If you’re getting ready to rent out a room, a home, or even a commercial property, you’ll want to make sure that you screen your tenants well. Almost any problem that a landlord faces can be eliminated through the screening process. When you’re readying to rent out a property, you’ll want to make sure you treat all potential renters fairly and that your process is consistent and fairly transparent. What does this mean for you? At the very least, you’ll want to make sure you have every tenant submit a rental application form. Through that form, potential tenants will be able to authorize a credit report and criminal history check for you. By signing on the dotted line, they’re putting it in writing that they understand and give permission for this.

Once you’ve found the right tenants, you’ll be ready to use simple lease agreement to make the rental a binding contract that outlines your rights, your tenant’s rights, and other responsibilities that belong to both parties. But first, it’s important for you to understand the importance of the screening process.

Rental Application Forms

Screening Your Tenants & the Rental Application Process

When you first place an ad online or in the newspaper, you’ll get your first interested potential takers. At first contact, you’ll want to get some basic information and give your caller some information in return. The first point of contact is a great way to prescreen your callers and clarify any information that’s not listed in your ad. The caller is also probably pre-screening you and your property; so don’t be shy about being direct. It’s better to be clear about certain details up-front. If you worry about these questions being too intrusive, you can always wait and ask them on the rental application form.

If you are hoping to execute a room rental agreement, you’ll also want to screen your tenants for their personality. Take note of their work hours, lifestyle, and other factors. If your potential renter is going to stumble into the house at 3AM on a weeknight, you’ll kick yourself for not asking about their social life.

Here are a few questions to ask callers who are responding to the ad:

  • Why are you moving? If your potential tenant is having problems with their landlord, or other related drama such as problems with a roommate, this should serve as a bit of a red flag. Better reasons are looking for a larger space, moving closer to work, or even the landlord putting their current rental on the market. This is true for both commercial rentals and residential rentals. You want your tenants to be as drama-free as possible.
  • When do you plan on moving? This is especially important if you’re renting out your property but need to find somebody as quickly as possible. Every day that the property is not being rented, you’re losing money. So it would be pointless for you to show a vacant property to a potential renter who won’t need the space for a month or two. On the other hand, if your renters are poor at planning, or need to move tomorrow or the day after, this should signal that at the very least, they are poor at planning. At the worst, they may be breaking a lease agreement or have something they are trying to hide about their current situation.
  • How long do you think you will live at your new home? Some people are only looking for a month-to-month rental agreement. This may be fine with you if you can up the rent amount by a few dollars.
  • What is your monthly income? This is a crucial pre-screening question for renters, but many landlords feel uncomfortable asking this question and prefer to leave it up to the rental application form.
  • Do you have references from your current landlord and/or employer? While you may not want to contact the people ahead of the property tour, this gives renters a heads-up that you will be checking up on them and want to make sure they have a good reputation.
  • How many people will be occupying the property? If you are renting a small, one-bedroom apartment out, you don’t want a family of four or a group of college students crowding that space. Save yourself some time and make sure to ask how many people want to use the property.

Tenant Application Form Samples

The Importance of a Rental Application Form

If you are renting out a residential property, each adult who is a potential tenant should fill out an application form that states that they consent to a criminal background check and a credit check, as well as a fee that will cover the cost of the background check. If a person other than the tenant is willing to guarantee rent payments (for example, the parent of a college student) you will want to have both of them fill out an application, but rely heavily on the credit portion for the person guaranteeing the rent.

When showing the property, don’t surprise the tenants with a background check or credit check. Let them know upfront that all tenants are screened and that you will need a check alongside the application form. This will also help you weed out people who aren’t ready to commit or simply don’t want to have their background checked. When you finish showing the property, you can ask them if they are ready for an application form.

When you do a background check, there are several companies on the Internet that will do a package deal for potential landlords. If your renters are relatively young, you may find they have never rented before or have not established much in the way of credit. However, with references and the name of their employer, you’ll be able to verify their income, employment details, and get information about how they get along with others and if people consider them trustworthy they do business with.

Income verification is also very important — typically you want a renter’s income to be 3 times the amount they pay in rent, leaving an ample safety net for them if they have a costly emergency such as a serious illness or car accident. You’ll want to make sure your renter has a savings account and a checking account as well as a good relationship with their creditors. This is what makes them trustworthy in the financial world’s point of view.

Asking questions of tenants is a great way to screen out certain renters so you don’t waste your time or theirs. By asking the right questions, and listening carefully to the answers, you’ll also learn a lot about them. Pay attention to how they speak, if they hesitate or change the subject. You may even want to write down the answers and compare them to your rental application form.

If an applicant doesn’t meet your financial criteria, but you think a person may be a good match for your property, you may want to ask for a larger deposit or even ask them if they are willing to go month-to-month with the lease agreement.

Lease Agreement Templates


What’s in a Basic Rental Agreement?

Most likely, you’ll need a rental application template to create a rental agreement. It’s important that you look up local laws when drafting agreements, because some cities will require certain things to be spelled out in the contract. For example, if you don’t plan on renewing the lease, a state, city, or other locality may specify that you give the tenant 60 days notice if you don’t plan to renew their lease. Other localities with rent control in place might specify is the lease automatically renews at the same price you rented at. Take a look at landlord tenant laws in your city and state so you can meet their requirements.

Don’t worry; we’ve got a free lease agreement on this page to help you write it up, once you’re ready. A basic rental agreement will have the date, the landlord’s name and the renter’s name, and outline specifics of your lease.

Here are a few elements you may want to consider adding to a residential lease agreement once you’ve downloaded the template:

  • Deposit amount. Some landlords will ask for first and last month’s rent to be deposited. Some states will require that you keep this money in an interest-bearing account and return it in full when your renter moves out. (Assuming they leave the property in good condition, minus normal wear and tear.)
  • Late rent policy. Will you charge a late fee after a 5-day grace period? If a tenant is behind on their rent, are there any policies, such as payment plans, you’re willing to consider?
  • What is the procedure for evictions? How late must a tenant’s rent be in order to be evicted? What other behavior (such as drug use, multiple noise complaints, etc.) are also deal-breakers that can lead to eviction?
  • What is your pet policy? If you accept small pets, you may want to add in an extra deposit amount to cover any damage they may cause.
  • What is your policy for repairs? What obligations do the tenants have when it comes to notifying you about needing work done on the property?
  • Anything else you want to clarify. You may need to specify which parking space your renters can use.
  • What is the rental term? Are you crafting a month-to-month rental agreement or year to year?

Your residential lease agreement should contain all the information your renters need to pay you, reach you and the procedures for anything rental-related. Make sure you check the lease agreement thoroughly for accuracy and make sure your terms comply with local laws. A simple lease agreement is possible to create, but don’t make it backfire by violating any laws.


Room Rental Agreement

If you are only renting one room, your agreement may be a bit simple. You’ll want to spell out the terms of the lease, and specify which amenities the renter will have access to, such as a shared kitchen, garage, washer and dryer, and shower. If possible, you should also set some ground rules when it comes to the shared spaces. Many people in group homes will commit to a chore chart and shared expenses for supplies in common areas. You may want to consider adding these things to your room rental agreement. Many landlords that rent out rooms will usually allow their renters to go on a month-to-month rental agreement, sometimes with the stipulation that the renter should help find a new person to rent the room.

Commercial Lease Agreement

Commercial tenants should be screened using several methods. There’s a lot of fraud in the business world and a tenant check is essential to learning if your renter is trustworthy and financially sound. Some renters will create a special limited liability company, separate from their business entity, to lease a property. The only way to learn more about a business like this is to get a proper background check, complete with credit score for the business as well as any proprietors/signatories for the company.

Some landlords think that businesses don’t need a thorough vetting. The opposite of this is true. Before you execute a commercial lease agreement, you should vet the officers of the company, and learn about their financials.

Creating a Commercial Lease Agreement

Before signing a commercial lease agreement, you’ll need the following information spelled out in the template. We have one for you to use on this page. Here are some of the questions you may encounter when trying to create an agreement for a business rental:

  • Who is the tenant and what is their legal name?
  • Do they do business any other names?
  •  Who will guarantee the lease?
  • Which individual is responsible for payments?
  • Who are the business’s customers?
  • Does the company do business in person??
  • Will they be visiting on-site or do
  • What is the business’s current income?
  • If the company is new, can they supply you with a copy of the business plan and financial projections
  • Have you performed a business credit check?
  • Have you gotten financial information from individuals who are guaranteeing the lease
  • Have you gotten personal financial statements for those parties who are be guaranteeing the lease.

With this information in hand, you’ll be adequately prepared to execute a commercial lease. However, there are other things that need to go into a business lease. For example, some properties will have an independent contractor do repair and maintenance in the building. You’ll need to decide what works best for your needs and make sure that information is included in the contract. If you have a parking lot, you’ll need to add information on the rights of the business. Do they have access to the building or lot on the weekends? How many people will be given a key? Will the building have security and access cards? Make sure you think about how you want to keep the property safe and secure, and add in any expenses for these services.

Free Lease Agreement Forms

Being a good property owner means being aware of the needs of your tenants and responding to their problems or concerns quickly. When you find a tenant that respects your property and pays the rent on time, every time, you’ll be happy to know you took your time choosing the right person! Make sure you keep a copy of all lease agreements and have your residents sign a new one if your policies are updated, amenities are added, or you want to raise the rent or late payment fee.

Make sure that you keep abreast of local landlord and tenant laws, and that your contract is always compliant. Keep a copy of the lease templates on hand in case you ever need to change anything.

TemplateLab April 16th, 2018