Rental Property Application processes and forms are the first step to landlording. Make sure to use the best application possible. Generic forms are fine, but they should ask all the right questions. Too generic, and you won't have the information you need to do the background check, to verify employment, to evict if needed, or to take to court in the event the tenant defaults on rent payments or a provision within the lease.
Once the rental property application is filled out by any prospective tenants, make sure to do the best background check possible. You can pay for a background check online (must get the tenant's permission first), hire a service to conduct one, or do as much of the research as you can, yourself. If taking the latter route... you can request that the prospective tenant provide a current police report (they can usually get one easily at any police station in that county for $5) and a current credit report with score. These two documents, while not complete, do give you a great insight into how qualified (or risky) the tenant is.
In addition to police and credit reports, make sure to also ask that recent proof of employment be submitted with the rental property application. Pay stubs or recent bank account statements suffice, and will let you know if there is steady income, and if they can afford to pay rent on time each month.
If you are conducting research yourself on the tenants, you are free to look at their facebook/twitter/Instagram feeds if you can find them. Does the information they post, match up with the information they have given on their application? If they say they only have one small child, yet facebook shows four kids and two big dogs, you may want to ask for clarification before accepting them.
Rental applications can be found online easily, through a legal documents or attorney website, at an office supply store, or they will be provided if you are using a professional property management company. Here's a generic rental property application that asks the questions we need the most/free downloadable rental property application pdf
REMEMBER: the landlord rental property application should come FIRST in the process of accepting a tenant. BUT if the property is located in a condo association, that tenant will need to apply to the association AFTER you approve them... for additional approval from the association. Make sure to check with the association to find any qualifications they may require. For instance, many specify that they won't take a credit score below 600. Felonies? Unemployed? Too many occupants? These could all be issues - and the association has the power to say NO to a tenant you may have approved yourself. Conversely, a landlord SHOULD NOT assume the association does the proper screening for a good quality tenant. It is the LANDLORD that should FIRST screen a tenant and approve. THEN the tenant can apply to the association. Condo association rental applications are sometimes the same as a buyer package - call the manager and request that they email you a tenant application, which could also be the buyer or occupant application. Every condo management company calls it a different thing, but it's an application that gathers all the prospective occupant's information that they need. When emailable, it's easier to provide to your prospective tenants and easier for them to get it back to you the same way.
Homeowner's associations generally don't have the same strict approval requirements for tenants as condo associations. However, it's always best to call them or to check your by-laws to make sure no approval is needed. Even if no approval is needed by the HOA, there could still be an owner requirement to provide the association with a tenant application and copy of the signed lease, for their records. And there could be a fine attached, if you don't adhere to any of their requirements.
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