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Rental Application

A rental application is an intake form used by a landlord to obtain an applicant's details for screening purposes. The applicant should provide their personal information, employment details, and previous landlord references. A non-refundable fee is commonly required.
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Commercial Rental Application – For commercial tenants.

By State

By Type (5)

Assoc. of Realtors Version

Download: PDF

 

National Landlords Assoc. Version

Download: PDF

On-Site Version

Download: PDF

Simple Version

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Zillow Version

Download: PDF

How to Run a Background Check (6 steps)

U.S. Renter Statistics

  • 715 is the average national credit score (2023)[1]
  • 638 is the average credit score for renters (2022)[2]
  • 26.8% rent-to-income is the national average (Q1 2024)[3]
  • 92% of renters make partial or full payments each month (2021).[4]
  • 33% of the U.S. population has a criminal record.[5]

1. Tenant Completes a Rental App

Rental Application

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The landlord must obtain the tenant’s personal information and employment details and get their consent to run consumer reports (e.g., credit report, background check, etc.)

The landlord should also attach the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) Disclosure, which includes the tenant’s rights.[6]

Non-Refundable Fee ($)

On average, a landlord charges $30 as a non-refundable fee per applicant.[7]

2. Obtain a Credit Report

graph showing credit score distribution by age

A credit score above 670 is considered “good” for most rentals.[8] However, a tenant’s credit score can be affected by several factors.

An applicant’s rent-to-income ratio should be no more than 30%,[9] meaning the rent shouldn’t be more than 30% of an applicant’s monthly income. However, this ratio depends on the rental market (ex. New York City was the highest at 66.9%[10]).

Recommended Screening Services

3. Verifying the Tenant

landlord verifying employment information with applicant

The landlord should verify the tenant’s work by contacting their supervisor or obtaining an employment verification letter.

4. Communicate with Former Landlords

landlord on phone with applicant's former landlord

It is common for tenants with a questionable history to contact their former landlords.

It is generally a red flag if the tenant has multiple periods of under one year.

5 Questions (to ask previous landlords)

  1. Was the applicant ever late on rent?
  2. Was the applicant ever served a notice to quit or evicted?
  3. Was the applicant a loud tenant?
  4. Did the applicant leave the previous residence in good standing?
  5. Was the applicant nice around co-tenants?

5. Check the Sex Offender Registry

landlord checking national sex offender registry on laptop

Use the National Search Offender Database (or State Registry) to verify if a tenant is a former sex offender.

6. Make a Decision

landlord reviewing rental application

The landlord must decide whether to approve or reject the tenant.

After Screening the Tenant

  • If Approved – A lease agreement will be created.
  • If Rejected – A rejection letter should be sent to the tenant that mentions where they can obtain a free copy of their consumer report.[12]

Maximum Rental App Fees ($)

State Laws
State Maximum App Fee ($) Laws
 Alabama No limit No statute
 Alaska No limit Landlord-Tenant Handbook Page 5
 Arizona No limit ARS 33-1321(B)
 Arkansas No limit No statute
 California  $52.46 Cal. Civ. Code § 1950.6
 Colorado No limit Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-12-903
 Connecticut No limit No statute
 Delaware 10% of the monthly rent or $50.00 Del. Code tit. 25 § 5514(d)
 Florida No limit No statute
 Georgia No limit No statute
 Hawaii No more than the actual cost of obtaining screening information about the applicant HRS § 521-46
 Idaho No limit No statute
 Illinois No limit No statute
 Indiana No limit No statute
 Iowa No limit No statute
 Kansas No limit No statute
 Kentucky No limit No statute
 Louisiana No limit No statute
 Maine The actual cost of a background or credit check § 6030-H
 Maryland No limit (landlord must return unspent application fees over $25 within 15 days of receipt) Md. Code, Real. Prop. § 8-213
 Massachusetts Landlords may not charge (only  brokers and agents permitted) Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 186 § 15B(1)(b)
 Michigan No limit No statute
 Minnesota No limit Minn. Sat. § 504B.173
 Mississippi No limit No statute
 Missouri No limit No statute
 Montana No limit No statute
 Nebraska No limit No statute
 Nevada No limit No statute
 New Hampshire No limit No statute
 New Jersey No limit No statute
 New Mexico No limit No statute
 New York Cost of background check or $20, whichever is less N.Y Real Prop. Law § 238-A.1(b)
 North Carolina No limit No statute
 North Dakota No limit No statute
 Ohio No limit No statute
 Oklahoma No limit No statute
 Oregon No more than the average cost of screening applicants or the customary amount charged by tenant screening companies Or. Rev. Stat. § 90.295
 Pennsylvania No limit No statute
 Rhode Island Not permitted unless the tenant fails to deliver any provide their reports R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-18-59
 South Carolina No limit No statute
 South Dakota No limit No statute
 Tennessee No limit No statute
 Texas No limit No statute
 Utah No limit No statute
 Vermont Not permitted for residential tenancy Vt. Stat. tit. 9 § 4456a
 Virginia $50.00 (not including extra expenses for performing background checks) Va. Code § 55.1-1203(C)
 Washington No limit, but all costs must only be incurred in obtaining screening reports Wash. Rev. Code § 59.18.257(1)(b)
Washington D.C. No limit No statute
West Virginia No limit W. Va. Code § 37-6A-1(2)
 Wisconsin No limit, but a landlord may only charge a maximum of $20 for a credit check Wis. Admin. Code ATCP § 134.05
 Wyoming No limit No statute

Sample

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