Choosing Great Tenants Based On Residential Lease Application

“Choosing Great Tenants Based On Residential Lease Application” written by Mike Marko

Owning an aesthetic, well-furnished residential apartment building can attract numerous applicants.

On the other hand, choosing potentially great tenants to rent your property is no walk in the park.

Property managers often get carried away (and overwhelmed) and approve whoever walks through the door. Evaluation of residential lease application takes the back seat at the prospect of generating income and avoiding a vacancy.

Tenants are the livelihood of your rental business, and you want those who will make your business more successful.

Take the time to find quality tenants. These are the ones who pay the rent on time, maintain the property and are easy to deal with.

But. no screening process is perfect.

You may be asking, “How would I know which residential lease application to approve? How will I know a quality tenant from a bad one?”

The answer lies below.

Guidelines In Reviewing A Residential Lease Application

There’s more to a residential lease application than one thinks. While it may seem like an ordinary application form, it isn’t. There are reasons why each element is written and filled out.

The main purpose of a residential lease application is to help you distinguish the good tenants from the bad ones. But how do you exactly determine a good tenant from a potentially bad tenant?

Below are the guidelines in reviewing an application to help you in determining the best applicants for your property.

Analyze Applicant’s Financial Situation

An applicant’s financial situation is key to ensuring that they will have the financial resources to pay the rents you are charging. Additionally, a positive financial situation often leads to a smooth rental agreement. Often, property managers tend to solely focus on this section and disregard other parts of a tenant application.

The main reason property managers want a renter with an optimal financial situation is this type of person normally pays bills and rents in a timely manner. An optimal financial situation often ensures that the renter will pay on time regularly and without hassle. Having a tenant who pays on time every month eliminates the need for frequently following up on non-payments or late payments.

A good credit score does not mean that the renter has an optimal financial solution. There are different factors to consider in order to determine if an applicant is financially stable…


Ensuring that the renter has a good source of monthly income is key to determining if they have the finances to afford to pay the rents you will be charging. It is important to have an idea of the applicant’s monthly income. This can help you assess whether the applicant can pay on time and has the resources to cover rents easily. Normally you should look for an applicant that uses 50% or less of their financial resources for rents. Just having a job and enough finances to cover rents could cause the renter to default on rents if something bad happens in the future, as a loss of a job or a health crisis. Make sure to take into account other possible expenses to give you an idea if the applicant can afford the rent.

Employment History

A solid employment record and a good income are positives to be considered on a rental application. However, when reviewing a residential lease application, watch out for applicants with a rapid turnover of employment. Someone who constantly changes jobs could be a risk as a renter. This type of person could be without financial resources to cover rents when they are unemployed. Additionally, someone who constantly changes jobs could be a problem tenant as they may have traits or habits disliked by employers and/or co-workers. Normally how someone behaves or conducts themselves at work is how they will behave or act when renting or living their day to day lives. Having someone with a good employment history and a stable source of income can mean you found a renter that won’t have periods of instability in the future.

When checking employment, get a list of past employers’ contact numbers and contact them (with the applicant’s consent, of course). We would suggest that any employment numbers provided by the applicant be verified on company websites or via phone books. The main reason to do this is to avoid being given fraudulent phone contacts or references, always verify references directly with the employer you will be contacting.

When talking with employers it is best to have a list of questions to ask, to see how well the [potential renter does and acts in the workplace.

It is highly recommended to choose applicants who are able to hold steady jobs over those who have unstable employment. This normally means that rent can be paid on time with no issues.


Credit checks are commonly used to measure the financial stability of the rental applicant. The credit report details and indicates the applicant’s financial history when it comes to payments, assets, and financial obligations. Does the report show a tendency to pay late regularly? Any type of bad credit information should be reviewed with the applicant to hear their side of the story and what happened to make them late or not able to pay a bill. Also, you must make sure to get a signed applicant’s authorization before undergoing the credit check process.

Ideally, you would want to find applicants with a credit score of 650 to 850. But don’t immediately disregard applicants with credit scores below 650 without knowing the reasons. Younger tenants have less time to build up good credit scores as compared to those who are older. The applicant could have had a health crisis that is resolved now but affected their credit score.

Keep this in mind when looking through the credit scores of applicants after reviewing each residential lease application. Always interview applicants to make a final determination on their credit report and scores. Often when comparing two similar applicants, the applicant with the higher credit score could be the deciding factor of who you will decide to rent the property to.

Check Indicators of a Long-Term Tenant

If you’re screening for good tenants, it’d be great if they’d stay long-term tenant.

But it is never that easy!.

The best ways to determine if a renter is a long-term renter is to check past tenancy indicators on the rental application. If a tenant has shown in the past to stay at a rental then most likely they will continue that trend and stay at your rental long-term.

The goal is to always aim for seemingly loyal long-term tenants. Long-term tenants show rental stability and normally pay rents on time and take more care of the property they are renting. Finding renters who are staying in your properties for the long-term, allow you not have to worry about frequent vacancies.

Move-In History

Despite how good the rental application looks, spotting frequent move-ins or changes in addresses in a short period may indicate a dishonest applicant.

Compare the employment history and move-in history. If dates don’t check out or match then their frequent move-in may not be due to changing jobs or whatever reason they gave you on their applications.

Often an applicant with frequent or numerous move-ins and changes to their rental may be a sign of late payments, inability to pay rents. To verify this ask for past landlords and property management companies to determine if the renter has a bad rental history.

Often, a tenant with little to no move-ins in a long period of time is a plus. This indicates they will most likely decide to stay long-term at a property that is well maintained and has no issues.

History of Eviction

Many property managers and landlords will use any eviction on a n applicant’s record as a reason to deny renting to that applicant. However, a smart property manager takes into account an applicant’s history of eviction. Interviewing and finding out the cause of the eviction could make the applicant someone you would accept as a renter.

An applicant with a history of eviction may:

  • Not be able to pay rent on time,
  • Break lease terms, or
  • Have a destructive personality.

These are common reasons for evictions and behavior that leads to an eviction is not someone you want as a renter for your properties. We would highly recommend to approve applicants with a history of no evictions over an applicant with multiple evictions. When reviewing applications it is best to make sure you have consent from the applicant to speak or contact previous landlords to get a better picture of past tenancy.

Review Applicant’s Criminal History

It’s the responsibility of the property manager to ensure the welfare of current tenants. Failure to do so poses the risk of being liable for damages.

This is why criminal background checks are conducted. It’s essential to carefully screen and evaluate applicants to make sure that no grave offenses have been committed.

There are some crimes you should interview applicants and consider their explanations prior to disqualification for rental:

  • Traffic violations, DUI, felony speeding
  • Drug charges
  • Crimes due to disability
  • Prior Arrest but not convicted
  • Past offenses committed 20 years ago and
  • Resolved convictions

Denying an applicant based solely on their arrests or criminal report can put you at risk of being sued for discrimination.  If an applicant has a past criminal history then you would use this and other factors for disqualification from rental to avoid any legal issues regarding not renting to them.

Before conducting a background check, ask and get a signed applicant’s consent form. Since you’re digging into personal information, it’s mandatory to have consent prior to conducting these types of background checks. Often refusal by an applicant to allow a background check can be used to disqualify the applicant from rental..

Contact Their Previous Landlords

A sure-fire way to distinguish a good tenant from a bad one is to speak to previous landlords. After getting signed consent to contact past landlords have a list of questions you want answered to see if the applicant will be a good fit in the rental property you are offering. Your rental application should ask for authorization from the applicant, and get a list of previous landlords and their contact numbers.

Once in a conversation with the previous landlord, ask all the questions that could make or break an application for you. Find out if late payments had occurred, concealment of defects or any serious misconduct.

Final Thoughts on Choosing Great Tenants Based on Residential Lease Application

Finding quality tenants is crucial for your leasing business to thrive.

Although this can take time, reducing the chances of a bad tenancy makes it worthwhile in the long-run. Good tenants ensure that payments are made on time, the property is well-maintained and that relationship remains amicable.

But finding good tenants is not easy.

This is where the importance of evaluating a residential lease application comes in.

The residential lease application makes it possible to distinguish quality tenants from the bad ones. There are a lot of factors in a residential lease application that need to be considered to determine a quality tenant.

That’s why in this blog post we provided valuable tips on how to use your residential lease application to find the better tenants for your properties.

If you’d like, share your tips and experiences with screening applicants in the comments section below, and do hit the like button.




Suggested Articles:
1. Drafting A Simple One-Page Lease Agreement
2. Signs That Your Lease Document Is Bad
3. Why You Should Have A Lease Agreement PDF

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Article: Choosing Great Tenants Based On Residential Lease Application

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