How Long Does It Take to Process a Rental Application?

It usually takes one to three business days to process a rental application. Sometimes, it goes much quicker – you might even hear back in a matter of hours. In other cases, it may take a week or longer before a decision is made.

A lot goes on behind the scenes after you submit a rental application. The landlord or property manager doesn’t just read the information you provide; they also run background and credit checks, contact references, verify income, and more. Each of those steps takes time.

What Would Make a Rental Application Take Longer Than Usual?

While most rental applications are processed within one to three business days, there are circumstances that can extend the timeline. First, if you’re dealing directly with a landlord and not a property manager, the timeline may be longer.

Individual landlords don’t have the resources – like additional staff members – to move forward as fast as some property managers can. As a result, they may need more time to complete the various steps, particularly if they’re juggling other responsibilities.

Missing information in your application can also cause delays. While landlords or property managers will usually reach out promptly if that occurs, they might not notice that details aren’t present until they get to that specific phase of processing your application. Depending on when that happens, that could lead to a longer decision timeline.

If the landlord or property manager wants to contact your references and isn’t getting a response, that can delay your application, as well. By contacting your references in advance and letting them know a landlord or property manager may reach out, you can reduce the risk of this happening.

You may also see delays if there is anything unconventional about your application. For instance, verifying the income of a self-employed individual may be trickier than a traditionally employed person.

If you’re moving in with a roommate or there’s a cosigner on your application, then any verification steps the landlord or property manager take have to be done twice. Therefore, the overall timeline may be lengthened to accommodate these extra checks.

Finally, if you’re applying for a rental that won’t be available for several weeks, the timeline may be longer if the landlord or property manager has other pressing matters to handle. For example, if they’re also filling a unit that’s available much sooner, they may focus on those applications before getting to yours. Still, in this case, any delay is usually minimal.

Following Up on a Rental Application

Precisely when you should follow up on a rental application depends on several factors. First, if you requested a decision timeline when you submitted the paperwork and one was provided, you should wait until that period passes before following up. Otherwise, you may come across as pushy or aggressive, which isn’t ideal.

If you weren’t given a timeline, give larger property management companies at least three business days. For smaller outfits or individual landlords, waiting five business days may be more appropriate. Since fewer people are available to complete the checks, the extra two days gives them a bit of wiggle room for the unexpected.

Once that period passes, it’s time to follow up. You generally have two choices for reaching out. First, you can call the landlord or property manager. Second, you can send an email.

In most cases, you’ll get information quicker with a phone call. If you go this route, make sure you take notes regarding who you spoke to and any provided timeline information. With emails, you might need to wait longer for a reply, but you’ll automatically get a paper trail, which can be helpful.

When you reach out, don’t demand an update. Instead, let them know you’re following up on an application and ask them if they need more information from you. This allows you to come across as helpful but still creates opportunities to get insights into the timeline.

If they don’t volunteer information about the status of your application, ask about it in a reply email or at the end of the phone call. At that point, you’ve already approached them politely, so a simple request for a time estimate isn’t going to strike the wrong note.

How to Handle the Wait (Especially When You’re in a Rush)

While many rental applicants do have some time before they need to get into a new place, others are dealing with a tight timeframe. If you need to get into a new rental quickly, it’s best not to wait for a response on an application.

Instead, once you submit the paperwork, continue looking for other rentals in your area. If you find one with potential, consider applying there, too. This allows you to functionally hedge your bets, ensuring an unexpected delay with one landlord or property manager doesn’t derail your move.

If you do apply for other rentals and get approved at one that meets your needs, contact the property manager or landlord for the other properties and let them know you’re no longer in the market. That allows them to focus on other tenants. Plus, it’s a polite move on your part, and that can make a positive impression. Then, if you happen to be in the market again, they may remember you handled things professionally, which may work in your favor.