When you apply to rent a new apartment, the landlord or property manager will often request proof of income. Their goal is to make sure you’ll be able to consistently pay the rent every month. By proving that you make enough money to cover the rent, you can improve their confidence and significantly increase the chances they’ll approve your rental application.
The most common forms of proof of income are pay stubs, bank statements, W-2 forms, and tax returns. We’ll go into all of these and more as we profile 12 ways you can prove you have sufficient income to rent an apartment.
1. Pay Stubs
One of the simplest ways to show proof of income is with pay stubs from an employer. Those clear list your earnings for the whole pay period. Additionally, it may include other details.
For example, if you’re an hourly worker, it may list your hourly pay rate, the number of regular hours worked, and the amount of overtime earned. It’s also normal for them to show what dates were included in the pay period, allowing the landlord to see how much you earn over a specific amount of time.
Usually, you can either request these from the payroll department or access them through an employee portal, allowing you to print them. If you receive your pay as a physical check, it may come with a pay stub attached, so you might already have what you need.
In most cases, landlords will want two to three months’ worth of pay stubs to review. That way, they can see if your income fluctuates as well as gauge your pay frequency.
2. Bank Statements
Bank statements are another simple option for showing income. They’ll list every deposit along with information regarding its origin. Often, this is a good option for self-employed individuals who don’t receive pay stubs, as they let you showcase your financial situation clearly.
It’s also important to note that bank statements could work if you plan on paying for an entire rent term upfront. For example, if you can show that your current checking account balance allows you to pay all of the required payments for the duration of the lease right now, this could let you rent an apartment without any traditional source of income. However, you’ll need to be willing to pay the entire amount right away in many cases, so keep that in mind.
Typically, you can download bank statements through your financial institution’s website. You may also receive them in the mail or be able to have them printed at a branch, though the latter usually comes with a fee.
In most cases, you’ll need two or three months of statements for your landlord if you are trying to prove monthly income, so keep that in mind if you can’t print them at home, as you’ll want to request them all at once. If you’re planning to pay for all of the rent upfront, then your most recent bank statement showing you can do that could be sufficient.
A W-2 form is issued by employers during tax season. It shows your income during the past calendar year, effectively allowing it to serve as proof of your yearly earnings.
In most cases, W-2s are mailed out during tax time. However, you may be able to access copies through an employee online portal or by contacting your employer. In the worst-case scenario, you can request a copy from the IRS if you submitted a paper return or ask for an official transcript. Otherwise, you may have to reach out to the Social Security Administration for a copy.
It’s important to note that W-2s alone may not be sufficient depending on when you try to rent an apartment. They only cover what you earned during a past calendar year, not necessarily what you’re making today. As a result, you may need to provide other kinds of proof of income to secure the new place.
4. Tax Returns
Tax returns can also serve as proof of income for an apartment. In some cases, this approach could be favorable if you have income that isn’t tracked or reported in a traditional way, as it includes that information, too.
Usually, how you get copies depends on how you filed. If you e-filed and didn’t save a copy on your own, the company or site you used may have a copy available. Otherwise, you might have to get a transcript or copy from the IRS.
As with W-2s, you might need to provide other kinds of information to showcase your current income. For example, supplementing a tax return with bank statement copies might be a necessity, allowing the landlord to see what you’re earning today.
Instead of W-2s, self-employed individuals might receive 1099s each tax year that show their earnings. Additionally, 1099s may be issued for non-traditional forms of income, such as 1099-DIV for investment dividends or 1099-R for retirement plan distributions.
If you have 1099 earnings, your 1099 forms serve as proof of income. Essentially, they’ll work like a W-2 in the eyes of landlords, giving them insights into your financial situation.
As with W-2s, having supplemental information available could be a must. A 1099 only shows information for the previous tax year and not what you’re earning today. However, combining it with recent bank statements could show the landlord everything they need to know.
6. Letter from Employer
If you’ve recently gotten a new job and don’t have much in the way of proof of income yet, a letter from your employer could put a landlord’s mind at ease. It lets them know that you do have a source of income and creates an opportunity to outline exactly what you’re receiving.
You’ll want the letter to include an overview of your salary and other details about your financial compensation. For example, if you’ll receive a bonus or commission every pay period based on performance, including those terms in the letter gives the landlord a clearer idea of your earnings.
You may be able to request a letter from a manager, owner, or head of human resources. Just make sure that it also includes contact information for a person at the company and ask that it be printed on company letterhead. That way, the letter feels more formal, and the landlord can verify the details to confirm the accuracy of what’s listed.
7. Social Security Benefit Verification Letter
Since Social Security payments tend to be steady, you can use a Social Security benefit verification letter as proof of income if you’re receiving payments. It will list the amount you’re receiving, giving you something to show your landlord.
Usually, the easiest way to get a copy is to head online and log into your My Social Security account. Once there, you can create an account or sign in and access the verification letter.
8. Workers’ Compensation Letter
If you were injured in a workplace accident and receiving workers’ compensation, you might need to show proof of that income. Usually, you can request a letter from the insurance company or find it as part of the court record relating to the case. There may also be a stub attached to your workers’ compensation checks that could serve as proof.
9. Court-Awarded Payments Agreements
Income related to court-ordered payments can also count when you’re trying to rent an apartment. For example, spousal support, alimony, child support, and similar regular financial payments could fall in this category.
You’ll need to show the landlord a formal agreement that outlines the payment amounts. Usually, you can get one from the court that handled the related case.
10. Financial Aid Award Letters
If you’re a college student looking for an apartment, you may be able to use financial aid award letters as proof of income. However, this only applies if the awarded funds can be spent on costs other than direct school expenses and are clearly above what you’ll need to pay to cover tuition.
For example, if you are part of the work-study program, providing a document that outlines what you’ll receive through it could be worthwhile. Work-study funds can be used for living expenses, including paying rent at an off-campus apartment.
11. Severance Statement
If you’re receiving severance from a past job, providing the landlord with a severance statement could work as proof of income. However, since severance is typically a one-time lump sum, you may have to use the incoming funds to handle several months’ rent – or an entire lease’s worth – if this is your only source of income.
12. Unemployment Payment Records
While not all landlords will consider unemployment payments when deciding whether to rent to a tenant, some will. As a result, you may need copies of any unemployment-related statements for the landlord to review. Usually, these either arrive in the mail with your check each week or are accessible online.