Real Estate Law

The Attorney’s Guide to Rental Applications – Three Questions New Landlords Ask

If you are a first-time landlord, you should be aware of the importance of rental applications. These applications, which you can get from attorneys, are filled out by prospective tenants and include all of their pertinent financial information. Obtaining this information from prospective tenants will help you make an informed decision on whom to accept. Here are some questions you may have about rental applications and tenants:

What Should Be Included on a Rental Application?

Most attorneys will advise you to have potential tenants fill out a complete rental application. This will give you an opportunity to learn more about your prospective tenant’s payment history. On the application, you need to require the tenant’s employment information and income, a credit history, social security, driver’s license numbers, and any history of bankruptcy. You should also ask if they have had any past evictions, as well as require a list of references from their previous rentals. This will allow you to protect your investment property from anyone who has a negative history of not paying rent on time or at all.

Is a Rental Application Required?

While the law does not require rental applications, having applicants complete one is a really good practice as a landlord. These applications are designed to collect a great deal of information about prospective tenants, information that you can use to protect yourself if one of your applicants becomes angry that he or she wasn’t selected. If that person tries to sue you because they claimed you discriminated against them, you will have a solid record that will prove you based your selection on financial circumstances only, which can help you win a lawsuit.

Can Landlords Refuse to Rent to Certain Tenants?

By law, landlords are not allowed to discriminate against rental applicants based on ethnicity, religion, or age. However, in most states, landlords are allowed to ask applicants to provide proof of citizenship. You can do this in a number of ways. They can provide a copy of their passport, a naturalization certificate, or a temporary visa. Keep in mind that if you are going to ask for this information from one applicant, you should ask it of all of them. You don’t want to appear discriminatory against potential tenants. Also, remember that in some states you are not allowed to ask for immigration status on any of your tenants, including New York and California.

Choosing a tenant for your rental property should always be taken very seriously. Be absolutely certain that you do not discriminate in any way. In fact, attorneys often advise landlords to provide a follow-up call or letter to applicants who were not selected, providing a thorough explanation. Also, always remember to hold on to all information provided to you to have in the event an applicant sues you.