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Rental Application: What is it?

A rental application is an invaluable tool for a landlords or property management company to screen potential tenants. A rental application is used to collect specific information about potential tenants to help landlords decide if they would make good tenants. It is important to note that rental applications cannot request information that is illegal. This is important because what some inexperienced landlords may see as an honest or innocent request for information may be illegal. Your rental application may not ask:

  • Where a potential tenant was born
  • Whether the potential tenant has been arrested for “anything”
  • About a potential tenant’s sexuality
  • Whether the potential tenant has a disability (including alcoholism or past drug addiction)
  • Whether the potential tenant is a parent or cares for children
  • Whether the potential tenant attends church
  • The marital status of a potential tenant
  • The age of the potential tenant
  • Whether the potential tenant receives state assistance
  • The race of the potential tenant
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Contents of A Rental Application

All rental applications must abide by state and federal laws. This includes, but is not limited to, the Fair Housing Act which prohibits asking specific questions about a potential tenant’s personal affairs. The above is a list of items that are considered discriminatory in nature.

However, landlords are allowed to make decisions as to whether they want to rent to someone who smokes tobacco or is a pet owner. Landlords may also run background checks, ask about criminal convictions (but not arrests), and may choose to decline to rent property to someone with a history of credit problems or evictions.

Traditionally, rental applications include:

  • The name of the applicant(s)
  • Current address
  • Phone number
  • Current employer and contact information
  • Rental history
  • Criminal convictions
  • An authorization for a credit and background check

A rental application template is very useful for landlords and property management companies to have. However, you should make sure and have it reviewed by a landlord-tenant lawyer in your state to ensure that it complies with all state and local laws related to renting property.