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The Rental Process
Understand the usual steps involved in renting an apartment before you start your search. After identifying the rental advertisements that meet your needs, contact the landlord to schedule an appointment to see the apartment. The landlord may ask you a few screening questions over the phone to determine if you're a viable candidate. Once you see the property and decide you want the rental, you must go through an application process.
The rental application is a form that requests preliminary information about the potential tenant. The application requests information about all tenants, including former residences, tax identification numbers and monthly income. The application is a screening form that does not guarantee you the apartment. The landlord uses this form to evaluate your eligibility --- it is not a contract binding you to the rental. You may also have to pay an application fee when submitting the form to cover the cost of a credit and background check.
The rental lease is a form that the prospective tenant signs once he passes all requirements of the landlord, including the income, background and credit check. The lease contains all details about the rental, including the term (such as six months or a year), the amount of rent due each week or month, duties of the landlord and basic rules that you must follow as the new tenant. When a landlord gives you a lease to sign, that means the apartment is yours. You must sign this lease along with any other tenants. It is a binding contract for the rental; read it thoroughly before agreeing to the terms.
When you fill out your rental application you may have to sign a separate authorization release form, which gives the landlord to the right to pull your credit. The landlord may also give you additional paperwork according to state laws with your lease, such a lead paint disclosure notification form to sign and a corresponding informational pamphlet.