A rental application is a form used by landlords to screen tenants before signing a lease agreement. A completed rental application will contain the tenant’s information, and will ask for the tenant’s consent to a credit and background check. The landlord may charge the tenant a non-refundable fee for performing the screening in accordance with state law.
Commercial Lease Application – To screen a tenant for non-residential use.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
A rental application is used by landlords to screen applicants for residential tenancy. The form is an efficient and legal method of acquiring information about the person applying, which can be used to either permit or deny the applicant.
The term “consumer report” means any written, oral, or other communication of any information by a consumer reporting agency bearing on a consumer’s credit worthiness, credit standing, credit capacity, character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living which is used or expected to be used or collected in whole or in part for the purpose of serving as a factor in establishing the consumer’s eligibility for:
(A) credit or insurance to be used primarily for personal, family, or household purposes;
(B) employment purposes; or
(C) any other purpose authorized under section 1681b of this title.
A good credit score is considered to be anything above 670, which in 2019 was approximately 66% of the population (source: Experian). The minimum credit score required ultimately depends on the landlord; if the landlord feels the tenant does not have a satisfactory credit score, they may require 3 to 6 months’ rent in advance to secure the lease.
Most landlords take 24 to 72 hours to screen a tenant.
Screening a tenant is a process that involves collecting a completed rental application from the potential tenant along with a non-refundable fee (if applicable). To properly conduct a credit and background check, a tenant must provide some personal information and signature to demonstrate their consent.
The tenant will be required to complete the rental application for the landlord to successfully run a credit check, background check, and verify references. The landlord will need to use the applicant’s full name, current address, and social security number (SSN) in order to search for any public records about the individual.
Non-Refundable Fee ($) – The landlord, or their agent, may charge a non-refundable fee to perform the screening. This fee is usually between $35 to $70 in accordance with state laws.
The landlord should verify the tenant’s employment situation and other sources of income. This can be done in the following ways:
- Last Two (2) Years IRS Tax Returns – Request IRS Form W-2.
- Last Two (2) Paystubs – This request can be made to the employer or through an Employment Verification Letter.
- Last (2) Months’ Bank Statements – This will give the landlord a preview of the tenant’s income and liabilities.
A credit report, background check, nationwide eviction check, and any other available public information may be found online through these ten (10) websites:
|Website||Credit History||Criminal History||Nationwide Eviction||Sex Offender|
*As part of a combo package.
**Requires a subscription.
Calling and emailing an applicant’s references gives validation to a tenant’s personality and habits, which standard screening practices can overlook. Simply requiring the applicant to list references will result in them providing the contact details of friends or family. Because they will obviously offer high-praise for the applicant, landlords should specify that listed references have to be employers or previous landlords. Unless one of the references mentions that the applicant should not be trusted by any means (and backs it up with proof), a single reference should not necessarily determine the final outcome of the individual’s application.
If the tenant checks all the boxes for making a great tenant (has a worthy credit score, great references, the necessary income, no recent criminal convictions, and so on), the landlord can approve their application. The next step is to draft a lease agreement, which binds the tenant to a specific lease term (typically 1 year) and outlines the general terms and conditions they are required to abide by. Once drafted, the landlord should send the lease to the tenant for signing. Once signed by all tenant(s), the landlord will need to collect first months’ rent, the security deposit, and any other agreed-upon fees.
In the event the landlord decides to reject the tenant, they will need to deliver the tenant a letter known as an adverse action letter that is required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (15 U.S. Code Ch. 41).
Sample letter: Tenant Adverse Action Letter (PDF)
The letter must contain the following points of information:
- That the applicant can obtain a copy of the report if requested (within 60 days).
- The name, address, and phone number of the reporting agency.
- A general paragraph stating that the tenant was rejected.
- The reason (non-specific) as to why the applicant was rejected.
- That the decision to reject the application was NOT made by the consumer reporting agency, but by the individual/entity that used the information from the report.
Landlords charge anywhere from $20 to 200+ per application, depending on the desirability of the rental, the cost of the rent, and other factors. As a general rule, landlords should not attempt to make a profit on applications. With that said, the majority of states do not limit the amount that can be charged for an application. The states that do have limitations are:
|California||$54.46 – maximum fees are adjusted yearly and are based on the CPI.||California Apartment Association|
|Delaware||$50 OR the equivalent of 10% of the monthly rent (whichever is greater).||§ 5514(d)|
|Maryland||Any fees over $25 must be returned to the tenant.||§ 8–213|
|Massachusetts||Landlords are forbidden from charging an application fee. However, licensed brokers can charge a fee per 254 CMR 7.00.||§ 15B|
|New York||$20 OR the total cost of the background check, whichever amount is less.||§ 238-A|
|Oregon||Fees cannot be greater than the average actual cost of obtaining information on the applicant.||ORS 90.295|
|Vermont||Landlords cannot charge an application fee for residential tenancies.||§ 4456a|
|Virginia||$50, not including additional costs that result from running background checks.||§ 55.1-1203|
|Washington||Any fee charged to applicants cannot exceed the actual costs that resulted from obtaining screening information.||59.18.257|
|Wisconsin||Landlords cannot charge more than $20 for a credit screening report specifically. This does not apply to other screening costs.||§ 134.05(4)|
- Step 1 – Download
- Step 2 – The Property
- Step 3 – The Applicant
- Step 4 – Emergency Contact
- Step 5 – Current Residence
- Step 6 – Employment Information
- Step 7 – Other Income
- Step 8 – Vehicle
- Step 9 – Screening Questions
- Step 10 – Release Authorization
The blank application should be downloaded by the landlord and saved on their computer. Before sending the form to an applicant (digitally), a blank copy should be made (for sending to future applicants) and the copy for the tenant should have the blue fields pre-completed. If two (2) or more tenants will be sharing the space, each tenant that will be included on the lease should be given their own application.
The first section should be completed by the landlord. It includes the following:
- Property Address – The full address (including the unit number, if applicable) of the rental property should be provided.
- Monthly Rent – The rent the tenant would owe to the landlord every thirty (30) days (not including utilities).
- Bedrooms – The number of bedrooms in the rental. Among other requirements, a bedroom must have 2 means of exit (a door and a window, for example) and be is at least seventy (70) square feet. Additional requirements can be found on Realtor.com.
- Bathrooms – List the number of full baths in the rental. In order to be considered a bathroom, it needs a sink, a shower, a bathtub, and a toilet.
- Desired Move-In Date – This is the day, month, and year on which the tenant(s) intend to begin their lease. The landlord should request this information prior to delivering the application.
The applicant will need to enter the following:
- Number of Tenants – The number of people that will be submitting a rental application.
- Number of Occupants – The number of people that will be living in the unit (other than those on the application).
- Number of Pets – The number of pets that will be kept in the rental (e.g., 1 cat and 1 dog = 2 pets).
- Applicant’s Name – The name of the individual submitting the application.
- DOB – Day, month, and year the tenant was born.
- SSN – The applicant’s social security number; a nine (9) digit code unique to all US residents.
- Phone – Their cell phone number.
- E-mail – An active email address used by the tenant.
- Photo ID – Check the applicable box (used for verifying identity).
- ID # – The number found on the piece of identification.
- Occupant Name(s) & Relationship(s) – The name(s) of those that will be living in the unit, and their relation to the applicant (e.g., “Son”).
- Description of Pet(s) – If there will be any pets in the rental, list the types of pets (e.g., 2 cats, 1 large dog, and 1 small dog).
An emergency contact is an individual personally close to the tenant that would be notified first in the case of a serious event.
- Name – Full name of the contact (no nicknames).
- Relationship – How the contact is related to the tenant (friend, brother, wife, etc.).
- E-mail – An email address the landlord can use to contact the contact in an emergency.
- Phone – The phone number of the contact (should be their personal phone).
The current residence is the address at which the applicant is currently living at.
- Property Address – Full address of the current property.
- Monthly Rent/Mortgage – Ignore if the applicant was living with friends or family rent-free.
- Bedrooms – See Step 2.
- Bathrooms – See Step 2.
- Start Date – When the applicant moved into the residence.
- End Date – The date on which the lease ended.
- Reason for Leaving – Why the applicant decided to leave the property (and apply for a new rental lease).
- Landlord Name (if applicable) – Include the full name.
- Landlord Contact (if applicable) – Including both a phone number and an email address is recommended.
It is very important that the applicant provide information regarding their employment truthfully, as the background check will be used to confirm inputted information.
- Employed / Unemployed – If the tenant has a job, check the “Employed” box. Otherwise check the “Unemployed” box and go to Step 7.
- Current Employer – The name of the tenant’s employer (e.g., “Food Truck, LLC”).
- Employer Address – The address of their employer.
- Gross Monthly Income – The amount of money the applicant makes on a monthly basis BEFORE taxes and other expenses.
- Start Date – The day, month, and year they started working at their current job.
- Supervisor Name – The person that the tenant reports to directly.
- Supervisor Contact – The contact information for the tenant’s supervisor (such as a phone number or email).
Any other income the applicant wishes to inform the landlord of can be entered into this section. While these fields aren’t necessary, if the tenant feels as though they might not have adequate income to cover the rent, they should include any other regular streams of income next to the applicable field.
If the applicant has a motor vehicle, they will need to enter the following information:
- Make – E.g., “Ford” or “Honda”
- Model – E.g., “F-150” or “Civic”
- Year – The year in which the vehicle was made.
- Color – The vehicle’s exterior paint color.
- License Plate # – The numbers/letters found on the license plate.
- State – The state in which the vehicle is registered (can be found on the license plate).
These questions test the honesty of the tenant and allow the landlord to get a quick overview of the tenant’s history. Checking “Yes” does not necessarily mean the applicant will be rejected, although any reason should be thoroughly explained to the landlord.
For questions 1-4, check the appropriate box and add any additional information if necessary.
The landlord must enter the amount ($) the tenant will have to pay for the application. Even if denied, the applicant does not get reimbursed for the expense. The tenant must complete the last three (3) fields of the form.
- Signature – By signing, the tenant is stating they are OK with the landlord using their personal information to conduct a background check. Only sign after the section has been read through thoroughly.
- Date – The date on which they signed the application.
- Print Name – The tenant’s full printed name.