A Rental Application is a document landlords and property managers use to screen prospective tenants before they sign a lease agreement and move into a rental, including a room, home, or apartment rental.
A well-written rental application helps property owners assess whether or not a tenant is trustworthy and responsible.
What is a Rental Application?
Commonly known as a Lease Application, a rental application is the standard operating procedure before a tenant signs a Lease Agreement and moves into a dwelling unit.
With obtaining a filled-out application form, landlords and property managers may charge a non-refundable rental application fee to cover the cost of background (including criminal history) and credit checks along with a rental history inquiry.
A rental application form is also known as a:
- Landlord rental application
- Tenant application
- Lease application
- Rental lease application
- Rental property application
- Application for a rental property
- Residential lease / residential rental application
You can save yourself from trouble later (i.e., possible eviction proceedings if tenants violate the terms of your lease agreements) when you put in the time to find a reliable renter by using a lease application form.
Example Rental Application Forms
Below are several examples of types of rental applications for landlords. Review these examples below if you wonder what a tenant application looks like.
Depending on your renting property, you may need to use a specific tenant application form.
These lease forms are easily created in our Rental Application Builder.
Basic Rental Application Form
Below is an example of a basic rental application you can use to gather information to run background and credit checks for any leased property (also use our Background Check Authorization Form to get permission to run a background check including criminal history).
In this simple rental application example, the tenant disclosed pertinent personal information like name, date of birth, and social security number as well as information about additional occupants.
Each additional rental application for the same unit should also request the applicant sign off on a credit and background check (with a criminal history).
Note that there is space on the basic application to collect a tenant’s residence history and employment information, which you can use with an Employment Verification Letter or IRS Form 1040 to verify income.
The Apartment Application Form sample below includes information the prospective tenant provided.
When considering how to fill out an apartment application, remember the tenant details section contains all the required information for a landlord to consider the applicant for the apartment unit (such as full name, date of birth, social security number, and rental history).
The applicant has agreed to a $50 rental application fee (to cover screening reports) in this standard application.
House Rental Application
There is much to consider when evaluating potential home rental tenants. So, using a House Rental Application Form like the one below is helpful.
In our example, the landlord used a home rental application to collect relevant information about the potential tenant (such as full name, date of birth, and social security number) to run screening reports and research the applicant’s financial and rental history.
If you are planning to rent a room in your home, put effort into selecting the right person.
The property owner in our Room Rental Application Form example below used the application to collect information to run screening reports that help landlords decide if a prospective tenant is reliable and trustworthy.
How to Approve or Decline a Rental Application
Once you run checks like credit reports (and general and criminal) background reports and choose applicants based on your rental applications, inform your new tenants that you accepted their application by sending a Rental Application Approval Letter.
Selecting the wrong tenant to rent your property could lead to missed rent payments, damages, troublesome eviction processes, and legal issues.
Do your due diligence and protect yourself by asking prospective tenants to fill out a simple rental application.
Also, ensure you file the completed application forms in a secure location – especially if you have asked candidates to provide their Social Security numbers or other personal information.
What is the Next Step After Approving Rental Applications?
After approving rental applications, it is time to prepare the lease agreements for your new tenants.
When beginning this process, landlords should familiarize themselves with:
- Landlord-tenant rights and responsibilities (as governed by state)
- State rental laws
- Security deposit regulations (landlords typically collect security deposits upon signing lease agreements)
Additionally, be prepared with the following documents for use, or potential use, during the tenancy:
How to Write a Rental Application
Standard applications to rent residential property address the following points as first steps:
Step 1 – Fill in Property Address Information
On the top of your application, include:
1. Date of Application
2. Property Address
Step 2 – Enter Basic Applicant Personal Information
Before anything else, your basic rental application form should ask the applicant to provide identifying important information:
3. Full Name
4. Date of Birth
5. Social Security number
6. Phone number(s)
7. Email address
8. Driver’s license number
On a basic tenant rental application, the potential renter must also mention other proposed residents of the premises and their relationship with the applicant.
Step 3 – Collect Tenant Rental History
Reviewing applicants’ residence history gives you insight into what kind of tenants they may be.
Request the following important information about potential tenants’ past residence(s):
9. Full address including city, state, and zip code
10. Dates of residency (i.e., when they moved in and moved out)
11. Rent price, due date, and payment conditions (e.g., paid in full, in cash, etc.)
12. Reasons for moving (including whether they were asked to move out)
13. Landlord/manager name and contact information
Get your tenant to fill out this information for previous addresses to cover as many years as you deem appropriate.
14. Prior evictions
15. Prior broken leases
Step 4 – Gather Tenant Employment History
Considering you will collect rent, you should ensure an applicant can pay it reliably. A rental application form is a great way to assess the applicant’s financial stability.
Make sure your application form asks prospective tenants for the following information about their work history:
16. Current employer plus position at company
17. Company address and phone number
18. Name of supervisor
19. Duration of employment
20. Monthly pay
Collect this information for previous employers to cover as many years as you deem appropriate.
21. Have your applicant provide information about additional annual or monthly income sources.
Step 5 – Enter Tenant Credit History
Some landlords require applicants to consent to a renters credit check to consider their application for a property.
Although a credit report from Equifax, Experian, or Trans Union is helpful, other credit references can supplement a property application.
The following information helps you adequately review an applicant’s credit:
22. Bank account details and credit card statements
Additionally, you should request:
- Letters from former landlords confirming regular rent payments
- Institutions at which the applicant has accounts as well as their current balances
- Social Security number or ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) (one of these is necessary to run a credit check)
- Consent to a credit check
Remember that certain states limit or prohibit rental application fees (refer to the chart below).
Maximum Residential Rental Application Fees
|State||Maximum Rental Application Fee (as of publish date)||Law|
|California||$52.46||CA Civ. Code § 1950.6(b)|
|Colorado||None||CO Rev. Stat. § 38-12-903|
|Delaware||Fee cannot exceed the greater of $50.00 or 10% of the monthly rent||25 DE Code § 5514(d)|
|District of Columbia||None|
|Maryland||$25.00. Landlord must return any fees exceeding $25.00 within 15 days following date of occupancy or receipt of written communication that no tenancy will occur||MD Real Prop. Code § 8-213(b)(1)(i)|
|Massachusetts||Not allowed. Landlord may not collect rental application fee from applicants||MA Gen. Laws ch. 186 § 15B(1)(b)|
|Minnesota||None, provided the fee is reasonable and used to perform tenant screening/background check on the applicant for an available rental unit||MN Stat. § 504B.173|
|New York||Fee must be the lesser of $20.00 or actual cost of conducting background and credit check||NY Real Prop. Laws § 238-A|
|Oregon||None, provided the fee is not greater than the average actual cost of screening applicants||OR Rev. Stat. § 90.295|
|Vermont||Not allowed. Application fee for residential property is prohibited||9 VT Stat. § 4456a|
|Virginia||$50.00, which excludes any actual out-of-pocket expenses for background screening||VA Code § 55.1-1203(C)|
|Washington||None, provided the fee consists of only the actual costs incurred in obtaining the tenant screening report||WA Rev. Code § 59.18.257(1)(b)|
|Wisconsin||Landlord cannot require more than $25.00 to obtain a consumer credit report||WI Stat. § 704.085|
Alternatively, you can hire a third-party company to request a credit check from your prospective tenant(s) and then charge the applicant directly for this service.
Using an outside credit application service addresses a tenant’s concern about providing sensitive information on your application, such as their Social Security number.
Step 6 – Get Tenant References
Your residential lease application should ask renters to include references, preferably past landlords or neighbors.
Applicants should also provide the following information:
23. Name of reference
24. Contact information
25. Relationship to applicant
Step 7 – Conduct Tenant Background Check
Many landlords ask applicants to consent to a general and criminal background check in addition to filling out a residential rental application.
The information provided in a background check varies depending on the service provider but usually includes:
- Personal details
- Income statements
- Credit report(s)
- Criminal background record report
- Eviction record report
- Fraud indicator report
- Employment history
- Public record check
- Rental history check
- National Sex Offender Registry check
Take these steps to run a background check:
a. Ensure the tenant has completed the application
b. Applicant and landlord sign application
c. Pull a credit report (check the applicant’s credit score and history)
d. Order a rental history report (did the applicant pay rent on time?)
e. Conduct employment verification (is the applicant employed and when was the start date?)
f. Reach out to references including previous landlords
g. Check the National Sex Offender Registry
h. Check your state’s public website for sex offenders
Federal and State Sex Offender Registry Public Websites
Step 8 – Consider Additional Property Application Questions and Verifications
The rest of a good application to rent includes background information questions about the property or tenant’s behavior.
Common questions that should appear on your rental application include:
26. Other occupants in the property?
27. Vehicle information (including the make, model, year, color, mileage, and license plate number)?
30. Other information
- Why is the applicant looking to move?
- Whether the applicant(s) smoke
- Estimated length of stay
- If the applicant(s) has filed for bankruptcy
- Eviction history
- Problems with past landlords/current landlord
- Any serious credit issues or criminal background?
- Is there a co-signer or a guarantor who will also be responsible for the rent?
31. Emergency Contact Information
Some candidates for your rental property may include a cover letter with their application to stand out among your applications.
In this scenario and throughout the application process, keep in mind that some states impose restrictions on landlords who use an application for a rental property to screen tenants.
For example, on a California Rental Application, a landlord can ask about an applicant’s source and income level but cannot discriminate based on their source of income or specific other criteria.
Moreover, if an applicant fails to disclose complete or accurate information on a Texas Rental Application, the landlord has the right to reject the candidate.
Federal and State Fair Housing Laws
What Else is On a Rental Application Form?
Note that the candidate’s signature on the rental lease application acts as a certification they are telling the truth and that they give the landlord authorization to verify information on the form, such as contacting rental, employment, and personal references.
At the end of your rental application form include authorization to run a credit and background check.
After gathering all of the necessary information, including a rental application fee, you and the applicant (and co-signer, if necessary) should sign and date the rental property application.
Sample Rental Application
Below, you can find what a residential rental application typically looks like.
Download this rental application PDF or Word document, or use our builder to create a customized application form based on your unique situation.
Rental Applicationrental application
You can use this free rental application as a:
- Free apartment rental application
- Free house rental application
- Free room rental application
Remember, though, it can be challenging for candidates to fill out their rental applications on-site.
Consider using an online rental application so applicants can collect all the required information and submit the form at their leisure.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
As a landlord, you benefit from using a tenant rental application form if you are:
- A first-time landlord concerned about finding a suitable tenant
- A veteran landlord with bad luck with previous renters
- In a popular location or building that will attract many renters
- Concerned about the financial resources of an applicant
- Screening for more serious tenants who are willing to move in soon
A credit reference on a rental application is a person, organization, or business that an applicant has had a financial relationship with.
Obtaining credit references should be part of your normal tenant screening process, in tandem with running a rental application credit check.
The credit references on a rental application will likely provide valuable information about a prospective tenant’s payment habits.
Reviewing an applicant’s credit references gives great insight into the likelihood of a landlord receiving rent on time.
Examples of good credit references on a residential rental application include:
- Utility companies
- Previous landlords
- Local businesses that offered a payment plan
- Medical and dental offices
If you do not use a residential rental application for tenant screening and research, you could cost yourself time and money.
After a potential renter fills out your tenant application, you should take the time to review it closely.
Always contact the applicant’s current and previous employers and landlords, and run credit and background checks.
Generally, approving a rental application takes 24 to 72 hours.
But, because many landlords want to check various personal and financial histories, and databases like those companies offering background checks have access to, this process could be longer.
Landlords should try to streamline their tenant screening process by using templated legal forms when possible and hiring third-party companies to run important checks.
Minimizing the time spent collecting and processing applicant data can lead to better initial experiences with tenants and more captured rental income.
Yes, you can rent an apartment if you are unemployed, even if some landlords might be reluctant to approve you. To boost your chances, make sure you have references from previous landlords, can pay more upfront, or you have a guarantor to co-sign your lease.
If you’re looking to rent an apartment, be prepared to disclose your credit, rental history, income, and criminal background. Tenants that earn 3 times the rent amount and usually pay their bills on time have a higher chance of getting accepted.