What Every Landlord Needs to Know About Rental Applications

by Chris on September 14, 2015

A rental application is the cornerstone of a successful tenancy. In fact, without this form, it is difficult to minimize income loss.

While rental applications may vary in terms of style and format, there are some basic components that must be present to make the application effective. Reviewing those components can reveal just how important the rental application is:

1.  Identity

tenant screeningThe rental application provides the basis for collecting personal information from the tenant.

This includes identifying information that will be used in running tenant screening reports.

Without it, it will be more difficult to match the applicant to the reports.

Armed with this information, landlords can successfully battle the tenant  who argues that a bad credit report must belong to someone else, or uses a relative’s identity to scam the landlord.

Personal information is crucial to qualifying the tenant. Things like smoking and pet preferences help whittle down the list of otherwise equally qualified  candidates.

This information is helpful in pursuing a judgement against the tenant who skips out without paying rent or damages the rental property.

Finally, this contact information is useful in the event of an emergency. That way, a landlord can quickly relay emergency contact info, the number of residents, and whether any animals are present in the unit.

2. Credit and Income Verification

Another crucial component to a rental application is listing the applicant’s income and credit information. Otherwise, it’s difficult to ascertain if the tenant will be able to pay rent.

This information in the rental application then can be cross-checked against the tenant credit report to determine if the tenant is withholding information, or attempting to mislead the landlord.

3. References

Speaking with references, whether personal or previous landlords, can expose a bad applicant before they become a bad tenant.

It’s important to ascertain if the references appears legitimate.  For landlord references, one of the easiest ways to test is to ask questions about the property in general. The actually landlord won’t hesitate when describing the property. Uncovering fake references shows the applicant is a scammer, and that saves the monumental costs of a bad tenancy.

This information is useful to debt collectors pursuing past due rent or judgements for damage to the property.

4.  Declarations

The final component is the declaration — the disclosures that appear just above the prospective tenant’s signature. This declaration accomplishes two very important objectives:

It warns that there are consequences if the the rental application contains false information; and

It provides the consent to verify the information and to run a tenant background check.

To give teeth to these provisions, warn prospective renters before they complete the application that the information will be verified, and that false information may constitute fraud.

Failing to use a rental application, or using one that lacks any of these basic components will make it difficult, if not impossible, to know if the next tenant is a good prospect, or a tenant from hell.

Here are some additional rules to follow when providing a rental application:

1. While it is popular today to send or complete rental applications online, be wary of accepting applications without a face to face meeting. For instance, it is better to provide the digital version of the application after you have met with the applicant. It is unwise to set up a tour based on an online application before first meeting this applicant outside the property, and verifying identify.

2. Avoid unrelated personal questions — like religious preference, marital status, or place of origin — that have no bearing on an applicant’s qualifications as a renter.

3. If the property is to be rented to multiple occupants, have each proposed adult fill out a rental application.

4. Don’t accept an application if significant portions of information are missing.

5. Always verify the information, and cross-check the rental application against the credit report or other information obtained from a tenant background check.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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