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A rental application is a document used by landlords to screen potential tenants. Someone wishing to rent the property must fill out a rental application to be considered.

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Rental Application: What Is It?

The best rental application will protect the landlord by helping them to figure out if a tenant is financially and socially stable.

The application will ask the prospective tenant for a lot of personal information, such as full name, address, social security number, and more. A credit check may also be included with the application to screen candidates.

Since the rental application is so important for both the landlord and the applying tenant, it is crucial that it has all the required information from the start. Look over the application carefully to ensure you ask all required questions so your application is valid. 

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What Is A Rental Application?


what is a rental application A rental application is, in short, your number one tool for weeding out unsavory tenants. By requiring potential tenants to fill out an application, you are able to get a sense of who each person is, as well as perform a full background check on each of them. This enables you to avoid sheltering serial killers, sex offenders, and juvenile or financial delinquents.

All this seems well and good, yes? Well here’s the thing – you need to have an application to give these people. What goes into one? Well, there are a few basic elements to a successful rental application.

Applicant’s Personal Information

This information can be a little more “personal” than the usual name, address, phone number, etc. It should include driver’s license information, date of birth, social security number (for conducting background checks) and whether or not any of the prospective tenants smoke. There should also be a section inquiring about the applicant’s employment and employment history. Very often an income verification is required along with the application (standard practice is to include the two most recent months’ paystubs).There should also be a section for the applicant’s current address, including questions as to whether the address is rented or owned, how long he or she has been living there, and contact information for the landlord (if applicable). This enables you to get in touch with the applicant’s current landlord and verify that he or she can pay rent on time.

Details of Address Being Applied For

If you are renting out multiple units, be sure to have applicants clarify which unit it is they are applying for and their desired date of move-in.

Prior Residences

This is fairly straightforward – include sections for addresses, thes nature of living each living arrangement (rent vs. own) move-in and move-out dates, and contact info for each landlord.

Other Applicants

Here, the applicant should write the full legal names of any other applicants. Bear in mind - it is wise to make each applicant fill out an application, even if they are applying as a unit.


If you will allow pets in your building, require applicants to detail all pets in this section (species, number, ages, and any other information you will need).


This only applies if your rental includes parking. Applicants should describe the model, make and size of their vehicle, as well as its condition.

Tough Questions

These include questions like “Have you ever been evicted?” “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” and “Have you ever been bankrupt?” Provide your applicants space to explain each answer.


Have each applicant provides names and phone numbers of at least two references. These references may be professional or personal, but they should have known the applicant for a reasonable amount of time.


As usual, the application must conclude with the signature of the applicant as well as the date that the application is completed.

You cannot violate the rights of the potential tenant.

By that I mean, you cannot ask prying questions that imply discrimination against the application. These include questions about race, origin, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, disability, or marital or family status. You must also avoid asking applicants whether they have ever been arrested. Being “arrested” and being “convicted” of a crime are two separate matters.

How do I ensure my rental application is legally sound?

You can do one of three things. The first is to spend a lot of money getting a pro to do it for you. The second is to draw up your rental application yourself and hope to goodness you haven’t missed anything. The third, and often smartest, option is to download a sample apartment rental application from the internet and use it as a template. Rental application templates can be found on a number of reputable sites, and are often totally free. This will ensure you have all your legalese intact, and make your only task that of filling in the blanks.

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