know that you’re a responsible tenant who pays their rent on time, takes good care of the property, and is respectful to neighbours. One of the best and easiest ways for them to figure that out is to ask previous landlords what you were like as a tenant. 

If you’re concerned previous landlords will give you an unfair reference, be ready to explain that to future landlords. There are other ways to display your character such as through personal references. Similarly, if you’re a new renter with no rental history, be prepared to submit personal or professional references (managers, teachers, etc.) who can vouch for your character. 

Apartment application approval process

What to Do If the Application is Denied?

While discouraging, it happens. Don’t stress over a denied application. Often this happens because of things outside of your control. Depending on how competitive the rental market is, there may have been many candidates before you. Keep looking for apartments. Submit an application as soon as you see a place you’re interested in so that you have the best chance of being considered first. 

You can also ask why your application was denied. Work to improve any factors that are within your control, such as boosting your credit score or providing additional proof of income. This will strengthen future applications and help you select apartments you’re most likely to be approved for given your financial situation. 

The Bottom Line

The more prepared you are, the more smoothly the rental application process will go. Ask the landlord or property manager what the application requirements are and have all necessary paperwork ready and together before you apply. While it’s difficult to wait for an answer, the best thing you can do to speed up the process is submit a complete application and be reachable for follow up questions.

Depending on your financial situation, rental history, and market conditions, it can take a while to find an apartment. Go easy on yourself and give yourself as much time as possible to find a new place. Be diligent about the things you can control and patient with the rest. You’ll get there!

Kate Smalley
Kate Smalley
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Kate is a Toronto-based writer and marketing communications consultant. Kate is a Qualified Associate Finacial Planner (QAFP) is passionate about having open and honest conversations about money. She's also really into crafting: she has 3 sewing machines.

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