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A Tenant’s Guide to the Rental Application Process

Rental Home Application Process

Apart from the lease, a rental application is the most important document in the rental process. For tenants, having the required documents at the ready will help you jump on great listings in a competitive market. After all, having your first choice property swept out from under you is an awful experience. So, to boost your chances for approval, it is vital to prepare. Continue reading below as we help you understand the rental application process along with screening criteria and tips on what landlords are looking for.

What Property Managers Look for in a Rental Application?

For landlords, the goal is to find the most qualified and responsible renter for their investment property. The rental application process helps them find one. This is the first step towards moving into your next home, and individuals must understand the process to save both time and money. Typically, landlords will impose a set of standard qualifications for their rental properties. So, read these carefully and self-evaluate to ensure you are a good match. Consider these common standard qualifications landlords look for below –

  • A minimum of three times the monthly rent in gross income.
  • Good credit score and history of timely payments
  • Ability to pass a criminal background check
  • Good rental history without evictions

For instance, if you know you do not meet the income requirement, have past evictions, or a criminal background, the likelihood for denial is a real possibility. While you can still try, consider the application fees, which are almost always non-refundable.

A Guide to the Rental Application Process

You have scoured the internet to find the perfect rental to suit your needs, and now comes the rental application process. So, let’s take a look at the steps to applying for your new home below –

  1. Gather Required Documents
  2. Fill Out the Application
  3. Pay the Application Fee
  4. Background and Credit Screening
  5. Reference Checks
  6. Approval or Denial
  7. Sign the Lease

Rental Home Application Requirements

Gather Required Documents

To apply for a rental property, applicants must show identification as well as proof of income. So, to start the rental application process, gather some of the documents below –

  • Identification – Applicants must provide landlords with proof of identity such as a driver’s license, passport, or proof of residency.
  • Proof of Income – Landlords need to verify an applicant has the ability to pay for the rental rate. Therefore, proof of income is critical. Proof of income can include pay stubs, bank statements, or tax returns.
  • Social Security Number – The rental application process requires tenants to undergo a background and credit check. That said, to perform these, a landlord will need an applicant’s social security number.
  • Reference Contact Information – Most reputable landlords will ask applicants for professional or previous landlord references. Therefore, this could consist of your current or previous landlord, work supervisor, or esteemed colleague.

Fill Out the Application

Once renters have gathered the documents they need, it is time to fill out the application online or on paper. Keep in mind, any roommates over the age of 18 will also need to fill out a separate application in a timely manner. The application will ask for some key details to help the landlord make their final decision. This information includes –

  • Name
  • Social Security Number
  • Current Address
  • Contact Information – Phone number(s) and Email
  • Current Employment and Income Information
  • Previous Addresses
  • Landlord or Professional References
  • Emergency Contacts

Additionally, the rental application will ask questions regarding pets and other occupants in the home that the landlord needs to be aware of.

Pay the Application Fee

Typically, landlords will charge an application or processing fee. Ranging anywhere from $25 to $75, this covers the cost of screening for each applicant. So, be sure to ask the landlord what fees must accompany the application so processing is not delayed.

Background and Credit Screening

With the information and fees provided with the rental application process, the owner will perform a background and credit check. A review of the applicant’s credit history allows landlords to see how financially responsible the individual is. That said, this goes beyond a credit score. Instead, owners need to consider the number of reported late payments, delinquent accounts, bankruptcy, or outstanding judgments. However, the background report focuses on criminal history. For a landlord, any evidence of drug-related or violent offenses may raise some red flags.

Reference Checks

A great reference from a previous landlord or employer is more important than applicants may realize. After all, the application has basic information, but a reference addresses an applicant’s integrity, character, and dependability. Therefore, if the landlord has multiple qualified candidates, the references could be the deciding factor. Although a property owner can conduct these checks via email, generally, they will want to speak to the reference directly. So, be sure to include a phone number and let your reference know they should expect a call. Again, this will help eliminate processing delays.

Approval or Denial

The next step in the rental application process is receiving a final decision. Once the landlord has decided to approve or deny the application, the tenant should receive notice in writing. There could be several outcomes here, such as being approved and moving forward, being approved, but someone else applied and was approved first, or receiving a denial.

Sign the Lease

Congratulations, the landlord approved your application, and it is time to move forward. The next step in the rental application process is to sign the lease agreement. Before signing, be sure to ask any outstanding questions regarding fees or terms and always read the document thoroughly.

Why Was My Rental Application Denied?

Unfortunately, not every application will move forward to lease signing. In fact, there are many lawful reasons a renter could face rejection. That said, when this occurs, the applicant is issued a letter of denial. Check out some of the common reasons for a rental application denial below –

Why Was My Rental Application Denied?

  • The Application is Incomplete
  • Lack of Adequate Verifiable Income to Support the Rent
  • Tenant Smokes or Owns Pets (if the rental unit states this is restricted)
  • The Tenant Has a Troublesome Criminal Background
  • Insufficient or Poor Rental History
  • Fraudulent Information Used on the Application
  • The Landlord was Unable to Perform a Background or Credit Check
  • Insufficient or Poor Credit History
  • Failure to Provide References
  • Past Evictions or Property Damage Claims

What is an Unlawful Denial?

While landlords do have lawful reasons to deny an applicant, there are also reasons they cannot. Fair Housing Laws protect individuals and families from housing discrimination based on several protected classes. These protected classes may vary from location to location beyond the federal laws. Therefore, if you feel you have been the victim of discrimination, research the local laws in your area. However, in general, Fair Housing Laws protect tenants from rejection based on the following –

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Color
  • National Origin
  • Gender or Gender identity
  • Familial Status
  • Marital Status
  • Age
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Disability
  • Source of Income

Need Help Finding Qualified Tenants for Your Rental?

Whether you are a tenant looking for a new home or an owner looking for the ideal tenant, professional management can help. Bay Property Management Group has an efficient application process that allows tenants to upload supporting documents and pay the application fee online!

Are you an owner struggling to find the best tenant? Our dedicated leasing team at Bay Property Management Group helps qualified leads through the rental application process while upholding Fair Housing Laws and our strict standard qualifications. Plus, with a less than 1% eviction rate and 6 Month Tenant Warranty, owners can rest assured we are looking out for their best interest. So, give us a call today to learn more about our full-service property management services.