Gold Guy Filling Out A Lease Application With Gold PenAs a landlord, selecting a tenant is often a difficult process.  It is important that a landlord screen prospective tenants to get the best tenant possible, while following proper procedures in that process.  One of the main tools a landlord can use is a tenant application form.

A tenant application form is beneficial in many ways.  It is a tool to gather important information from the prospective tenant, such as contact information and references; it can provide authorizations to obtain a credit report or background checks; and it can provide information to assist with the collection of rental arrearages or damages should your new tenant not work out as you had hoped.

What questions should be included on a tenant application form?  Certain information is important for the landlord when considering a prospective tenant, while other information is useful in the event that a tenant defaults.  An application should include full contact information such as names, past and present addresses and ages of all proposed occupants; current and prior employment, income information, and social security numbers of the adults and names of references, including prior landlords with contact information.  Many landlords obtain an authorization from a tenant to perform a credit check and a background check regarding past criminal offenses, which is also useful when collecting monies owed upon their vacating the premises.  Obtaining a credit report and/or a background check both require specific authorizations to comply with applicable law, and also require that the landlord or others in possession of the information carefully protect it from third parties.  There are also tenant screening services which, for a fee (often charged to the tenant), will provide the proper forms for a prospective tenant to sign and will also perform the credit and background checks.

A landlord should always screen prospective tenants before renting.  A properly designed and completed tenant application will allow the landlord to screen the tenant and will also provide the landlord with helpful information when dealing with a problem tenant.  Landlords should be careful to follow applicable state and federal laws regarding obtaining and protecting confidential tenant information, such as social security numbers, credit reports and background information.  Consulting an attorney experienced in landlord tenant matters is advisable when a landlord is considering using a tenant application.

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