Paper Chase: The Documents Involved in Renting

February 21, 2019

When it comes to paperwork, it pays to be organized. Having your documents in order can save you time and energy – it might even help you save on your rent. For example, showing proof of good credit could help you negotiate more favorable lease terms with your landlord.

During the application process you will need to bring several documents for your landlord to review and you will receive documents to evaluate and sign.

The documents you bring prove to the landlord that you are who you say you are; verifying your identity, income, employment and your credit history. By contrast, the documents you review should prove to you that the landlord's offer is honest and transparent. Understanding the details of these documents before you arrive should help you identify potential issues.

Documents to Bring

  • Identification. Your landlord will want to verify who you are with some sort of identification, such as a driver's license or a passport. Anything that is government issued with a photo should work. The landlord may use your driver's license to run a credit check, and possibly a background check.
  • Income Verification. This information lets your landlord know you have the financial ability to pay your rent. Be prepared to provide copies of tax returns or bank statements. Landlords may also accept an employment verification letter, a signed offer letter, or college financial aid documents. All can confirm your financial ability.
  • Credit Report. Landlords may want to pull your credit report themselves – as opposed to you providing it. Ask your landlord if they will charge you a fee to cover these costs or if they will accept a recent copy of your credit report.
  • Rental History. Arrive with a list of your previous rental addresses and previous landlords contact information. Your new landlord may want to contact them for references to ensure you're a responsible tenant.

Documents to Review

  • Inspection report. Be sure to do a walk-through inspection of the property with the landlord before you sign a lease. Request a written report that clearly states any damage or required repairs before you move in to protect yourself from being held responsible in the future.
  • Lease. Your lease is a legally binding contract that dictates the terms of your rental. Be sure to read the lease, carefully, line-by-line. Ask the landlord about any questions you may have. If needed, now is the time to ask to modify the language.

For additional information on the renting process, visit My Home by Freddie Mac®.