A comprehensive rental property application form allows landlords to thoroughly screen prospective tenants for creditworthiness and their ability to pay rent on time. Application forms should include questions addressing the applicant’s current living situation, financial standing, and employment history. These will serve as a guide for landlords to evaluate an applicant’s suitability for renting. Note that rental applications are not legally required. However, they are beneficial to supporting a landlord’s decision in who they choose to live on their property.
Rental applications can be submitted manually. However, digital applications like those provided by TurboTenant provide benefits like reduced paper, the ability to store and access application information, and automation that can instantly run tenant screening reports. This mobile-friendly landlord software has application templates that can easily be customized to meet the owner’s needs. Tenants can also upload their supporting application documents into the digital application.
The free rental application templates below help landlords compile prospective tenant information, including contact information, employment history, and rental history. Based on the type of property you’re trying to rent, decide which template is right for you—short-term or long-term—and download the rental application forms below.
Long-term Rental Application Template
Long-term rentals are usually occupied by a tenant for 12 months or more. They are more common in single-family residences, condos, and multi-family apartment building rentals. Long-term tenants are trusted to pay on time for a longer length of time. Therefore, the rental application tends to have more comprehensive questions and must not only speak to an applicant’s ability to pay, but their character to take care of the space.
Short-term Rental Application Template
Short-term rental property can be rented on a daily, weekly, or month-to-month basis, e.g., a vacation rental with prepayment upfront. Additionally, short-term rental applications benefit applicants who don’t meet long-term requirements. For example, a person traveling from a different country for a short period without any credit or banking history may opt for short-term rentals instead.
Since payments for short-term rentals are typically due upfront and the property is rented for a limited amount of time, the application requires less in-depth questions to qualify for approval.
12 Items to Include in a Rental Application Form
To find the best quality tenants, a real estate rental application must include the right questions to properly screen applicants. There are elements of a basic rental application that are important to include in every application form. Depending on the type of property available, the questions on a rental application may vary.
1. Date of Rental Application Completion
The date of rental application completion is a time stamp to indicate when a prospective tenant provided all the required information to the landlord. The application completion date is important when you have multiple applications and competing offers for the same unit. Assuming all the applications are similar, one additional factor landlords can use to judge an application is the completion date.
MyRental provides free online rental applications which can assist with keeping all applicants organized. Its mobile-friendly application makes it easy for tenants to apply on-the-go, and the app connects directly to tenant screening reports, which you can automatically run. Landlords will receive a notification when an application is fully completed to use as the rental application completion date.
2. Rental Application Fee
A rental application fee is collected in conjunction with a completed application. The cost of the application fee should be one of the first items listed at the top of the rental application. The landlord requests the fee to cover costs associated with application review like pulling credit checks, running eviction history reports, administrative fees, etc. These tenant reports are not free services to the landlord.
The property’s location plays a large role in the cost of the fee, as each state sets laws on how much a landlord can collect. Usually, application fees start at around $20. Collecting the rental application fee can offset some of the operating expenses associated with owning rental properties if state laws allow it.
For example, Wyoming has no limitations on how much you can collect for an application, but Washington will only allow you to charge up to the cost of the actual screening. It’s the landlord’s responsibility to be upfront about the fees and clear on whether the fees are refundable or not.
3. Property Information
One of the first pieces of information on an application rental form should be property information. This helps identify which property the tenant is looking to occupy, and is quite important if you own multiple rental units. The property information should be specific and include the full street address, including unit number, if applicable, city, state, and ZIP code.
Identifying the rental property and unit ensures there is no confusion between the landlord and prospective tenant. Because a landlord may have multiple units available in the same building with different unit layouts and unit pricing, having the right property information will help landlords screen the tenant appropriately for that unit.
For example, a two-bedroom unit will be more expensive than a studio unit. Knowing the specific unit will allow the landlord to review the completed application in accordance with the income requirements for that unit. It also can ensure that lease information is filled out appropriately if the applicant is approved.
4. Applicant Information
All standard rental applications include a section for applicant information. This information tells you who exactly is applying to live on the property and allows landlords to use it to verify identity. The information provided in this section also helps landlords pull accurate tenant reports.
Key application information requested on rental applications is as follows:
- Applicant name
- Date of birth
- Social Security number
- Other name(s) applicant has used in past five years
- Cell phone number
- Work phone number
- Driver’s license state and number
- Vehicle information
Having these up-to-date details will provide assistance for contacting applicants, especially if they become tenants. In addition, requiring applicant names and Social Security numbers allows landlords to properly run reports and prevent fraudulent applicants. If reports are returned blank, an applicant may not have been truthful about their application. Requesting vehicle information is needed so that property management is aware of which vehicles belong to residents and should be on the property.
Pro tip: Many individuals are apprehensive about providing their Social Security number in writing. Let applicants know that running a proper background check and credit report is necessary. If applicants are still hesitant, allow them to call you to give the Social Security number over the phone rather than send it through email or an online tenant screening system.
5. Other Occupants
It’s imperative to know exactly who will live in each rental unit. Other occupants accompanying the tenant could be children, spouse, parents, siblings, roommates, or friends of the tenant. Even though some occupants may not be obligated to pay rent, for example, a 5-year-old child, it is still imperative the landlord knows who is living in the apartment.
It’s a landlord’s responsibility to protect their asset and know exactly who they will interact with if damage occurs to the unit or there is an emergency in the building. Landlords may request that an occupant apply and enter into a lease agreement as well. This is especially true if occupants are being held responsible for rent payments or are 18 years of age or older.
Property owners are able to deny an application based on other occupants, but they must keep in mind that they’re unable to deny someone based on familial status as part of the Fair Housing Act. The typical occupancy per bedroom is two individuals, so landlords can review the space and number of occupants as part of their screening process.
Lying about co-tenants is one of the many tenant scams that landlords are subjected to. Making sure to ask the right questions on the rental application, and having a strong leasing process will help landlords find quality tenants. Read more about common scams in our article 15 Tenant Scams Every Landlord Needs to Know & How to Avoid Them.
6. Applicant’s Current & Previous Addresses
After collecting personal tenant information, the following section should include information on current and previous addresses. Questions should address the applicant’s length of stay at each property, their monthly rental payments, their reason for leaving, and the previous landlord’s name and contact information. The landlord’s contact information will be used for landlord references.
This information gives landlords insight into an applicant’s rental history. From the provided information, landlords can get an understanding of their tenant’s intentions to stay in a short-term or long-term capacity. Landlords can also get an idea of the types of properties they’ve previously lived in.
If a tenant has always rented studio apartments, then the landlord should ask additional questions if the tenant is interested in a one- or two-bedroom unit. Property owners may also contact the previous landlord to confirm the rental history, payment history, and receive a character reference on the applicant.
7. Employment & Income Information
Collecting employment and income information is a standard tenant screening practice. Employment history provides information on current and past employers along with information on their position, income, length of employment, and employer contact information. Landlords can also collect pay stubs as part of the application packet to help verify the employment information provided.
The details regarding employment and income will help you determine if a tenant has a stable job and the ability to continuously pay rent on time. Many times a landlord or housing market will have income requirements to ensure tenants aren’t financially stretched to make the asking rent.
For example, in New York City, the general income requirement is 40 times the asking rent, but most other states require three times the monthly rent. If applicants don’t meet the minimum income requirements, then their application is not approved, and resources aren’t wasted on running costly tenant reports.
To assist with getting paid in a timely manner, TenantCloud’s Auto Pay solution allows tenants to schedule recurring monthly payments from their bank. This reduces the opportunity for late payments because tenants won’t have to make a trip to the bank, get paper checks, and purchase stamps to mail the payment. Landlords will receive the payment directly into their bank accounts, and the system will send owners a notification of payment.
8. Background Information
The background information on a long-term rental application form typically requests information regarding a tenant’s bank accounts, charge or credit cards, other liabilities, and whether they have pets. Other items that can be included in this section are education information, whether applicants smoke, if they play a musical instrument, and so forth. This section allows tenants to provide more information on themselves to help with their application approval.
When processing background checks on prospective tenants, the reports should mimic the information present in this section, especially when pulling information on credit scores. Bank accounts and lines of credit should show up on a credit report, and the banking and credit history can provide insight into their overall financial profile.
For example, if the sum of rent plus loan liabilities exceeds the income provided, landlords should question payment ability. Also, pet information should align with the landlord’s pet policy. However, if the pet is an emotional support animal, landlords should ensure they follow the Fair Housing rules and request documentation.
9. Personal & Professional References
The references section is broken into two sections consisting of personal and professional references. Reference’s name, relation to tenant, and contact information should be provided in this section. Personal references should know the tenant for over a year, and they don’t always have to be related to the tenant. Business references, on the other hand, can be a tenant’s doctor, attorney, accountant, co-workers, manager, business associate, and so on.
Asking for references allows landlords to do a more comprehensive review of the tenant. Calling references can uncover some truths about the tenant, giving insight into whom they associate with. Landlords shouldn’t base an applicant’s application approval entirely on their ability to pay rent, so conversations with references may uncover personal characteristics that speak to their quality as a tenant.
Positive responses can support your decision to approve the application. However, negative results can help you quickly move on to the next application.
10. Emergency Contact Information
Landlords should ask all candidates for at least two individuals who can be their emergency contact. Obviously, this can be used if an emergency arises, but there are additional reasons it can be beneficial. The emergency contact section should include name, contact information, and relation to tenant. Pro-active landlords will call the contact to make sure they exist, but also ask the tenant to update their contact every few months.
Also, from a landlord’s perspective, it’s another point of contact in the event the tenant leaves without paying rent. Landlords will be able to contact the emergency contact to see if they have information on where the tenant may be.
Each state has its own laws of what needs to be included in the rental application disclosure. In this section, landlords should disclose they are following all federal Fair Housing laws when reviewing and approving applications. The disclosure section also provides the landlord with written authorization to use the information provided in the rental application—helping with the application approval process.
Generally, the disclosure states the tenant is giving the landlord permission to run credit checks, background checks, and contact other agencies to verify the information listed on the application. They also approve landlords contacting their references, employer, and previous landlords to collect information regarding their payment history, tenancy, and overall character.
Without proper authorization in the disclosure, landlords are prohibited from moving forward with using the information provided or running necessary tenant reports. If applicants do not sign the application, it should immediately be returned to the applicant to retrieve a signature.
12. Applicant Signature & Date
The very last section of the rental application should include a request for the applicant’s signature and date. Without an applicant’s signature and date, the application and disclosure are invalid. The signature also holds the tenant liable for all information provided on the application. If the tenant provides inaccurate or missing information, it gives the landlord reasons to deny the applicant.
To avoid missed signatures, landlords can implement online rental application solutions like Avail. The platform has a comprehensive application with customizable questions to meet individual landlord needs. It also ensures tenants agree and acknowledge the disclosure before they submit and finalize the application. Once the application is complete, landlords will get a notification and see the application on their dashboard.
What Landlords Cannot Include in the Application
In the rental application form, landlords cannot ask questions about prohibited topics based on Fair Housing Laws. Fair Housing ensures no one engaging in housing-related activities like buying, selling, renting, or obtaining a mortgage is discriminated against based on personal characteristics. It is illegal to discriminate or deny an applicant based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including sexual orientation or gender identity), familial status, or disability.
Some examples of questions that violate the Fair Housing Act:
- Where are you born?
- What is your sexual orientation?
- Do you have a disability?
- Do you have children?
- Which church do you attend?
Refrain from including questions that may disclose such tenant characteristics. There are a few circumstances where Fair Housing Laws don’t apply. The laws don’t apply if a tenant is applying to an owner-occupied building with four or fewer units, a single-family home sold or rented by the owner without an agent, or housing operated by religious organizations or private clubs with occupancy limited to its members.
To make sure you’re not violating any Fair Housing laws, review our article entitled Fair Housing Act in Real Estate: Protect Your License & Clients. Although this article is geared toward real estate agents, all real estate-related professionals, like landlords, are bound to these laws.
Rental Application Providers
Rental application providers assist with expediting the application process. Providers can help you market and attract tenants and evaluate prospective tenants with tenant screening services. In addition, some providers have property management solutions.
Tenant reports pulled by Fair Credit Reporting Act certified screeners
All-in-one leasing and property management solution
Mobile-friendly rental applications
Allow renters to “push” screening reports to landlords
Free for landlords
Free for landlords
Rental applications provide valuable information for landlords to review and get a better assessment of a prospective tenant. The evaluation process is critical in preventing future tenant issues and protecting your real estate investment. Review the list above to determine what’s included in rental application forms, which form you should use for your property type, and items to avoid on applications to comply with Fair Housing.