Who should fill out a rental application?

Written on November 8, 2017 by , updated on February 26, 2018

rental applicationOnly tenants who will be paying the rent need to fill out a rental application, right? Wrong.

All interested parties need to fill one out. That means every adult who will be living in the rental property. And sometimes, even adults who won’t be living there will also need to fill one out. Let’s explore this further with various scenarios.

All interested parties need to fill out a rental application.

The question of who needs to fill out a rental application often comes up when more than one person will be living in the rental property or when co-signers will be part of the deal.

Here’s what you need to keep in mind:

  • Anyone over 18 years old who will be living in the property for any length of time should fill out a rental application.
  • Anyone who isn’t living in the home but who is co-signing the lease should fill out a rental application.
  • Anyone who moves in at a later date should fill out a rental application.

The reason all those groups need to fill out a rental application is to let you know who is living in your property. You need to have contact information if problems should arise with the property. Also, having contact information on everyone means you will have more people to go after for rent if need be.

Confusing situations

When you’re dealing with people and living situations, arrangements are sometimes not obvious. Here are five examples that often cause confusion during application time and what you should do.

Scenario 1: Two people, one income

In this scenario, only one person of a couple works; the other goes to school. Both people still need to fill out a rental application. Note that if you require background and credit checks as part of your application process, you might choose to only require a background check for the person who will not be paying rent.

Scenario 2: Parents with college kids

Parents who rent your place and have children in college should have their college-age children fill out an application. Why? Anyone staying for an extended time, usually more than two weeks, should fill out an application. Plus, a summertime stay in your property could lead to a permanent residence.

Scenario 3: Roommates who find a replacement

Roommate situations aren’t always the most reliable long-term circumstances, especially if the roommates don’t know each other well. One roommate might leave before the lease is up. Sometimes tenants will just substitute the new person without telling the landlord. You can make this less likely to happen if you let your tenants know that it’s okay to find a replacement roommate, but you do ask that they fill out an application so that you can go through your normal screening process.

Scenario 4: Mom and dad co-signing for their college kid

Have everyone fill out an application in this case: all the college students who will be living in your rental as well as any co-signers. This way, if the college kids don’t pay the rent, you can get it from the co-signer. You should also have the co-signer go through your regular screening process, particularly a credit check.

Scenario 5: Parent with adult children

Even if the parent will be the one paying the rent, have the adult children fill out an application too. You’ll want to run a background and credit check to ensure everyone will pass your screening process.

The exception is minors

Minors who will live in the property do not need to fill out a rental application. Why? Because you can’t hold minors responsible for the rent. But ask for the names and ages of all minors who will live there so you’ll have that for your records.

The bottom line

Whenever you’re in the process of finding tenants for your rental property, let all interested parties know that they will be required to fill out a rental application (unless they are a minor). Besides letting you know who will be living in your property, this policy helps ensure that you treat all applicants the same way.

If interested renters walk away because of your policy, you’re probably better off. Usually, people who don’t want to fill out an application aren’t ready to commit, or they don’t think they would pass your screening requirements.

Do you require everyone to fill out a rental application? Tell us why or why not in the comments!

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12 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Sondra

    I am interested in a 3 br 2 bath home with loft. But I did not see a location. I receive section 8 assistance. I just got custody of 2 of my grandkids we are needing a larger home to rent Thank Sondra

  • Christine May

    Does a new management company have a right to ask a roommate of a tenant who’s on the lease to fill out a rental application with a 49.00 fee for the form ?
    When this tendent has lived in the building for 20 years ?

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Christine,
      At lease renewal time, terms can change. At that time, landlords can ask for applications for everyone who will be living there. It’s good practice for landlords to have a rental application for everyone on the lease, especially if roommates share in making rent payments. You can always appeal your case since you have been a very long-term renter.

  • Dustin

    My wife is a stay at home mom with no income, I’m the primary worker in the family. Does she need to fill out an application even though there is no income that will be coming out of her? And if she does how much does it matter what’s on that Fical score or background check if no income is coming from her anyway? And yes, my income can cover 100% of the rent. Thanks for any answers.

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Dustin,
      Good questions! Every situation is different. What is required to be filled out varies by landlord. Most landlords require every adult who will be a renter to fill out an application. But not all landlords will run a credit check on all applicants, especially if one applicant’s income covers the rent.

  • Melissa

    We moved in my son was a minor now he is 20 and they have now said he needs to do a background check before we can renew our lease. So now I am paying for this when he has lived here the whole time. Is this right?

  • Monique

    my landlord had a realty company take over his properties and when we moved in my son was a minor but now he’s 20 and now they’re saying that they want to charge extra $100 because he’s of age, is that legal?

  • Debbie

    I’ve lived in the property for almost 6 years, when I moved in everything was done verbally and landlord didn’t ask me to fill out an application. Now he wants me to fill one out but refuses to give me one for my now husband (he moved in 2 years after I moved in). Can he do that?

  • Christian

    I’m just tired and sick to death that I cant find a place to live in Colorado springs. I pay app fee never do I get it back. I’m disabled with congestive heart failure and have had a stroke. I can’t seem to get help getting a place to live that I can afford. I get 700 a month. That’s all. I can’t work. I have a defibulator and if stressed it will go off. I’m about to be kicked out off the motel room I’m in because I’m falling behind on my payments. I’m on oxygen and have no family help. I have a girlfriend who takes good care of me and does not get paid for all the extra she does do for me. I appriciate her. She can’t go get a job cuz I need her here. What can we do with 700 a month??? It’s so expensive here too cuz of all the military.

  • Alycia

    Hello, my husband and I are looking to rent a home, I don’t work and my husband is the one who brings home the money. However he has some things on his public record. Am I able to put my name on the applications instead of his for the background check? Or will they end up checking both of ours? My background is squeaky clean, and it’s been so hard for my husband to just be able to move on with his life with a felony from years ago. Thanks!

    • Yolanda

      Hello. I am in a similar situation and it’s becoming quite frustrating! I don’t know whether to include my husband or not neither do I want the chances of getting evicted.

      I can pass the approval process alone however since he will be there I do t want him to run into any trouble with management along the way.

      Such a tricky situation!

  • big black jack

    So basically, the landlord just wants more people to come after if the rent is late.

    This is wrong on many levels.

    If my kid goes to college and only comes home during summer break, I should (according to this guide) put him on the lease. If I fall on hard times and get evicted, now both of us will have an eviction on our backgrounds eventhough it has nothing to do with the kid who only lives at the home a month or 2 out of the year.

    If the landlord is that concerned about receiving his rent that he requires a responsible tenant who passed a background check to fill out an application for their kid with the sole purpose of ruining the kid’s rental history if need be, then I’ll pass. It’s a predatory and immoral business practice.

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