A rental application is the litmus test for most landlords. It tells you a lot about your potential tenant. Do they have a job to pay their rent? What is their past rental history? Are they intending to bring pets into the home?
A thorough rental application will tell landlords how trustworthy most potential tenants will be. One way to do this is to have as many legal questions as possible on your rental application.
If you are new to the rental process or are looking for ways to update your rental application, we have put together some valuable information you should know.
What Needs to Be on a Rental Application?
A landlord can use many different metrics to vet a potential tenant. These should all be on the initial application:
Items like name, address, phone number, birth date, and social security number are all vital components to ensure that your potential tenant is who they say they are.
This allows you to confirm they are currently employed and how long they have been employed at their current job. It also allows you to cross-check information like job title and salary to see if the potential tenant is being honest.
If you are following up with professional references, make sure you also receive written permission to contact them.
Being under-employed isn’t always an immediate grounds for rejection. An additional income field allows applicants to add any other income that could be used to pay rent. A few possible sources of additional income are:
- social security payments
- child support
- inheritance money
- investment earnings
This is possibly the most crucial section on the list because it again allows you to call references to ensure the honesty of the application. Additionally, it tells you how often they move and if they have been evicted recently.
In the same way you would receive permission to contact professional references, make sure you have written permission to reach out to current/prior landlords as well.
Credit history will give you a peek into their past, including credit score, credit history, and any bankruptcies or evictions.
While most federal and state laws allow landlords to deny housing due to criminal history, it should not automatically bar someone from renting. Still, this is essential information, especially if the crimes are related to drugs or other illicit substances you don’t want on or near your properties.
It is important to note that some counties are changing their local laws, barring landlords from discriminating based solely on criminal records. For instance, Cook County, IL, has made it illegal to ask for a renter’s criminal record until after they qualify. The law also has other provisions. Those can include not raising rent based on a tenant’s criminal history and not running ads that indicate discrimination based on criminal history.
Personal references are a mixed bag. They may tell you more about your potential tenant, but the potential tenant will likely add friends as their references. You have no way of telling if they are who they say they are or if they are biased.
Rental Application Limitations
Landlords need to know the local laws around what they can add to a rental application. For example, while denying a tenant based on their criminal history may not be federally illegal, some local jurisdictions have made it illegal for landlords to even pose the question on the application.
How to Handle Sensitive Information
Rental applications are full of confidential information that can be harmful in the wrong hands. It is up to landlords to keep all of that information safe. Here are the steps that every landlord should take with their applications:
Keep Tenant Records Sealed
If you have physical files, keep them under lock and key. If you have digital files, keep them somewhere secure with a firewall and antivirus to protect them from hackers. Your computer should also be password protected to prevent anybody who has access to your computer from accessing those files.
Don’t Talk to Tenants About Other Tenants
Gossip can put you in a sticky legal situation, especially if you accidentally divulge personal information. While you should have a good working relationship with your tenants, you must keep the relationship professional.
Treat Them as Top Secret
The last thing you want is for one of your tenants’ applications to go missing because it opens them up to identity theft and you up to a hefty lawsuit. If you must transport their applications anywhere, consider keeping them in a locked briefcase for protection.
How Do I Know I Have Everything I Need on My Application?
Creating your rental application can be daunting. You want it to be as thorough as possible, but you want it to stay within legal boundaries. The best thing you can do is have professionals create your application for you. LandlordStation offers a customizable application that auto-populates information typically requested, so you have peace of mind that your bases are covered without the headache of creating an application from scratch.