To help ensure that you sign a lease with a high-quality tenant, you must practice good tenant screening. One of the critical components of the tenant screening process is the rental application. This preliminary document allows you to ask renters questions about themselves directly. If a tenant has a promising rental application, you can then move forward with running a credit report and a tenant background check.
But what should landlords include in a rental application? This article has the answers.
Basic Contact Information
Start by asking your applicants for their full legal name, email address, and phone number. You’ll need this information to contact them in the future.
Some landlords ask for Social Security Numbers or driver’s licenses, but we recommend refraining from doing so. Landlord laws regarding this sensitive information can be strict, and you can run credit and background checks online without needing this information.
Current and Prior Residences
It would help if you asked your applicants to provide their renting history. Five years is generally enough time to gauge someone’s rental patterns. Look out for tenants prone to breaking leases and moving frequently.
Next to their residence history, ask applicants to provide landlord references. Not only can these references confirm the residence information the applicant has provided, but by talking with current and previous landlords, you can get a feel for what kind of a renter someone is. Do they pay on time? Do they damage property? Other landlords can be excellent sources of information.
Please request a brief employment history of your current and previous employers and a list of references who can verify this person works there.
Proof of Income
One of the essential parts of a rental application is the rent payment. It doesn’t matter if a tenant is otherwise reliable. They shouldn’t be renting your unit if they can’t afford it. A tenant should bring in a total income of at least three times the rent price. If they make less than that, they risk being financially burdensome, increasing the likelihood of missing rent payments.
The following documents are acceptable proof of income documents:
- W-2 form
- Pay stub
- Bank statement
- 1099 form
- Federal Income Tax Return
- Letter from employer
- Social security statement
- Severance statement
- Annuity statement
- Interest and dividend income
- Proof of bonus or incentive payment
- Pension disbursement
- Unemployment statement
- Workman’s compensation letter
- Court-ordered awards letter
If you accept your rental application online, applicants can easily submit these documents digitally.
Written Permission to Run a Credit Check
You must run a credit check on someone before accepting them as a tenant. That said, you must receive consent before running a credit report. You can only approve the application or review someone’s credit history with written permission.
Different states have different legal disclosures that you must include in rental applications and lease agreements. Be sure to research your state’s requirements. Standard disclosures that may be required are as follows:
- Applicants’ Assurance – A tenant’s application will deny if it is incomplete or falsified.
- Non-Refundable Fees – These must disclose if they’re legal in your state.
- Extended Authorization – You may use any information an applicant provides during or after their tenancy.
- Liability – Credit and background checks cannot harm you or your company.
- Move-in Requirements – These explain a tenant’s obligations for moving in.
- Holding Fee – You must state the procedure of reserving the unit via a security deposit or holding fee.
You may ask questions about pets, smoking, or other relevant preferences. Be careful not to misinterpret your questions as discriminatory. Verify your familiarity with the fair housing legislation. Don’t ask questions on an application that relate to any protected class (race, color, gender, religion, disability, national origin, or family status).
A rental application is a critical first step in the tenant screening process. It’s your chance to gather information from a tenant directly so you can determine if they meet your standards.
If your application contains everything discussed in this article, you can rest assured that you’ve covered all your essentials.
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