Qualifying for Housing

Ready to submit your lease application? In order to qualify for most housing agreements, there are a few standard requirements, like a background check and a review of your credit history. These can vary by geographic region, by neighborhood, and by landlord, but we’ll make sure you have the basic information so you’re prepared!


Budget experts often recommend that you spend no more than 30% of your monthly income on your housing. Most landlords follow the same rule of thumb, requiring renters to show that their monthly gross income is at least three times the rent. If you’ll be signing a lease with roommates, the leasing agent may consider your combined incomes in order to qualify for the agreement.

Background Check

Like your credit history, landlords typically run a criminal background check. This also helps determine an applicant’s ability to comply with the terms of a lease. It may include checking for past evictions or broken leases, your work history, and any criminal charges. If you have anything that might be a concern for a potential landlord, it’s best to make them aware of those issues and any relevant context upfront. Particularly in areas where there is high demand for apartments, complexes may immediately reject applications that have something come up on a background check—even if it was something they would have made an allowance for with a reasonable explanation.


You may be asked to provide references to further demonstrate your reliability as a potential resident. These should come from people outside your family who can speak to your trustworthiness. Previous landlords, professional contacts, and teachers can all make good references for a housing application. When providing a list of references to an apartment complex, make sure you’ve let your references know they might be contacted! You want to make sure that your future landlord can get in touch with the people you have listed.


If your income is not enough to meet the requirements of the housing community, or if there are any other reasons you may not be considered a model tenant, the leasing agent may require that you have a co-signer on your lease. A co-signer is responsible for the terms of the lease just as you are. Co-signers are usually a family member, like a parent, or a close friend.

These are the most common checks used when you apply for a new place. There is a lot of information and history that a potential landlord will check to determine your eligibility for becoming a resident in their community or building. Make sure you are completely honest and try to have as many of your I’s dotted and T’s crossed before you submit your application!

Once you’re ready to move forward, read our other posts about preparing for the move, dealing with roommates, and other student living tips! You can also check out our Financial Planning Made Simple tool to help you stay on track with your monthly expenses.


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