Standard questions to ask on a rental application
If you’re new to the rental business, setting up something even as basic as a rental application may seem a bit daunting.
Cozy makes the process easy, offering a secure online application link for each applicant and co-applicant. Whether you choose to use Cozy for your applications or opt for your own homemade version, these standard questions help you make informed decisions about potential new renters.
1. Personal information
Getting personal information is an absolute must on every rental application; after all, you need a way to contact the applicant and verify a few basic details. In this section, the applicant fills out their name, contact information, and date of birth. A Social Security number is not required.
Related: Do Landlords Need to Collect Social Security Numbers?
2. Employment and income history
This section asks for the applicant’s employment status and several years of work history. Ask for the current (and recent) employer’s name, the applicant’s start date, title, and monthly pre-tax income. Also ask for a work contact to verify employment. Include space for additional income information. This comes in handy for the self-employed or for those with other income sources or side jobs.
3. Residence history
Ask the applicant to include residence history for at least the past two years, including the current home. For each location, the applicant should list the approximate move-in and move-out dates. Also ask for the landlord’s name and contact information.
A reference section helps you verify that what the applicant claims is true. Ask for at least two references, such as coworkers, former landlords, college professors, or former bosses.
5. Emergency contact
This information isn’t necessary to rent an apartment, but it could be vital in the event of an emergency later on. Here, the applicant lists the contact information for a nearby family member or close friend.
The pet section lets the applicant list any pets they plan to bring into the rental. If your rental allows only small dogs, for instance, include extra space to list a dog’s breed or size. Use this section to inform applicants of pet-specific rules at your rental, too.
Though not a requirement, you may wish to ask whether the applicant has filed for bankruptcy in the past seven years. Include space for an explanation below the question in the event the applicant indicates a bankruptcy. Note that bankruptcies show up on a credit report for up to 10 years.
6. Evictions and refusal to pay rent
These questions are optional. Asking the applicant whether they’ve ever been evicted or refused to pay rent can help screen potential problem tenants. If they indicate “yes” to the eviction question, ask why it happened. Refusing to pay rent or refusing to pay on time is also worth an explanation. Typically, rent refusal happens during a landlord/tenant dispute, so it’s good to know the tenant’s history in this area. Several rent refusals could indicate a potential for future disputes.
In this section, the applicant indicates convictions for felonies or misdemeanors, including drug-related convictions. Parking and traffic violation information isn’t necessary here. This information will show up on a background check.
Ask about smoking. This is also a good place to list the smoking policy for your property or region. If your property has a designated smoking area, mention it here as well.
Related: How to Remove Cigarette Odor from Your Rental Property
Additional screening information
It’s a good idea to require applicants to undergo further screening, such as credit reports and background checks. Note that the Cozy application covers these as well. With Cozy, applicants click links to purchase either report, with an option to refuse either one. If an applicant refuses, they are offered space to explain the refusal.
The bottom line
Getting the same information on all your applicants makes the process fair and helps you compare applicants. Have requirements set up ahead of time, such as a certain credit score, income level, and debt load, and then when you review applications, you’ll be able to offer your rental to the most qualified applicant.