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7 tips for a successful rental application

Learn what to write on a rental application and how to present yourself so you can stand apart from the crowd.

Applying for a rental property in a competitive market can be tough. Landlords and property managers take a close look at prospective tenants and ask for a lot of personal information. You can boost your chances of success by writing a strong application and making a good impression.

Here’s what you need to know.

Be on time

If you’re looking for a rental property in a popular suburb, odds are there is going to be a queue formed before the real estate agent even arrives. It can’t hurt to be near the front of that queue.

More importantly, though, don’t arrive late. The real estate agent conducting the inspection is likely to have back-to-back inspections booked throughout the day. Don’t be the latecomer that throws off their entire day’s schedule.

Make a good first impression

Make a good impression

The real estate agent or landlord wants to find a tenant they can trust, and first impressions matter.

First, introduce yourself to the real estate agent. Dozens of people are likely to be filing through the property during the course of the inspection, and you don’t want to melt into the crowd.

Dressing the part can also help. You don’t need to wear a suit and tie, but dressing respectably can’t hurt.

Finally, ask a question about the property. Be courteous and polite, of course, but engage the real estate agent with a question or two to stand apart from the masses and to show your interest in the property. This approach signals you’re a serious applicant.

Have rental references

The importance of good references from prior landlords can’t be overstated. Real estate agents, property managers and landlords want to know you are a reliable tenant, that you pay your rent on time and that you’ll treat the property as if it is your own. Potential tenants who can’t prove this and don’t have a strong track record of rental history, are at a significant disadvantage.

It should be noted that references from real estate agents or property managers carry far more weight than references from landlords. A landlord is not seen as a qualified professional and could be a friend or family member.

Though not essential, it also can’t hurt to have references from co-workers, employers or former neighbours. Some agents ask for this, especially if it’s your first rental property.

Write a great rental application letter

What should you write in a rental application letter? It’s quite simple: Write a few short paragraphs about who you are, what you do for a living and perhaps the reason for your move. If you’re applying as a group for a property you intend to share, briefly introduce each housemate. Be professional, but not so overly formal that your personality doesn’t shine through.

Give a brief rundown of your rental history, and make sure to mention any special circumstances such as pets. Even if you’re applying for several properties, it’s a good idea to specifically tailor each cover letter to mention features of the property that appeal to you.

Rental application cover letter sample

Having trouble coming up with a cover letter? Try using this sample letter as a template.

Dear Graeme,

We are Jim and Jill Williams. Please find attached our application and supporting documents for the property at 14 Any Street. The property is a great fit for our needs, as it’s close to work for both of us and sits on a quiet street.

Jim is a project manager at Big Company, where he’s worked for the last five years. Jill recently started a job as a web designer at Finder NZ.

We lived at our last property as 4/152 Broad Street for six years, where we paid $550 a week in rent. We’re looking to move so we can be closer to work. We have attached a reference from our property manager.

Thank you so much for your consideration, and we look forward to hearing from you.


Jim and Jill

Complete the application

It should go without saying, but filling in all the details on the rental application is essential. The more details you can provide, the better, which includes copies of all your identification documents, proof of income, pay history and proof of employment. Rental reference letters and contact information for your employer are also a good idea.

Most property managers have standardised application forms on their websites. Or, they may require you to use 1Form, a free online rental application platform. 1Form is handy if you’re applying for many properties, as it pre-fills your details on subsequent applications. The 1Form application is lengthy and detailed, but you only need to complete it once.

Another way to make sure you’re prepared is to have money for the bond and a holding fee on-hand on the day of the inspection. A real estate agent is highly unlikely to accept your application on the spot, but knowing that you can pay the bond immediately upon acceptance is a big tick in your favour.

Be honest

Don’t hide anything on your application or in your discussions with the real estate agent. Start on the front foot by raising any issues that could be potential stumbling blocks.

Do you have pets? Put it in your cover letter, put it in your application and discuss it with the agent at the inspection (it’s also helpful to get references for your pets from previous property managers). Do you have a rough patch in your credit history? Be upfront about it and explain it to the agent.

If several people are going to live in the property, make sure they’re all at the inspection. Any details you try to hide about your tenancy are sure to come out eventually and can lead to some pretty severe consequences if you sign a lease under false pretences.

Follow up

After you attend the inspection and submit your application, follow up with a brief thank you email to the real estate agent. Be pleasant and avoid coming across as impatient or pushy, but make it clear that you’re interested in the property. A courteous thank you note, along with reiterating your interest in the property, can help keep you top of their mind as the agent considers applications.

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