Protect yourself and your property with a rental application

by Belle Wong, J.D.
updated May 11, 2023 ·  3min read

The rental application form is an important tool for all landlords. If you own rental property and are in the process of finding a reliable tenant, the rental application you use forms an invaluable part of your tenant screening process. Proper screening of prospective tenants protects both you and your property by helping you filter out potentially bad tenants.

Document reading "application for rental" with ballpoint pen resting on paper

Rental application process

While the lease is the culmination of the rental application process, it's the rental application form that sets everything in motion.

Whether you use basic rental application forms, or one based on a rental application template that you've customized, it's important that you get prospective tenants to fill out a rental application form.

Basics of the rental application form

Regardless of whether you're using a home rental application form to rent a residential unit, or a commercial rental application form for a commercial tenant, there are some basic things your form needs to include.

Think of the application form as an information-gathering tool. With your form, you'll be collecting important information about prospective tenants that you can use to evaluate their potential as long-standing tenants who will take good care of your property and pay their rent on time.

The questions you ask will help you see patterns in your applicants' tenant history. You'll want to get information about their previous landlords, and also see how long they've lived at each location they've rented. Income and employment history are very relevant to the screening process.

You also need to be getting their consent to standard credit and background checks, which will provide you with important information during the evaluation process.

Standard rental application

If you're not sure which rental application form you should use, try looking online for rental application examples. These will give you an idea of the information you want to obtain from prospective clients.

You might be tempted to ask a lot of wide-ranging questions, but it's important that you use a form that steers clear of any questions that the law might view as being discriminatory. For example, your rental form should not include questions about the applicant's race.

Specialized rental application forms

You can also find rental application templates and rental application PDFs online to download and use as the basis for your own customized rental application form. If you're looking for forms that cover specific situations you have in mind—for example, an apartment rental application form—chances are good you'll be able to find samples online that will help you create your own rental application form.

Some tenants have guarantors who are willing to guarantee the tenant's lease payments. In such situations, these guarantors are essentially cosigners, because they are willing to accept liability for future lease payments. If a prospective tenant has a cosigner, you may want to look for examples of cosigner rental applications, and modify the form you are using to accommodate any wording that would be suitable in a cosigner situation.

Finding the ideal tenant for your rental property can seem like a daunting task. A good rental application form, however, will help you get started on the very important step of screening all the potential tenants for your property. You may find it helpful to engage an online service provider to assist you with this process. It's worth the time required to create a rental application form that will give you the information you need to weed out bad tenants and find your dream tenant.

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Belle Wong, J.D.

About the Author

Belle Wong, J.D.

Belle Wong, is a freelance writer specializing in small business, personal finance, banking, and tech/SAAS. She spends h… Read more

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of the author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.