Rental Application Forms
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Quick Tips: Tenant Screening & Rental Application Forms
There is plenty to say about showing vacant rental properties, collecting rental applications and tenant screening (and we do, in our
Rental Advertising and Tenant Screening articles
), but here are some quick tips to get you started:
- Never describe the “ideal” tenant in rental listings and ads; it’s too easy to break fair housing laws.
- Always collect fully-completed and signed rental application forms from each individual prospective tenant, and read every line carefully. (This can be done online on our website for free.)
- When requesting a rental application on ezLandlordForms.com, select to include credit reports, criminal background checks and identity verification. It costs $29.95 per applicant and can be charged directly to the applicant – it’s all 100% free for the landlord!
- Verify applicants’ employment, income and rental history (we offer forms for all of these; see the forms listed above on this page).
- Make sure the rent is no more than a third of the applicants’ combined incomes, as a general rule.
- Walk through the applicants’ current home, if at all possible. How they treat their current home is how they’ll treat your rental property.
- If a rental application looks borderline, you have some options for improving the odds of a good tenancy. One option is requiring cosigners/guarantors: people who are willing to go on the hook along with the tenant, and be liable for the rent if they don’t pay. Another option is requiring a higher security deposit maybe one-and-a-half or double the monthly rent, as local laws allow. Finally, consider requiring the tenant to buy a surety bond to guarantee the rent up to a certain amount.
Lastly, follow your gut. If something about an applicant bothers you, even if you can’t put your finger on it, decline their application and sign a lease agreement with someone else. There are plenty of good renters out there, don’t risk leasing to a rotten apple who may default on the rent, ruin the rental property, sue you or call the local newspaper to tell them how their big bad landlord abused them.
Note: We do still offer the printable rental application template, the original rental application PDF, but we encourage all landlords and property managers to use the 100% online rental application. It is 100% free, it includes electronic signing, it includes the option of including credit reports and criminal background checks, and the data can be imported with one click into our lease wizard for an instant lease agreement.
Fair Warnings about Fair Housing Laws & Discrimination
It’s much, much easier to break fair housing laws than you think. Savvy renters know this, and some habitually sue landlords for discrimination. A classic example is a landlord advertising a tiny studio apartment, that can clearly only fit one person, as a “Studio apartment perfect for a single professional.” Just because something is true doesn’t mean you can say it – this is illegal discrimination based on familial status. Always advertise in multiple, mass-market websites or circulars, and never, ever describe the perfect tenant.
When following your gut in choosing a tenant, you still need to cover your rear. This is one reason why all landlords should run credit reports and criminal background checks: there’s usually something concrete you can point to in them as a valid reason why you’re declining a rental application. If a declined applicant sues you for discrimination, you’ll have written records of their rental application, credit report and criminal report, which you can reference in court.
As a final note, landlords may simply opt to tell declined renters that they ended up leasing to another renter, rather than going into specific details about why they declined their application. The fewer details landlords give, the less basis declined applicants have for unfounded lawsuits.