Table of Contents
1. The Basics: What is a Lease or Rental Application?
A Lease or Rental Application is a form used by Landlords to find responsible renters or tenants.
Before renting their home, condo, apartment, or basement studio, Landlords should screen prospective tenants for trustworthiness and reliability. A standard Lease or Rental Application allows Landlords to run a background check and credit check on each person who wants to live on their property. The Landlord may charge an application fee to cover the cost of checking your criminal and credit history.
A basic Lease or Rental Application will identify the following basic elements:
- Applicant: name, date of birth, social security number, and driver’s license of the renter
- Residence History: current and previous places the renter has lived and their landlords
- Employment: current and previous workplaces, monthly income, and supervisors
- Other Sources of Income: list of savings, checking, and credit accounts
- Other Occupants: name of other people who will live on the Premises
- Criminal History: whether the person has been convicted of a crime in the past
- Bankruptcy: whether the person has previously declared bankruptcy
- Co-Signer: Guarantor or person who will co-sign and pay if the applicant is unable to
What is the difference between a lease application and a rental application?
A Lease Application is usually used when the Tenant will stay on the Premises long-term for 12 months or longer, whereas a Rental Application is used for short-term stays like a month-to-month.
As a reference, a Lease or Rental Application is also known by the following names:
- Application to Rent or Lease
- Application to Rent Residential Premises
- Basic Rental Application
- Rental Application Form
- Residential Lease Application
- Residential Rental Application
2. When a Lease or Rental Application is Needed
When do you need a Lease or Rental Application?
A Lease or Rental Application allows the Landlord to choose the best Tenant among the pool of potential renters. As a Landlord, you would benefit from using a Lease or Rental Application if one of the following situations applies:
- first-time Landlord concerned about finding a good Tenant
- veteran Landlord with bad luck from previous Tenants
- popular location or property will attract many renters
- worried about the reliability or financial resources of a Tenant
- screen for more serious tenants who are willing to move in soon
What questions can a landlord ask?
A Landlord can ask questions that relate to the Tenant’s financial situation and past housing experiences.
The Landlord can ask the following acceptable questions:
- Do you smoke?
- Do you have any pets?
- Do you use a water bed?
- Where did you live before?
- Why did you leave your previous place?
- How long did you live in your previous place?
- What kind of work do you do?
- How long have you worked there?
What questions can a Landlord NOT ask?
A Landlord may NOT ask questions that violate the Fair Housing Act.
For example, a Landlord should refrain from asking questions related to the following:
- National Origin
- Familial Status (whether you have children)
- Physical or Mental Disability (including alcoholism or past drug addiction)
Many states and cities do not allow Landlords to discriminate against Tenants for the following:
- Marital Status (single versus married)
- Gender Identity (transgender or genderqueer)
- Sexual Orientation (straight or gay)
3. The Consequences of Not Using a Lease or Rental Application
Landlords could save themselves a lot of time and money if they invest in properly screening potential renters. Tenants can provide recent pay stubs, a W2, or an employment offer letter as proof of income. Even after the potential renter fills out the application, the Landlord should put in the time to actually call previous employers and landlords.
Here are just a few of the preventable consequences a Lease or Rental application could prevent:[table “32” not found /]
4. The Most Common Lease or Rental Application Situations
Landlords often use a Lease or Rental Application to find the best renter in the following situations:
- Rental properties are in high demand in your area
- Concern about the ability of renters to pay consistently
- Rent control or rent stabilization laws make it difficult to raise the rent in the future
- Eviction procedures in the area make it difficult to remove a troublesome Tenant
4. What Should be Included in a Simple Lease or Rental Application
A simple Lease or Rental Application should generally help the Landlord identify:
- Where the Tenant has lived before plus the name and contact info of previous Landlords
- What the Tenant does for a living or how they will pay rent (current/previous employers)
- When the Tenant declared bankruptcy or was convicted of a crime
- Why the Tenant is unable to find housing elsewhere
- Who else may live at the property with the Tenant
Further, the application requires the possible renter to certify that they are telling the truth. If they have provided any false or incomplete information, the Landlord can reject the Lease or Rental Application and even terminate the Lease Agreement.
Landlords should keep making sure copies of the Lease or Rental Application are filed in a safe place. Be sure to protect the privacy of others who give you their social security numbers. If you are new to the property market read The Complete Guide to becoming a landlord for more information on the legal requirements of property ownership.