By Patricia A. Harris
Having a written criteria list for your rental applicants is pertinent in your rental business and serves several purposes. By attaching a copy of your rental criteria to each blank application form, you are informing your applicant of a list of conditions that must be met for them to be considered as a future tenant in your building.
By using this list, all applicants will know exactly what is expected to qualify renting at your building and it will also help eliminate any misunderstandings. Some other reasons all professional landlords use this list are:
- It will help you to avoid discrimination lawsuits
- Applicants who have evictions on their records or unfavorable credit will not waste your time
- Those who do not qualify financially will be dissuaded
- Applicants with criminal records will choose to apply elsewhere
- With your prospective tenant’s compliance, you will have all the information you need for proper screening procedures
Avoid Discrimination – Be Consistent!
The secret to protecting yourself with this form is by being consistent. For example, if you turned down Applicant A for having an eviction, but decide to make a special exception for Applicant B, (the daughter of your best friend) by overlooking an old eviction on her record …. you’ve just opened yourself up to a discrimination case by Applicant A. So be dutiful when making up your list and adhering to it.
NOTE: You may have different criteria lists for different buildings. Obviously, a criteria list for an “A” building would not be the same for “C” building. Perhaps at the “C” building, you may require a lower security deposit or FICO score. Again, all this should be taken into consideration when compiling the list that best fits your building.
Below is a SAMPLE COPY of a criteria list you can refer to when creating specifics for your buildings:
Applicant Qualification Criteria for Renting at
(building address inserted here)
Before filling out an application, please review our list of criteria below. If you feel you meet the criteria please apply – because we would be happy to rent to you. Also if you have any questions or concerns, feel free to ask.
1. A completed and signed application from all proposed occupants over the age of 18 must be submitted. ALL LINES MUST BE FILLED IN. Incorrect or misinformation will disqualify you as a prospective renter.
2. A ($ insert amount) screening fee in cash, cashier’s check or money order for the purpose of running credit and eviction reports is required with each application.
3. You must provide photo I.D. We require a photo I.D. – Driver’s license or State Issued ID card and Social Security card. (Note: Military cards are not accepted.)
4. You must have a credit report that demonstrates a willingness to pay financial obligations in a timely fashion (or we require a FICO score of at least ______.)
5. You must have no records of eviction.
6. We require favorable responses from references and previous landlords.
7. Employment History and Sufficient Income: We require monthly income of 2.5 times the amount of your monthly rent per applicant. Income must be verifiable through pay stubs, employer contact, or tax records. All other income, including self employment must be verified through tax records.
8. Rental History must be verifiable from unbiased sources. If you’re related by blood or marriage to one of the previous landlords listed, or your rental history does not include at least two previous landlords, your application may be declined, or we may require a qualified co-signer on your rental agreement. Qualified co-signers must meet all screening criteria plus make three times the amount of rent.
9. You will be denied if you have a conviction for any type crime that would be considered a threat to real property or the ability of other residents to peacefully enjoy the premises.
10. An up-front payment of approximately (insert one or two) month’s rent as a security deposit is required by cashier’s check or money order when signing a rental contract.
11. We will accept the first qualified applicant.
12. (Optional) Please note that all of our properties are smoke-free. If you rent a house you must smoke outdoors. If you rent in a condo or apartment there is no-smoking on the property.
Required Information to Be Submitted With the Application
(It is also wise to ask your prospective tenant to bring the documents you need to properly screen them at the time they return the application. A sample that could be included at the end of your Rental Criteria List may look like this:)
Please be sure the following four (4) items accompany your rental application:
1. Your application screening fee of $________ in the form of cash, cashier’s check or money order for each applicant over the age of 18.
2. Picture I.D. (Driver’s license, Green Card or Passport)
3. Social Security Card
4. Proof of Income: Current paystubs or an official letter from your employer on company letterhead should be attached to the application. For self employed, 1099 applicants, your last two years of tax returns are required.
Providing this information to any applicant who requests an application will save you valuable time and energy and make the renting process smoother for both you and your prospective tenant.
A Few Important Reminders
- The current maximum screening fee you can request is $42.41 per applicant, however, it is suggested that you charge them your actual out-of-pocket costs should they be lower.
- Be sure to give each applicant a Receipt of Application Fee (AOA Form 147)
- It is prohibited by law to photocopy a Military card, therefore they should not be accepted as a photo I.D.
- All applications must be signed by the applicant giving you permission to run credit, evictions and criminal reports.
- The maximum amount of security deposit allowed by law is two times the amount of rent for an unfurnished apartment and three times the amount of rent for furnished units.
- Be sure to check all references, previous landlords and employment history BEFORE you run your credit, eviction and criminal history reports with AOA.
This article is not intended to nor does it make any legal representations. Should you have any questions, please contact an attorney for advice. Patricia Harris is Senior Editor of the AOA Magazine and Buyer’s Guide. Copyright March 2013.