As a landlord or property manager, securing the best possible tenants for your apartment is crucial. You want someone who's not only going to pay rent in full and on time but will also be a model tenant. No noise complaints, no property damage beyond normal wear and tear, perfect. The screening process to find this ideal tenant all begins with the rental application form. Not only should this document be comprehensive, but also effective in helping you weed out applicants who just won't fill those perfect tenant shoes.
While there are a lot of templates out there to help you draft a rental application form, you may want to create your own. If you do, make sure these essential elements come together to paint a complete picture of every person interested in renting your property.
Things to include in an apartment rental application form:
- Basic essential information
- Employment and income history
- Rental history
- Additional details
- Permission for a background check
- Section for signatures
Start with the basics
It's best to get the basic, essential information out of the way first. It's an easy section to knock out when crafting a rental application form.
Begin this section with the day's date. This is important because it lets you manage the first-come-first-serve style that most rental applications get reviewed. You can easily keep everyone in order if you have multiple viewings and multiple applications. You may even consider adding a timestamp once an application comes in for further organization.
The rest of the basics are all about the applicant themselves. Each person interested in renting a single apartment should fill out a separate application, so this area should focus on one person only. Include sections for:
- Applicant's full name
- Current address
- Home phone number, cell phone number and/or work phone number
- Date of birth
- Social security number
- Driver's license number (or any government-issued ID)
These last three pieces of information are necessary to run a background check on the applicant. You can explain that to them as they're filling the form out if there's concern about sharing this type of information upfront.
Include apartment information
Also within this section, or immediately above or below it, you'll want to include a few bits of key information about the rental property. You want to add not just the address and unit number, but also details on fees and rent. Provide a space to write in monthly rent, security deposit fee, upfront costs and pet fees (if applicable.)
You can also insert the date the unit will become available or even allow the prospective tenant to fill in their estimated move-in date.
Putting this information here means no surprises for whichever applicant you decide to rent the apartment to. The information on the lease will match what they have here.
Dive into their employment history
The next section should focus on employment. Hopefully, your applicant is currently working somewhere, or at least can confirm a steady stream of income from some source. How else will they afford rent, right? You'll collect information on their finances in more detail later on, but for now, establishing a work history and monthly income gives you a good snapshot.
In this section, you'll want to ask for:
- Name and address of current employer
- Supervisor's name and phone number
- Applicant's job title
- Start date
- Monthly income (after taxes)
Get all this information for their current position and ask for it all for their previous employer, as well. Just go one job back to establish a history of employment. It's also OK if the applicant doesn't have a previous employer. A first-time renter hasn't had time to establish a job history, or they worked for the same company for a long period of time. You can look at each individual application to decide whether only having a single, current employer is OK with you.
Other sources of income
It's also best to leave a space where the applicant can note other sources of income. You don't need totals at this point, but it's good to know what to research when doing a credit check. Other sources of income can include:
- Severance payment
- Social security
A complete list of what types of additional income the applicant has coming in is helpful for you to total up whether they make enough to afford rent.
Gather rental history
Equally important to their finances is the applicant's rental history. You want to know about their current and past landlord or property manager. You also want to know if they have any evictions on their record.
Collect the name and contact information from the current and previous landlord or property manager in addition to the monthly rent they paid/are paying, the date they moved in and the date they moved/are moving out.
Sometimes, the best resource to learn about a prospective tenant is to talk with other landlords or property managers who they've rented from before. You'll get the inside scoop.
Ask for references
While it's not a necessary section on your rental application, it's a good idea to put in one asking for personal references. Your applicant can share names of friends, family or professional contacts that can vouch for their character.
This section should ask for reference names and contact information, although you can also allow your applicant to attach signed letters of reference directly to the application. You can also allow prospective renters to attach a rental cover letter or renter resume to add a little more depth to their application. If you decide to do this, add a note to the reference section that you'll accept supplementary material.
Get a few extra details
Not all rental situations will need these extra bits of information, so you don't have to include these sections in your rental application form if they're not relevant, but it's good to consider them.
Having an emergency contact on file for your tenants is never a bad thing. While you don't really need it this early in the process, it's easy to work the question in here so it goes into the applicant's file.
Ask for an emergency contact's name, phone number and relationship to the tenant.
To make it easier to batch review applications, you should have people list any other occupants who will live in the apartment. This includes roommates and partners. This way, you can double-check you have applications for everyone.
If you have a property that allows pets, you'll want to collect this information early. If you have any breed restrictions or limits on the number of pets, you can weed out applicants who don't fit the bill.
Ask for pet type, breed, weight and age. Leave enough blanks for the total number of pets you allow, as well.
If your apartment has on-site parking available with the unit, you'll want to know what vehicles will get parked on the premises. Ask for the make, model, color and year of each car, in addition to the license plate numbers.
Request permission for a credit and background check
This part of the application gets you to the next step in the screening process. Here, you'll need to ask the applicant to give you permission to look up their personal information to run both a credit check and a background check.
Within this section, you can also collect relevant information such as:
- Bank name
- Bank address and phone
- Checking account number
- Credit obligations (loans) with a monthly payment
To get ahead of running these checks, also ask whether the tenant has ever:
- Been convicted of a crime
- Broken a lease
- Declared bankruptcy
- Been evicted
These are all potential red flags for renting, but don't always mean an immediate "no." Having a heads-up they'll appear on the background check you'll run is helpful. It also shows you this applicant is being honest about their past.
Sign on the dotted line
Rounding out any rental application form is the signature section. Start the section with a list of fees associated with completing the form and then both you and the applicant should sign and date it. The signatures will validate the document, but also serve as proof you've received the accompanying fee.
The application fee should cover specific costs — those of running both the credit and background check, as well as any administrative costs you'll incur processing the application. This is not a way for you to make a profit on someone's interest in the apartment for rent.
This section wraps up the application and confirms the applicant's interest in the apartment. Now you can dig deeper to find out if they're the right tenant for you.
A rental application form template
Just in case you want a ready-made rental application template, we've got you covered. Simply download our PDF or download our word document template and make edits as you need. Anything in italics is an optional section that might not apply to your property.
Are enough rental applications coming?
Now that you've got the right rental application form ready to go, the next thing to do is draw in prospective tenants. Make sure you're finding the best potentials by listing your property in the right location. Go where the renters are looking!
By listing your property on Rent.com you get access to in-market renters along with helpful reports to expedite your screening process.