Applying for Rental Housing

When you rent a home, the landlord or their property manager will want to verify your identity, make sure your income qualifies for the rent subsidy program or qualifies you to rent the unit without a subsidy, make sure you have good credit and do not have a criminal background that would potentially create problems in the community. This is called a screening.


Most landlords will do a background check. This includes a credit report, a criminal background check and a rental history check.

Credit Report

It is very important that you review and understand your credit report. If there are issues on your credit report that are a problem, such as judgements, bankruptcies, errors or other issues, understanding your credit report gives you a chance to address them before you apply to rent a home.


Criminal Background Check

Most landlords do a criminal background check as part of the application process. Often, a background that includes a felony conviction such as assault, battery, arson, breaking and entering, selling illegal drugs, and other serious crimes will result in a denial of your application if the criminal behavior was within the last 5-10 years. Other convictions may also result in a denial if they are recent. Landlords can only consider convictions. They cannot use arrest records to deny housing.


Rental History

Your rental history is a serious consideration when applying for housing. The landlord will be very interested in any negative circumstances in your rental history, including evictions, disenrollment from a rent subsidy program due to program violations or poor references from previous landlords due to money that you may still owe the previous landlord, property damage, disruptive behavior, etc. A landlord may deny your application due to a poor rental history. It is very important to maintain a good rental history by paying rent on time and by following the lease and community rules. If you owe money to a previous landlord, it is a good practice to create a repayment plan so that this issue can be removed from your history.

Providing Documentation

In order to conduct their screening, a landlord will ask you for various forms of documentation to help confirm your identity, as well as understand whether or not you will be financially able to pay the rent. Some of the types of documentation you may need to provide are listed below.

Personal Identification Documentation

Birth Certificate – A birth certificate is required for all household members, including children.

Social Security Card for all adults

Current Government Issued Photo ID for all adults

  • If you do not have a photo ID, you will need a birth certificate and Social Security card to get one.

Financial Documentation

Financial documentation must be recent, typically no more than 60 days old. The landlord wants to know your current and future income. Recent documentation is required for them to know this.

  1. Social Security Award Letter – The quickest way to obtain an up-to-date SSI or SSDI award letter is to create an account with the Social Security Administration and then print an award statement.
  2. Pay Stubs – The landlord typically will need a copy of your six most recent pay stubs.
  3. Child Support – If you are receiving child support payments, the landlord will want documentation verifying the amount you receive. If you are supposed to be receiving payments but are not getting them, you will need documentation from the Child Support Enforcement office.
  4. Spousal Support – If you are separated or divorced and are receiving spousal support/alimony payments, the landlord will need to see your separation agreement or divorce decree to verify the amount and length of time that you will receive these payments.
  5. TDAP – The Temporary Disability Assistance Program (TDAP) is available to help low-income Marylanders with disabilities through a period of short-term disability or while they are awaiting approval of federal disability support. The program is funded through the state of Maryland to provide help to individuals without dependent children. The landlord will want proof of this benefit and will need to know how long you will be receiving payments.
  6. Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA) – Maryland’s Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program provides cash assistance to families with dependent children when available resources do not fully address the family’s needs and while preparing program participants for independence through work. The landlord will need to see documentation that shows how much you receive every month.
  7. Food Stamps – While food stamps are not considered income for purposes of calculating your rent payment for a rent subsidy program, landlords often want to have documentation of the benefit you receive.

To get your Social Security Award Letter follow these steps:

  • Go to my Social Security | SSA.
  • Sign up for an account or log in to your existing account.
  • Social Security will send you an access code to either your email address or by text to your cell phone.
  • Enter the code to access your account.
  • On the right side of your account home page is a box titled “Overview.” In that box, click on “Benefit and Payment Details.”
  • On the Benefit and Payment Details page there is a line that says “Get a Benefit Verification Letter” – click on this line.
  • A screen will appear that says “Here Is Your Benefit Verification Letter.” Below these words is a line that says “Download Your Benefit Verification Letter.” Click on this to print the letter or save it as a PDF.

Documents that Verify Your Assets

The landlord will want to know about assets you have that have a monetary value. Assets include things like money in savings accounts or CDs, investment funds, stocks and bonds, IRAs, 401k’s, real estate such as a vacation home, art, jewelry, etc. You need to let your landlord know about any assets you have, and you will need to show documentation of their value.

  1. Trusts – A trust is considered an asset if you can directly access the money in the trust. Most special needs trusts are set up so that the person with a disability cannot directly access the money. The landlord may want to review the trust documents to verify that you cannot directly access the money.
  2. ABLE Account: – ABLE account funds are not considered an asset for housing assistance programs or other means tested programs such as Medicaid. However, you should report and provide documentation of the money you have in your ABLE account.
  3. Bank Statements – the landlord will want to see your three most recent bank statements. This includes all checking and savings accounts you have.
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