Developing Your Application Process

Applications are so important to the entire rental process. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP! Now that you’re created urgency for your property, tenants should be lining up to rent it. The very first step is to ask the potential tenants to fill out an application. 

Why it’s so important to have a potential tenant fill out an application: 

  1. It’s the first step in knowing if they are truly committed to renting your property. 
  2. It’s an insight on who they are and how they pay their bills. 
  3. It significantly reduces the possibility of having to carry out the eviction process. 
  4. It will provide you with the exact information you need in the unlikely event that you have to file for an eviction. 

Application Must-Haves: 

  • Legal names of all adults over the age of 18 (each adult needs to fill out an application) 
  • Legal names of all minors living in the property 
  • Current address and phone number
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security Number, or equivalent 
  • Driver’s license number
  • Employment information
  • Income information

Application Additional Questions: 

  • Have you ever had an eviction filed against you? 
  • Do you have any pets? If so, what bread, age, and weight? 
  • Have you been notified that your employment will cease in the future due to downsizing or temporary work ending? 
  • Have you or any of the other occupants ever been arrested for, convicted of, put on probation, or had adjudication withheld or deferred for a felony offense? If so, please explain further.
  • Please provide and emergency contact name and number. 
  • Please provide vehicle information (year, make, model, color, and tag number) for all vehicles. 

There might be more questions that you consider asking, but make sure you shy away from any that would be considered discriminatory.

Importance of Gathering Good Information

You want to know who your prospective tenant is and if you have to file an eviction for either non-payment or rent,  or due to breaching the lease agreement or law, you need some vital information for the court filing. 

In fact, I recommend that you contact your local courthouse and ask them what they will need from you if you have to file an eviction. That way you know right up from what you want to include in your application. 

You’re also ned this information to do a background check. Be sure to add an acknowledgement sentence for them to sign that says that they are authorizing you to gather all of this information and pull their credit. Here’s a sample authorization sentence: 

“Applicant represents that all the information provided is true and complete and hereby authorizes verification of the above information, references, and credit reports.” 

Once this is signed, this acknowledgement, this allows you to take the next steps, such as pull their credit.

Renter Application Options

Now that you know what information you need to get on the application, let’s talk about how you can get this application itself: 

Option 1: Printed Application

Archaic, I know. But it could be the easiest way to get the information from the tenant. The upside to the option is that you get the application immediately. You can have the potential tenant fill it out on the spot. Be careful to make sure you can read their handwriting and that you take the time to fully review the information they’ve filled out closely, as you don’t want them leaving something blank and you have to track them down and follow up with them later. 

Option 2: Online Application Software 

Having the potential renter fill out the application online can ensure that they don’t leave any of the information blank and you won’t have to track them down later for missing information. But how do you get this going online? 

Landlord software can be found online by searching for “landlord software free”. Man of these services offer not only an online application, but some also provide a website where you can post your property and its photos to help fill your vacancy. 

One of my favorites is TenantCloud. This is a very popular software among landlords and property managers alike. Other options include Rentec Direct and Rentvine. The are all popular choices, but trust me, there are so many more. Find one that is right for you and does what you need. 

These companies can offer the software free for landlords because they make their money by offering ancillary services. This includes having your tenant pay the screening fee, essentially meaning that they are paying for the services instead of you. The one drawback from this process is that you lose control over what application fee the potential tenant is being charged, which could affect your ability to be competitive in a popular rental market.   

Another con to using these sites is that you don’t have another area for profit. If the screen company I use directly charges me $19 for a background check, but I charge $45 to the tenant, then I have at least paid myself for the time to process and review the tenant screening report. That may not seem like much, but it can add up. 

The advantage to using this online software is that you don’t have to worry about storing sensitive information or deal with the collection of the application and entering the data to pull the report. It’s all done for you behind the scenes. Also, when the information is input online, the tenant can’t skip or miss anything vital for the processing. 

Option 3: Google Forms 

Google Forms enables you to create a survey or input of data which can them be sent directly to you, entered automatically in a spreadsheet for storage, or both. 

The good thing about this option is you have the control of the data you want, and you can also make the date fields required so the applicant can’t miss anything. This one takes a bit of user savviness but really is pretty easy to set up. To learn more, go so www.google.com/forms. There are a few templates available for you to get started. 

The Application Fee

Tenants are used to paying a fee, so don’t be afraid to ask them to pay for the application. This can be done via online software that accepts credit cards or it can be cash or a personal check when you meet them at the house. 

They can also pay through PayPal or Venmo. It really doesn’t matter how you get the money, just make sure you collect because this is one expense the application needs to pay for. 

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