Rental Application Templates


A rental application is a form utilized by landlords to assess the suitability of prospective tenants.

The form requires tenants to answer detailed questions regarding their income, employment history, credit history, criminal record (if any), and references from previous landlords or employers who can vouch for their credibility.

Rental Applications by State

What is a Rental Application?

A rental application is a document utilized when a potential tenant expresses interest in renting a property, either for the short or long term. The document’s purpose is to provide an impartial overview of the tenant’s rental, criminal, and credit history. The Fair Housing Act mandates fair treatment during the rental process, prohibiting landlords or property owners from discriminating based on disabilities, race, sex, color, nationality, or religion. Typically, landlords ask tenants to pay an application fee to cover background checks. Landlords should always confirm with their state’s laws concerning the maximum allowable application fee.

What should a Rental Application Include?

The rental application should be comprehensive to provide the clearest possible picture of the applicant. It should include:

  • Personal details: The applicant’s name, address, date of birth, contact number(s), driver’s license (for identity verification), and social security number (for background checks).
  • Rental history: Previous rental address, contact details of the former landlord, rent amount paid, duration of residency, and reasons for leaving.
  • Employment background: Current and previous employers, supervisor’s name and contact number, occupation, and income.
  • References: At least two to three references, excluding family and friends.
  • Credit history: Information about past loans and credit card balances.
  • General questions: Any other information the landlord considers relevant, provided it does not infringe on the restrictions below.

What Shouldn’t Be Included?

To ensure compliance with the Fair Housing Act, landlords should not ask the following questions on a rental application:

  • Relationship status: Questions about marital status or sexual preferences.
  • Ethnicity/race/religion: Questions about the tenant’s (or their parents) birthplace, race, nationality, or religion.
  • Disabilities: Any questions about whether the applicant has disabilities.
  • Arrest records: Questions about arrests should not be asked, as they do not imply guilt. Only convictions, which have been proven in court, may be relevant. Furthermore, a background check will reveal any past convictions if they exist.

Rental Application FAQ

The following are commonly asked questions regarding rental applications:

Is a rental application legally binding?

No, a rental application is not legally binding. It is simply a tool for landlords to gather sufficient information to decide if the applicant is a suitable tenant. When an applicant signs a rental application, it serves two primary purposes:

  1. It confirms that the information provided in the application is accurate and true.
  2. It grants the landlord permission to conduct a background check.

However, the lease or rental agreement that is subsequently signed by both parties is a legally binding document.

Who should be referenced on a rental application?

The most suitable reference on a rental application is the applicant’s most recent landlord. This is because it is unlikely that they are a friend or family member, ensuring an honest and straightforward recommendation. Other useful references could include previous employers, colleagues, or academic advisors such as teachers or professors.

How long does it take to process a background check?

The average time to process a credit or criminal background check is three (3) days. However, this timeframe can vary depending on the service used.