If you search for rental application forms and templates on Google, you’re likely to come up with hundreds of different forms, some free, some costing money, and each largely asking the same questions. Keep in mind that you are gathering information for three different purposes: (1) to screen their background for credit, criminal, eviction, income, etc.; (2) to have a point of contact in case you are trying to track them down later; and (3) to facilitate communication between yourself and the tenant during their stay on your property.
Personal Information: First and last name, date of birth, and social security number to run the credit check.
Contact Information: Ask for two phone numbers and their email address for easy communication.
Current Residence: Get the address and current landlord information. This is valuable as a reference check, because a current landlord is more likely to paint a realistic picture of the tenant than a reference provided by the tenant like a friend or family member.
Financial Information: This includes a picture of the renter’s income and also who the employer is. The employer, like the landlord, is a valuable source on background information on the renter. Also, being able to contact the tenant’s employer will give you leverage in the case the subsequent contentious negotiations arise.
Other background information: Bankruptcy, eviction, criminal, and rental history information. You’ll want to double check this with an actual background check. Nevertheless, it’s worthwhile to see if the tenant is truthful in answering these questions.
There are some questions that you absolutely cannot ask on a rental application. The bottom line is that, as a landlord, you cannot ask about a tenant’s race, color, national heritage, religion, gender, disability, and familial status, because you can’t discriminate in renting based on any of those grounds.