The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Rental Application Form

The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Rental Application Form

Bad tenants aren’t just annoying – they can end up causing a lot of problems as well.

They can refuse to pay rent, damage your property, disrupt the neighbors… the list goes on and on. So how do you avoid ending up with tenants like this?

It all comes down to the rental application form.

Keep reading to learn how you can write a perfect rental application form.

Basic Applicant Information

The beginning of your application form should be focused on getting the applicant’s basic information. This will include contact and identification details.

Here are some of the answers you should get from this section:

  • Full name
  • Social security number
  • Drivers license number
  • Phone numbers (mobile, residential, work, etc.)
  • Email address
  • Relationship to other proposed residents

These answers will tell you who the applicant is and give you a way to get in touch with them if you decide to move forward with the application process.

Current and Past Residency Information

Before you rent your property to someone, you’ll want to know what kind of tenants they are. That’s why you should always include a section about the applicant’s current and past residence history.

Here’s some of the information you might need:

  • Address of their current resident
  • Addresses of two past residences
  • Dates of residency for all properties (When did they move in and out?)
  • Contact information for the owners of each property
  • Reasons for moving (Were they evicted?)
  • Their past rent and payment conditions (How did they pay for rent? Did they pay on time?)

With this information, you can contact the applicant’s past landlords and request more details. You can also find out if the applicant has been evicted before and how often they change their residence.

Proof of Income and Employment History

You’ll be collecting rent every month, so you want to make sure that anyone who moves into your property can pay on time. To do this, create a section in your form that asks the applicant about their employment history.

Here’s a quick list of information you should gather:

  • Their place of employment
  • Contact information for their current employer
  • Contact information for two previous employers
  • Job title
  • Job responsibilities
  • Date of employment (When did they start and finish)
  • Type of work (Are they full-time or part-time employees, independent contractors, etc.?)
  • Salary information (How much do they make per month/year?)

This information will give you a better idea about the applicant’s financial situation. You can figure out if they can afford the rent and how likely they are to pay on time.

You also need to gather proof of income.

Ask the applicant to provide some of their recent paystubs, an employment offer letter, or a W2 form. This will ensure they aren’t lying about the information they’ve put down.

Credit Card History

You should never skip this step as it will help you get the perspective of a neutral third-party: the credit bureau.

This will tell you more about the applicant’s financial situation. If they have a lot of debt, they might not have enough left over to pay rent every month. You can also use their credit card history to find out if they make payments late or on time.

Here’s what you need:

  • Information about checking and savings accounts
  • Information about credit cards
  • Information about auto loans (if applicable)
  • The institution(s) where they hold accounts
  • Their current account balance
  • Authorization to run a credit check

Many landlords don’t bother with this step. Don’t be one of them. An applicant’s credit card history can give you valuable information about them.

Background Check

Conducting background checks will minimize your risk exposure. You are liable for any violence, disruption, or illegal activity your tenant causes on the property.

That’s why a background check is so important.

If an applicant has a criminal record you aren’t comfortable with, don’t let them rent your property.


Make sure you include a section in your application form for references. These are an important part of the application process.


If you’re unsure about the applicant, you can contact the references and ask them relevant questions. References can be previous landlords, neighbors, roommates, and so on.

Here’s the information you should gather for each applicant:

  • Their name
  • Their contact information
  • Their relationship to the applicant

You may not have to use these references if the rest of the application looks good. But it’s always a good idea to get references, contact them, and ask if the applicant was a good tenant.

Additional Questions

This is the section of your application form where you can ask additional questions about the applicant. These questions can vary depending on what you’re looking for.

Here are a few examples you might want to consider:

  • Why does the applicant want to move?
  • Do they smoke?
  • Do they have pets (what type and how many)?
  • How long do they plan to stay?
  • Do they have an eviction history?
  • Have they gone bankrupt before?
  • Did they have any problems with previous landlords?

You may also want to get their vehicle information in this section. Have them write the make and model of their car, the year, the mileage, and color, and the license plate number.

If you want, you can also include a co-signer here. He or she will cover the rent if the applicant is unable to pay.

Discrimination Law

Keep in mind, you can’t use this section to discriminate against applicants. It goes against the Federal Fair Housing Act.

Don’t ask any questions relating to an applicant’s:

  • Sexual orientation
  • Color
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Physical disability
  • Mental disability
  • Family status

Make sure you don’t discriminate against an applicant’s age either. If you do so, you could end up facing legal problems.

Deposits and Fees

In this part of the application form, you can list any fees and deposits you require from applicants before they move in. This might include things like security deposits, pet deposits, or other relevant fees.

Make sure you specify whether this is a fee or a deposit so applicants know what they’re entitled to get refunded later.

Listing your fees and deposits will let applicants know what to expect. If they aren’t interested anymore, they can save you and themselves some time.


You should include two authorization paragraphs in your application.

The first, about Consumer Report Disclosure and Authorization, gives you permission to get the applicant’s credit report. The second, about Information Release Authorization and Acknowledgments, allows you as the landlord to verify all the information provided by applicants.

This includes:

  • Employment information
  • Income information
  • Rental history
  • Criminal background check
  • Public court records

When the applicant signs and dates the form, they agree to the release of this information. Make sure you include this authorization in your application.

Selection Criteria and Screening Process

Depending on the state you live in, you might have to explain your selection criteria and screening process in your application. If you don’t want to include this information in the primary form, you can provide it on a separate page.

If you live in one of these states, make sure you explain the regulations each applicant must meet to rent your property.

This might have something to do with the following:

  • Rental history
  • References
  • Credit score
  • Criminal background

Once you’ve explained the process, let the applicants know how long it usually takes to complete. Tell them how you will contact them when the screening process has been finished.

Write a Professional Rental Application Form

A strong rental application form is the barrier between you and bad tenants. By including the right questions, you can learn about an applicant’s previous living situation, employment status, and finances.

In other words, you can find out if they’re a good fit for you.

Did their last landlord evict them? Did they have any problems with their landlord or neighbors? Are they employed?

Do they make enough money to pay rent? Are they in a lot of debt? Do they usually make payments on time?

These are just a few of the questions an application form can help you answers. Without one of these forms, you could end up with some shady tenants living in your property.

Did you find a good applicant for your rental?