Can Landlords Ask for Bank Account Information on Rental Applications?

iStock.com/Delmaine Donson

Finally, you’ve found your ideal apartment, and you’re ready to make the move. Your next step is to fill out an application for your potential new apartment and upon approval, sign the lease for your new space.

You might feel like you’re exposing your entire financial history when you apply to rent an apartment. However, what can cause concern for some are property owners who ask for your bank account number and recent bank statements. Learn what you need to know if you encounter a rental application asking for your bank account details.

Can a property owner request your bank info in your rental application? 

The short answer is yes. Landlords and property managers will require proof of income to be able to rent the apartment to financially secure individuals. However, you likely won’t have to provide your actual account and routing numbers on the application itself to do this, but rather bank or tax statement to prove your earnings. Below are some examples of information that you may be asked to provide to confirm your financial accountability as a renter.

  • Account balance
  • Bank statement
  • Contact information
  • Cosigner information
  • Driver’s license number
  • Employment information
  • Pay stubs
  • Tax returns
  • Residential history
  • Social Security number

While some property owners and managers will ask for all the documents listed, others will only ask for some. Your best bet is to have everything on hand so that you can fill out your application in a timely manner and beat out other potential applicants.

When would the property owner need your bank details?

Landlords only want to rent to reliable, financially stable renters. By asking for your bank details, the property owner can confirm that you hold an account and that your monthly income, minus your expenses, is enough to cover the rent. Another reason property owners want to know your account number is for security if you fail to pay the rent. If the property owner has to sue you for breaking a lease, he or she can get a court order to permit withdrawing money directly from your account to pay a judgment debt. 

Additionally, property owners are constantly looking for new ways to simplify the rental process for their renters. Consequently, some might adopt the use of advanced online property management systems. These systems require you to provide your banking information to facilitate secure online rent payment services. 

If you choose to pay your deposit or rent via check, the check itself provides bank details the property owner needs. A routing number identifies your banking institution, and the other set of numbers on the check associates your bank account number. Using online payment portals eliminates instances where checks get lost or snatched from a dropbox, potentially exposing your private information.

Should I show my bank account number to my property owner?

You do not have to produce your bank details for apartment rental applications. However, as long as they’re not breaking any discrimination law, property owners reserve the right to lease the apartment to whomever they choose, which could result in another renter occupying the apartment should you fail to meet the documentation requirements. 

Suppose you can afford to rent an apartment but don’t feel comfortable showing your bank details. In that case, you can always provide the following information to verify that you’re capable of renting the apartment: 

  • W-2 form: As the IRS website indicates, the law requires every employer to file a Form W-2 for every employee. This document states your tips, wages, and other forms of compensation, and it’s another way to verify your income.
  • 1099-MISC Form: This tax form summarizes all royalties and income payments. You should be mindful of this document if you’re self-employed.
  • Pay stubs: If you’re employed, pay stubs offer one of the simplest ways to prove your income without using bank details for your apartment rental application. However, several reported cases have occurred involving renters forging them. As a result, property owners may be hesitant to accept them as proof of employment.

Unfortunately, if you’re living off your savings in between gigs or have a steady income less than three times the rent, you’ll face challenges finding an apartment without disclosing your bank details. One option to explore if your finances do not meet the requirements would be to find a co-signer for your lease agreement.

A bank’s duty of confidentiality

If your property owner comes across your bank account number, don’t fret. He or she can’t do much with it without obtaining your consent. The United States has some of the most stringent privacy laws. Generally, a bank can’t reveal to a third party any private information, like your bank balance, unless a court requires it to do so.

Why would a rental application be rejected?

Your rental applications could get denied for many reasons: 

  • You have poor credit: Rental housing providers use your credit score as one of the key determinants in their renter screening process to decide if you’re financially responsible.
  • You have inadequate income: If a property owner examines a request for rental and realizes that the applicant doesn’t make enough money to pay the rent, the individual can reject the bid.
  • You have a history of evictions: A previous history of evictions doesn’t look good on your apartment rental application. However, if you’re in such a situation, consider attaching a letter that explains the circumstances.
  • The property has received many applicants: As a renter, you must be ready with your apartment rental application if you like a place. It can save you precious time and be ahead of other potential applicants.
  • You have unsatisfactory references: Not having any references or having poor references can get your apartment rental application rejected. Property owners use connections to verify the validity of the information you provided. For example, they might contact a previous property owner and inquire about your rental history.

Laws about rental applications

Landlords should adhere to federal fair housing laws. This adherence implies that the procedures for accepting an applicant should be the same for all applicants. They cannot reject applicants based on:

  • Color
  • Race
  • Disability
  • Religion
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • National origin
  • Familial status

These are federal laws and are taken very seriously. If you feel that your are being discriminated against you can file a complaint with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Steps to take before applying for an apartment rental application 

Before filling out an apartment rental application, ensure you know your credit score. If you need to resolve some financial issues, focus on them first. Only apply for apartments within your budget to avoid the let down of not being able to afford an ideal find. If a landlord or property management company is asking for your bank account information prior to looking at the apartment or receiving an application, beware of potential scams, and never give out sensitive information unless you’ve vetted the business as being legitimate.

An apartment rental application asking for a bank account number can be a bit tricky to navigate. But once you understand what to expect and how the process works, you can move forward with your application with ease.


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