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Apartment Rental Application Questions: Dos and Don’ts

If you Google rental application forms and templates, you will likely come up with hundreds of different forms, some free, some costing money, and each with the same questions. Please note that you are collecting information for three different purposes: (1) to examine your background for credit, criminal, eviction, income, etc .; (2) have a point of contact in case you try to reach them later; and (3) to facilitate communication between you and the tenant during their stay at your property.

Personal information: first and last name, date of birth and social security number to perform the credit check.

Contact information: Please ask for two phone numbers and your email address to facilitate communication.

Current residence: Get the current address and information of the owner. This is valuable as a reference check, because a current landlord is more likely to paint a realistic picture of the tenant than a reference provided by the tenant such as a friend or family member.

Financial information: This includes a picture of the renter’s income and also who the employer is. The employer, like the landlord, is a valuable source of background information on the tenant. Additionally, being able to communicate with the tenant’s employer will give you an advantage in the event of subsequent contentious negotiations.

Other Background Information: Information on criminal, bankruptcy, eviction, and rent records. You’ll want to double-check this with an actual background check. However, it is worth seeing if the tenant answers these questions honestly.

There are some questions that you absolutely cannot ask in a rental application. The bottom line is, as a landlord, you can’t ask about a tenant’s race, color, national heritage, religion, gender, disability, and familial status, because you can’t discriminate in renting for any of those reasons.

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