Free Rental Application Forms | How it Works

A Rental application form is a document used by landlords to collect detailed personal employment or financial information of prospective tenants, which is used in the screening process to determine if the tenant qualifies to rent a property.

Purpose and Overview

A rental application form creates uniform criteria for comparing the suitability of tenants to rent a property. This includes personal information, prior rental history, income and employment information, occupants, pets and vehicles, and miscellaneous. Information provided in the rental application is used to generate a consumer report that forms the landlord’s decision to either approve or reject the application. Once approved, the parties (landlord and tenant) can proceed to craft the lease agreement and sign it for execution. According to (15 § 1681m(a)(4)), if the rental application is rejected, the landlord is obligated to issue the tenant a rejection letter and a copy of the consumer report stating the basis of their decision within 60 days.

Rental application forms are commonly used when renting out the following properties;

  • Single-family properties
  • Units in apartment buildings or condominiums
  • Multifamily buildings
  • Rooms for rent in your house
  • Vacation rental property

Once filled, landlords use the rental application form to determine if the tenant will be able to make periodic payments and will not cause trouble during the tenancy. In addition, by contacting references provided in the rental application, the landlord can learn from a third-party landlord how compliant the prospective tenant is to rules and house policies.

A rental application form will protect the landlord from approving tenants with criminal records and poor credit, which would otherwise result in a frustrating tenancy filled with follow-ups and disputes. In addition, a rental application is useful in the following ways;

  • The application form grants the landlord consent to conduct background and credit checks.
  • The rental application form provides the landlord with all the relevant information in one place.
  • Through a rental application, the landlord learns more about the potential tenant, such as their attention to detail and organization, depending on the quality of their rental application.

What a Rental Application Form Should Include

Property owners are allowed to create and customize their rental application forms as they see fit. However, the application must abide by the fair housing laws – avoid asking for discriminatory demographic information such as age, gender, race, or religion. Instead, a quality and well-crafted rental application should contain the following components that look into the tenant’s personal, professional and financial information.

Non-refundable fee

Carrying out credit and background checks will cost a certain amount of money. Therefore, the landlord should state the application fee to be billed to the applicant at the top of the application form. Typically, the cost will range from $25 to $100, but it might be necessary to charge more in some instances – it should be equal to how much the checks will cost. State laws determine how much landlords can charge tenants, and one should consult the laws or a real estate attorney.

Property details

The next section of the rental application form should address pertinent details that can be used to describe and identify the property the tenant intends to rent. The information included in this section is the property type and the number of bedrooms which can be a 1, 2, 3-bedroom apartment, condominium, or any other. There should be a declaration of the square footage of the space, the unit number, and the specific building they intend to rent. The building should be further described by its full address.

Also, it should be clear the rental amount the tenant will be expected to pay and the period of payment which can be weekly (especially for vacation rentals), monthly, or yearly. It should also be clear the type and length (time period) of the tenancy being expected – for example, a tenancy can be Triple Net (NNN) on a month-to-month basis. Finally, this information should be accompanied by the start date when tenancy should begin. 

The form should address the house policies the tenant would be expected to comply with when it comes to pets, smoking, and parking. By providing this information to the prospective tenant, the landlord is able to know what the applicant expects when applying to rent the space.

Applicant details

The rental application form should then have a section where applicants fill out their personal information. This information is necessary for the landlord to carry out background and credit checks. The form is expected to request the official name, Date of birth, Social Security Number (SSN), and driver’s license number. This information helps to narrow down the checks to the specific applicant. Contact information such as phone number, email address, and emergency contacts should also be provided to help with communication between the landlord and the applicant.

The applicant should also declare the number of vehicles in their possession that would require parking space within the premises.

Applicant’s lifestyle habits

The application form should prompt the applicant to declare a bit more about their habits. This will usually be in the form of questions that provide insight into the applicant’s lifestyle. For example, the landlord can ask if the applicant hosts a lot of parties or usually has a lot of guests come over. Asking relevant and well-structured questions can lead to insightful answers that can be used to determine whether to approve or reject the application.

Household information and pets of the occupants

The next component of the rental application form is a section to enquire about the applicant’s household information. Household information includes the number of occupants expected to live in the rental space and the pet(s) owned by the applicant. A description of the pet(s) detailing the type, breed, and weight should also be provided for different pets will attract different pet deposits. Occupants’ relationship status can be declared if it a spouse, partner, or friend.

Note: Do not reject emotional support or ADA-approved service dog even if there is a “No Pets” policy, and also do not charge a pet deposit. Also, it is illegal to deny tenancy to an applicant due to their familial status, such as the number of children.

Relevant background information

The background information section is usually structured in a yes or no questions format. The questions are created to touch on key issues that influence one’s decision to approve or reject the application. This means the questions will vary from one landlord to the other. Background information to seek includes eviction, criminal history (previous and current felonies and misdemeanor, inmate and sex offender records), and bankruptcy history.

Credit and criminal record/ Disclosure

The rental application must include a disclosure that states the tenant is consenting to have their background and credit check carried out as wells as current and former landlords and employers contacted fore references. The disclosure should be worded in accordance with the landlord-tenant laws, fair housing, and credit laws.

Applicant’s employment history and income information

Applicants are also to verify their employment and income information in the rental application form. This section is used to determine the applicant’s job security and financial capability. The information to be provided in this section includes the current and former employer’s name and address. Also, it must be clear in what capacity/position/job title the applicant is or was working.

Financial details to be included are their monthly gross income, sources of income, and bonuses. The form should also show how long the applicant worked in the respective positions and who was or is their supervisor. The name and contact information, that is, phone number and email address should also be provided.

Applicants with a monthly income three times the monthly rental rate are more desirable for it shows their ability to cover the monthly payments without strain. Asking the applicant to submit an income verification letter is an effective way of ascertaining the information given in the rental application form

Applicant’s residence history

The application form should also outline the applicant’s residence and rental history. Information in this section will help determine if the applicant will be renting for the first time and allows the landlord to contact landlords who have interacted with the applicant to get a third-party perspective of the applicant’s suitability. The form will typically have one or two slots.

  • Current residence and landlord – The landlord enquire where the applicant is currently residing and can ask the applicant to declare the reason for moving out. The landlord’s name, phone number, and/or email address.
  • Previous residence and landlord – The form should indicate a previous landlord the applicant rented from. The form should prompt the applicant to give the landlord’s name, address and contact information such as phone number.

Tip: Current landlords might not be entirely reliable to verify the applicant’s residence history if at all they want to get rid of the applicant due to disputes. Previous landlords, on the other hand, will have no reason to misrepresent the applicant.

Personal references 

Landlords can request the applicant to provide personal references that can verify information provided in the application or vouch for them. Information to be provided in this section includes the official name and contact details of the references. The form should also prompt the applicant to declare the nature of the relationship between the applicant and the referee.

Applicant’s financial information

The applicant’s financial details should then follow. This includes their bank’s name and location, account number, and type of account. Applicants with savings reassure landlords that they are able to meet their rental payments even if they were to lose their source of income. The form can also include the type of credit card possesses.

Additional details (if any)

The rental application form should allocate the tenant space to write down any additional information they would like to supply to the landlord.

Signature and date of signing

Finally, the rental application form must be signed to be legally and formally valid. There should be an applicant’s acknowledgment preceding their signature to certify that the signatory of the application (applicant) agrees to the contents of the document. Then, the tenant signature and date of signing should be the last component of the application form. 

Free Templates




    By Types


    Association of Realtors Rental Application

    Download: Microsoft Word (.docx)


    Residential Rental Application

    Download: Microsoft Word (.docx)


    On Site Rental Application

    Download: Microsoft Word (.docx)


    Simple Rental Application

    Download: Microsoft Word (.docx)


    Zillow Rental Application

    Download: Microsoft Word (.docx)


    Basic Rental Application Form

    Download: Microsoft Word (.docx)


    Apartment Rental Application

    Download: Microsoft Word (.docx)


    House Rental Application Form

    Download: Microsoft Word (.docx)


    Room Rental Application

    Download: Microsoft Word (.docx)

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      Screening Process (How to Run Background Check)

      Having a good tenant is every landlord’s wish. What defines a good tenant is variable but commonly implies timely rental payment and minimal if not zero disputes. The screening process is used to sort out potential tenants through facts/ data. With that in mind, it is conclusive to state that the quality of tenants a landlord has is often directly related to the effectiveness of their screening process. Below are steps landlords can adopt to ensure they are getting the best renter(s) among the applicants.

      Step 1- Collect rental applications

      The first step is obtaining a completed rental application from the applicant. A rental application will normally succeed the viewing of the house and a verbal agreement between the landlord and the applicant. The rental application form should have the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) disclosure attached to it. This disclosure outlines the applicant’s rights regarding credit and background checks. The landlord should ensure that the applicant filled in all the relevant information and review it as the commencement of the screening process. Missing information should be taken as red flags.

      Step 2- Run a credit report

      Secondly, the landlord runs a credit and background check. Credit checks will result in a credit report. Credit reports, depending on the provider, indicate the applicant’s credit history and current debt. This information is inclusive of his or her credit score, payment patterns and history, bankruptcies, tax liens, collection/credit card accounts, SSN, judgments, employment, and address information. A credit score above 620 will usually be sufficient. Information obtained from a background check includes the applicant’s eviction history, criminal history, and public records.

      Some companies carry out credit and background checks at a fee. One should use a company of their choosing that best meets their needs. These checks can be done for landlords with a completed application as well as those without. Checks without a completed application will typically be more expensive Information in a credit report will normally be dated back to 7-10 years.

      Step 3- Verify employment and income

      Next, the landlord verifies the applicant’s employment and income. This is done by requesting the applicant’s last two weeks’ paycheck stubs through an employment verification letter if the applicant is employed. Self-employed applicants can submit tax returns for the last two years through Form 1040 as evidence of their income.

      Landlords can also contact the applicant’s employer. Even though some employers will not give out detailed employee information, they can confirm if the applicant is their employee.

      Step 4- Call former landlords to verify rental history 

      Afterward, the landlord should contact the applicant’s previous landlord(s). One can ask questions relating to the applicant’s history of late payments, outstanding debts, any disputes (existent and resolved), and questions that can help them determine if the applicant is a good tenant. 

      Step 5- Make the final decision

      Lastly, the landlord decides to accept or reject the applicant. If the applicant qualifies as a good tenant, one can approve. However, if the applicant’s application was unsatisfactory, the landlord is justified in denying him or her tenancy. Before making the decision, one should be conversant with the laws associated with rental applications and rental agreements. This is because, if he or she approves, they would know how to proceed regarding security deposits, disclosures, and consumer rights.


      What is the average rental application fee?

      Most states dictate the maximum amount a landlord can charge as the rental application fee. However, it is commonly between $30 and $50. This fee is based on the out-of-pocket costs of purchasing and accessing screening reports and labor to collect and analyze the applicant’s data.

      How are rental application fees collected?

      The rental application fee is collected as the landlord collects the rental application form. The landlord and the applicant can agree on the mode of payment; cash or any other.

      When should I refund the rental application fee?

      This is dependent on the applicable state laws. However, it is non-refundable in most states, meaning it is refundable in some. Therefore, landlords should consult their state laws or a real estate attorney to comply with the law.

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