The Secret Answers to Rental Application Questions

Learning to read between the lines to get a complete picture of your applicant.

An overhead photo of a person's hands as they sign a form. Another pair of hands rests on the opposite side of the desk.

There are a lot of tips and tricks that a landlord knows that only come with time and experience. Knowing how and when to read between the lines of a prospective tenant's responses on their rental application is one of those tricks. After you've screened dozens of tenants or more, you start to recognize patterns in the applicants' behaviors and answers that give you more insight into whether or not a tenant will be a good fit for your property. We know that not everyone has gone through the years necessary to gain such valuable knowledge, and as such, we have some advice to offer up for anyone in need.

Here are a few typical questions you'll find on a rental application, and how to discern the secret answers they might reveal about your potential tenants.

Names of All Non-Related Applicants

One of the first questions you'll ask on an application is, naturally, the name of the applicant. However, it's a good idea to have each non-related resident fill out a separate application. Members of the same family tend to be a package deal, but when you have an unmarried couple or a group of friends or roommates living together, situations can change quickly. Having unrelated applicants could lead to potential complications, such as early termination of the lease or tenants in conflict, and it's worth considering.

Addresses of Present and Previous Residences

Asking for a current address is a good way to can determine whether unrelated people will make a good match for your unit. If you have an unmarried couple that has lived together for several years, that shows stability. Given their shared rental history, they are unlikely to cause leasing headaches. If, however, people are moving in together from all different places, it can mean a lot of uncertain things (college students moving in together, for example). It's worth thinking about. Previous addresses also show a person's rental pattern.

Sources of Income

You'll always want to see where a tenant's money is coming from and how regularly it is coming in, which means learning the name of and verifying their current employer(s). You will want to verify the tenant's employment because people can stretch the truth to better suit them, such as listing two jobs when they're actually leaving one relatively soon. Other sources of income are important to consider, as well, such as child support or social security. Keep in mind that it's illegal to discriminate against tenants based on whether or not they receive aid, but it is good to know if their child support is current and steady.

Vehicle Information

How many vehicles will be occupying space on your property, and are they all in working order? Disagreements over the parking situation can cause dissatisfaction among your current tenants. A non-functional car taking up space can be a safety, community, and an aesthetic issue.

Rental And Eviction History

This is pretty self-explanatory - has a tenant ever had to be evicted or asked to move out? Why? Getting the "why" can be pretty important. A prior eviction does not necessarily mean the tenant was a problem, and situations can vary wildly. This is why it's always important to research and speak to previous landlords.

Drug Use, Sex Offender Registry, Felonies and Misdemeanors

It's a good idea to ask potential tenants whether they've ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, as well as any crime that would have them added to a sex offender registry. Furthermore, asking about whether they've been in trouble for controlled substances can reveal a lot, even if they're unwilling to answer the question. These are all answers you can find through a background check, but having the question on your application may weed out people with spotty backgrounds, or those prone to lying about who they are from the get go.

Emergency Contact Information

Who does the tenant list as an emergency contact, and do they ask why you need that information? This can be very revealing.

Credit and Background Checks

You should be conducting thorough screening all your tenants if you genuinely want to ensure that everyone is who they say they are on paper. This information can be invaluable, and we recommend you always verify it rather than take it at face value. We've discussed in other posts how "fair" or "bad" credit doesn't always translate to a bad renter, so do your due diligence and consider all the angles.

Lastly, always make sure to include a stipulation at the bottom of the application that states that any falsified information can result in the termination of a lease. This covers many of your bases and gives people pause before being a little fast and loose with their facts.

Created on: 04/23/24

Author: CreditLink Secure Blog Team

Tags: tenant background check, renter , tenant , applicant , rental application , tenant screening,

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