Rental applications are essential tools for landlords to properly screen and select tenants. Start your own printable rental application now that properly follows all the mandatory housing laws.
Last Update March 14th, 2023
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- What is a Residential Rental Application
- Rental Application Sample
- Rental Application Forms by State
- Rental Applications by Type
- What to Include in a Rental Application
- Maximum Rental Application Fees
- How to Screen a Tenant
- How to Approve or Decline an Application
- Rental Application FAQs
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What is a Residential Rental Application
A rental application is a legal document used by landlords to assess and choose an appropriate tenant for a rental property. They are sometimes known by other common names such as:
Rental lease applications
Applications for a rental property
The rental application is an important step in finalizing a residential lease agreement or rental contract, and each state has its own rental application fees. It allows the landlord to make an informed decision about who they will rent their property to by requiring the tenant to provide key information about themselves, their income, and their residential history.
Rental Application Sample
To make the process easier to create a Rental Application, we have included the following sample.
Use this example along with the Rental Application template to make your document.
Rental Application Forms by State
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- Washington DC
- West Virginia
Rental Applications by Type
There are several types of rental applications that can be used depending on the kind of property that is being offered for lease.
Creating an application form suited to the real estate that is available allows the landlord to properly ask the right questions of the potential tenant. This allows them to correctly assess whether they will meet the final contractual obligations of the lease such as:
Maintaining the property
Making correct use of the property
Basic Rental Application Form
A basic rental application (sometimes known as a simple rental application or standard rental application) is one of the most frequently used rental screening documents used by landlords. It collects the basic information about the tenant and any co-signing residents.
Apartment Rental Application
Apartment rental applications are used to check tenants that intend to live in a rental unit in a bigger complex. As a result, they can be designed to collect information that ensures the prospective resident won’t cause a nuisance to fellow residents of the duplex or condo in addition to meeting their basic contractual obligations.
House Rental Application
House rental application forms are used when an entire house will be rented to a tenant. This kind of form can be tailored to allow the landlord to understand if they will be able to properly look after the property. This is normally done by asking questions on whether the applicant will keep pets or how many people live in their household.
Room Rental Application
Room rental application forms are used to rent out a single bedroom in a house or apartment unit. As this arrangement often involves the tenant living in the landlord’s home with the landlord themselves, the document is customized to assess whether the applicant would make a suitable housemate.
It’s always a good idea to use a Roommate Agreement when renting a room and sharing a living space with other people.
This sets the terms and makes all responsibilities clear between roommates.
What to Include in a Rental Application
Rental application forms can ask potential tenants for many different items of information. This helps improve transparency for the landlord before signing a lease.
However, all the data gathered must follow appropriate fair housing laws. As a result, there are many things you cannot require a tenant to answer.
Read on below to find out more about the information that you can request from a tenant you wish to screen.
Basic Rental Application Information
Tenants can be requested to provide some basic information about themselves on the rental application. This is gathered to allow the landlord to complete any relevant background or credit checks on the applicant.
This usually requires the tenant to provide the following information:
Emergency contact information
In order to establish if the tenant can be trusted to follow the lease, the landlord can ask them to provide some data on their recent rental history. This enables them to find out if the applicant has a record of lease violations or evictions.
The landlord can request the following details from the tenant to assess this:
Their current address
Move-in and move-out dates of previous residences
Contact information for former landlords
The reasons for leaving previous homes
Employment History and Income
One of the most important questions a rental application form seeks to answer is regarding the applicant’s income. This is often key to understanding if the tenant can afford to live on the premises.
In this section, the tenant will be asked to provide the following information about their employment:
Employer’s name and address
Supervisor’s name and address
Type of employment contract (Full-time, part-time, temporary, etc)
Duration of employment
Gross monthly income
Any other sources of income
The landlord may ask the tenant for permission to contact their employer. Overall, however, landlords will normally wish to see that the applicant should have a gross salary of at least 3 times the required rental payment.
Another significant part of the rental application is the tenant’s credit history. This information isn’t always requested (often the income statement provides enough data) but it can prove useful to ensure the tenant will honor their financial obligations to you.
To carry out a credit check, the landlord will often require the tenant to pay a fee to cover the costs of the screening. As this involves sensitive data, the tenant will also have to give their consent before the check can be done.
When assessing the credit history of a tenant, the landlord will often request the following information:
Credit and banking statements
Bank accounts the applicant keeps money in
Letters from former landlords confirming the tenant’s payment history
Social Security and Individual Tax Payer Identification Number (ITIN)
Consent to a credit check
The landlord can also request that a tenant provides personal references. These can be useful to establish their character and behavior, which is especially helpful if they will be living in a multi-residency unit or in a room in a home of multiple occupancies.
The reference can be sourced from any of the following parties:
Other parties that can vouch for the tenant
In addition to a credit check, the landlord can also ask for a background check. This is ordinarily done to gain a more comprehensive picture of the applicant.
You may be wondering, how does a background check work?
It can also allow the landlord to find out:
Whether the tenant has a criminal record
If the tenant has been declared bankrupt
If the tenant has been evicted before
Like a credit check, this can only be done with the tenant’s permission. This may also replace other sections that request the same details from the applicant, in order to avoid duplicating information.
Last but not least, the rental application must include an important legal disclosure, that the tenant must agree to. This must adequately follow housing and credit report laws in order for your final document to be valid and enforceable.
Maximum Rental Application Fees
In most states, a rental application fee has no limit. You can charge any amount, and normally they are not refundable.
However, some states do put a restriction on the amount you can charge an applicant.
Here are a few examples of fee limitations.
Massachusetts - No application fees are permitted.
Minnesota - Money that goes beyond what is necessary for screening should be given back.
New York - The limit for application fees is $20.
Vermont - No application fees are permitted.
Washington - The application fee must be the same amount as the screening service
Wisconsin - The limit for application fees is $20.
Check the rental application fees by state, to see if your state has any limits on fees.
How to Screen a Tenant
To ensure you end up with the best possible tenant, you need to properly screen each applicant. There are various steps and even a screening checklist for landlords that you should look over.
Review the following instructions to know how to screen your applicants.
How to Approve or Decline an Application
After screening the applicants, you can now choose who you would like to have as your tenant, and deny the other applications.
Make sure to review all the information you have gathered.
Signing an agreement with the wrong tenant could lead to problems and even a possible future eviction.
File all your Rental Application forms in a safe location, then send your approval letter to the tenant and denial letters to the other applicants.
Rental Application FAQs
It is crucial to understand a rental application form fully before creating your own. If you have any doubts or questions about these essential legal documents, review our FAQs below for more details.
When to Use a Rental Application Form?
Landlords often make use of rental application forms to pre-screen potential tenants. The applicant is required to fill in the document and provide essential information about themselves and their rental history.
As the landlord will usually not know the tenant personally, a rental application form can help provide reassurance that the applicant can be fully trusted with the property. It may also flag up potential issues in advance of signing a lease agreement.
Why Do I Need a Rental Application?
A rental application form allows the landlord to ensure that their potential tenant can be trusted to follow the lease agreement. This can be highly important to know that your applicant will pay the rent on time and won’t misuse the property you’re offering for rent.
This allows the landlord to properly assess a potential tenant before signing a contract. In doing so, the rental application lets the landlord make an informed decision on which tenants to approve or reject before committing to a lease agreement.
What Are Credit References on a Rental Application?
The credit references on a rental application form provide details on a potential tenant’s recent financial history. The references can be sourced from a credible party such as the applicant’s:
Credit card provider
Is It Necessary to Ask for the Social Security Number in a Rental Application?
A Social Security number (SSN) is a useful but optional inclusion for a rental application form. It may be requested if the landlord or property manager wishes to run a credit check or background check on prospective tenants.
However, given that an SSN is sensitive data, the landlord cannot oblige the tenant to provide their Social Security card details. If the landlord wants this information, the applicant can request to know what their SSN will be used to do and how they will keep it secure.