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Landlord Lifecycle: A Step-by-Step Guide

Landlords have lots of different tasks, from finding Tenants to managing a property to dealing with Tenant turnover. For each phase of the Landlord Lifecycle, Landlords have different responsibilities and need access to different forms.

To help make Landlording as EZ as possible, here's a guide that walks you through each phase of the Landlord Lifecycle, including links to the resources you need for each step!

Step 1: Rental Application

The first step for Landlords is finding quality Tenants. This is one of the most important things Landlords do. Quality Tenants take care of your rental property and pay rent on time. Plus, good Tenants often become long-term Tenants. This can lead to increased income for Landlords as Tenant turnover means less rental income and increased work for Landlords.

All that to say, it's vital to find quality Tenants. In order to do this, you have to thoroughly screen all Applicants. This starts with a Rental Application Form.

We offer a free Rental Application form that can be completed online and a Printable Rental Application. Our Rental Applications serve two main purposes for Landlords:

  1. Gathering important information from Applicants. This includes full name, previous address, previous Landlord's name, and contact information, proposed occupants, proposed pets, employment information, income, and financial information, and a short Applicant questionnaire.
  2. Obtaining authorizations to conduct a complete Tenant Screening. This includes authorization to contact the Applicant's prior Landlord(s), contact credit bureaus, and run necessary screening reports.

The Rental Application, often called the Lease Application, Rent Lease Application, or Lease Rental Application, is a vital first step whenever you're looking for a new Tenant or about to enter into a Lease with a potential Tenant.

Get started with the free Rental Application that works for you!

Step 2: Tenant Screening

Once you've had your Applicant complete the residential Rental Application, you have the information and authorizations you need to run a complete Tenant Screening. Thorough Tenant Screening should include a:

  • ResidentScore. This is similar to a credit score, but more narrowly tailored to predict rental outcomes.
  • Credit Report. The credit report provides key financial information about your Applicants.
  • Criminal History Background Report. A nationwide criminal history report helps ensure that you keep all of your Tenants safe.
  • Eviction History Report. If an Applicant has been evicted in the past, you want to know about it. That's why it's vital to get an eviction report before accepting a new Tenant.

It might sound like a lot, but it's all essential information to have before handing over possession of your rental unit.

Plus, we've found a way to make the process EZ for Landlords. Our Tenant Screening Services give Landlords all of this vital information in one place. Start Tenant Screening.

Pro Tip: If you use our online Rental Application, you can start the Tenant Screening process once the Applicant completes the Rental Application. You won't have to do anything else and you'll get a notification when all the reports and information are available for you to review!

In addition to gathering all of the necessary information, it's important to also check an Applicant's references. This means contacting prior Landlords and contacting the Applicant's employer. Here are some forms to guide you through this step:

  • Rental History Inquiry: This form makes it EZ to gather important information from an Applicant's prior Landlord.
  • Pet Reference Letter Form: If you allow pets, it's always a good idea to learn about their behavior from a prior Landlord. You can send this reference letter with the rental history inquiry!
  • Employment Verification: This form enables Landlords to confirm an Applicant's current employment and income.

Once you have collected the necessary information and talked with references, you’ll have everything you need to select a qualified Applicant!

Step 3: Lease Agreement

The next step is having your new Tenant sign a Lease Agreement. Once you hand over the keys to your rental unit, you hand over legal possession of the property. So before you do that, you want a good Lease Agreement that protects you and sets you up for success.

The Lease Agreement outlines all rules and terms of the rental relationship. It's key for covering the basic terms of the rental relationship - for example, the Lease term, rent amount, and security deposit information - as well as more specific rules about your property - for example, your pet policy, maintenance procedures, and subletting policy.

The Lease Agreement is vital for:

  1. Ensuring that you are protected should issues arise with a Tenant.
  2. Providing Tenants with all rules and policies.
  3. Clearly stating Tenant and Landlord responsibilities.
  4. Establishing good communication between the Landlord and Tenant.

When creating a Lease Agreement, you should keep a few things in mind:

  • Your Lease Agreement needs to be state-specific. This means it needs to comply with all Lease laws of the state where the property is located.
  • Your Lease should cover all terms of your rental unit. It's important that your Lease Agreement is customized to your property and covers any unique rules, responsibilities, or terms.
  • Your Lease should be readable. You want your Tenant to read, understand, and reference the Lease Agreement. This means it should be written in plain language - not legal jargon.

The Lease is the most important document that Landlords use. Ours is state-specific, EZ to create and customize, and guaranteed to comply with your state's Lease laws!

Create Lease Agreement

Step 4: Move-In

Once the Lease Agreement is signed, the Tenant is ready to move into their new home. There are a few things that Landlords can do to make sure the tenancy gets off to a good start and to establish good Landlord-Tenant communication from day 1.

Step 5: Property Management

Once your Tenant is moved in and settled, the hard work is done. Now, it's just a matter of checking in with the Tenant periodically, responding to any maintenance issues, and staying on top of the necessary maintenance to keep the property in good condition.

The goals during this stage should be:

  1. Making sure that rent is paid on time every month.
  2. Establishing good Landlord-Tenant relationships to reduce Tenant turnover.
  3. Ensuring that the property is well-maintained and kept in good condition.

Here are a few things that make it EZ to manage your property and ensure that you get the most out of your rental unit.

  • Rent Ledger: This ledger helps you keep track of rent payments and provides important documentation in the event any issues arise with the Tenant.
  • Late Rent Notice: If a Tenant is late with the rent, it's important for the Landlord to be proactive before it becomes a major problem or a habit. This form makes it EZ to notify Tenants when rent is late, remind them of your policies, and provide them with the potential consequences for not staying current on rent.
  • Lease Renewal Agreement: This form makes it EZ for Landlords to renew the Lease Agreement and to make any small changes to the terms of the Lease.
  • Notice of Rent Increase: For long-term Tenants, you might find that you need to raise the rent. This Notice makes that EZ to do.

Plus, we have a library with hundreds of property management forms. Having access to all of these forms in one place makes it EZ for Landlords to deal with any property management issues that arise.

Become a Pro Member

Step 6: Move-Out/Eviction

The final step of the Landlord lifecycle is Move-Out. In preparing for move-out, it's important for both the Landlord and Tenant to comply with notice requirements, as outlined in the Lease Agreement.

Plus, the Landlord should schedule a move-out walkthrough and timely return the security deposit or provide the Tenant with an itemized list of deductions from the security deposit.

In some circumstances, it might be necessary to evict a Tenant due to unpaid rent, Lease violations, or holdover past the Lease term. When this is the case, it's vital to check your state's eviction procedures to ensure that you provide proper notice and follow all steps in the eviction process.

We have state-specific eviction forms to guide you through the process, but we also recommend that you consult with an attorney to make sure that you meet all state requirements.

State-Specific Eviction Forms

FAQ

What is a Tenant Application form?

A Tenant Application form - sometimes known as a Rental Application form, a home rental application, or a Rental Lease Application - is a form Applicants fill out when they're interested in renting a property. The Application for home rental generally collects basic information, asks for some financial and income information, and asks for information about prior residences.

Sometimes the application for rental also includes authorizations for the Landlord to run a background check, credit report, or other reports needed as part of the residential Lease Application.

Broadly speaking, the Rental Application is part of the screening process Landlords conduct to determine whether an Applicant is qualified to Lease their property

Do I need to use an Apartment Rental Application?

Yes. Prior to having new Tenants sign a Lease, it's always important to screen Tenants. This starts with a rent application form. There is generally no difference between a house rental application and an apartment application form, so it doesn't need to be an apartment-specific form. A good standard Rental Application will work for an apartment, single-family home, duplex, or condo.

Ready to get started screening your Tenants? Start your free apartment application here

Do California Landlords have to use a California Rental Application Form?

California Landlords should always use an application to rent as part of their screening process. However, a standard Rental Application or generic Rental Application generally meets all California rental application requirements.

Where can I find a Rental Application example?

Looking for an example Rental Application? You can see a sample Rental Application here to get an idea of what a Rental Application form template looks like.

Is it better to use a printable Rental Application form or an online Rental Application?

Both printable Rental Applications and online Rental Applications can provide Landlords with the information they need, so it really just depends on which type of rental property application you'd like to use.

That said, for Landlords that like to have an on site Rental Application ready for anyone that looks at the property, the printable Rental Application might be the best choice.

How should a Landlord evaluate Rental Applications?

It's important to have an objective process for evaluating Applicants that complies with all local, state, and federal fair housing requirements. We recommend setting objective requirements prior to reviewing any residential Lease Applications.

he rental home application or application for rent should be the first step in a screening process and only one of the important forms that Landlords review. That said the renter's Lease Application will provide Landlords with valuable information and help them determine whether or not to conduct a complete Tenant Screening. Plus, renters applications enable Landlords to get contact information for prior Landlords, who can provide invaluable insight into whether or not an Applicant would be a good Tenant.

Ready to start screening? Use our Rental Application printable.

Where can a Landlord get free printable rental application forms?

We offer a free printable rental application template or printable simple rental application. You can review or start that here:r free rental application pdf fillable.

We also offer a free online Rental Application that can be used to start complete Tenant Screening.

Note: Landlords looking for free apartment applications can use either our Rental Application Printable or our online Rental Application, both of which work for apartment applications!

Quick Tips

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 may be 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 on 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.

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