(Objective 1: Understand why and how landlords screen applications and how to prepare.)
Suggested Introduction: Once you find rental property that meets your needs, you will probably have to complete an application form. The way in which you fill out this form can greatly affect whether you are successful in getting the rental unit you want. Prospective tenants often fail to fill out the application form completely and accurately. Doing it completely and accurately will make a favorable impression on the landlord. Landlords use application forms to collect information helpful in determining whether you will pay your rent and will be a responsible tenant.
Provide Handout 2: Model Rental Applications and go over each section with participants. Ask participants to look at the information requested in the application and note the following:
- Names that are requested (people who will live in the unit, past landlords, employment contacts). Landlords often restrict the number of people that can live in a dwelling. For example, 2 people per bedroom is a common rule. If there will be two or more adults living in the rental unit, each adult may be required to fill out a separate application, since each one is responsible for the rent. If adults have lived together for several years, separate applications may not be required.
- Numbers requested (Social Security, years at current address, phone, monthly income). The Social Security number is needed to order a credit report.
- Addresses requested (current home, place of employment, banking institution). Most landlords want your current and past addresses. They will probably want to check with your previous landlords to determine if you paid your rent on time, and if there were problems with upkeep or with neighbors. If you have moved several times recently, they will often ask you to list more than one previous landlord.
There are certain questions landlords should not ask. A couple of examples:
- Requests for detailed financial information, such as bank account numbers or credit card numbers.
- Information about your age, marital status, or gender. You do not have to answer such questions. However, persons under 18 cannot legally sign leases; therefore, if you look like you could be under 18, it would be appropriate for the landlord to want to verify your age. If you are applying to live in housing designated as elderly-only, it is also appropriate for the landlord to check your age.
Recommend that participants complete this sample application and take it with them when looking for housing. This will provide all of the necessary information in one convenient document. Recommend to participants to not fill in their social security number on handout. Allow participants a few minutes to begin completing the form. Answer any questions that may arise. Ask them if there is there any information requested that you do not know? This could be the address of a former landlord or a banking institution. Discuss where such information might be found.