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Read further to learn more about rental applications in Indiana such as what fields should be included, what information a landlord can’t ask for, and what other Indiana-specific rental regulations apply to the rental application process.
What is a Rental Application?
A rental application is a screening tool used by landlords to determine if a prospective tenant is a good fit for their property. As a potential renter completes the application, they should develop an understanding for the landlord’s expectations. As a landlord creates a rental application, they must adhere to the Federal Fair Housing Act and local regulations that ensure nondiscrimination.
As a landlord, it is your number one job to find a tenant that is responsible, honest, and prepared to handle the financial demands of being a leaseholder. Although this may seem like a daunting task, a well-designed rental application can lead you to a tenant that is a perfect match for your property.
Indiana Rental Application Form Elements
Are you a landlord who is struggling through the process of creating a legally-compliant rental application that collects the information you need to screen potential renters? This step-by-step guide is your go-to resource for determining the contents of a rental application and discovering helpful tips to aid you in the screening process.
Description of the Rental Property
As a landlord, you may wonder why a description of your rental property is a necessary component to a document that is intended to collect information about prospective tenants. This is a valid question, and the answer is legal clarity. It is important to put the details of the rental in writing as early as possible so that the applicant has clear expectations about the property in question.
This section lists all major defining characteristics of the property that is for lease. A thorough description of a rental property should include:
- The type of unit to be rented
- The street address, city, state, zip code and county of the unit
- The number of bedrooms, if the unit is a residential property
- The number of bathrooms within the unit
- Exterior features included in the rental (patio/balcony, outdoor space, garage, surface parking, or storage shed)
- Furnishings and appliances included in the unit, if applicable
All rental properties are unique. If you find that your property possesses a trait that is not listed here, it is always best to err on the side of caution and include it on the form.
It is strongly advised that a landlord conducts verification processes such as an identity verification or a credit check before entering into a lease agreement with a prospective tenant. This is one of the main ways that a prospective tenant’s personal information becomes crucial. To ensure that these processes are completed smoothly, a landlord should collect the following pieces of information about the potential renter on the rental application:
- Full legal name
- Aliases used in the past 10 years
- Social security number
- Current contact phone number, including a cell phone number
- Email address
- State identification or driver’s license information, including number, state issued and expiration date
The prospective tenant’s birthdate is required to complete most verification processes. This gets tricky for the landlord because the Federal Fair Housing Act states that it is unlawful to specifically ask for a person’s age on a rental application. Only request the prospective tenant’s birthdate if you know that it is needed to perform the verification processes that you need to have on file, and never include a specific field for age on a rental application. This will save you the hassle of a discrimination violation.
Asking for a prospective tenant’s rental history on the rental application will open your eyes to their relationship with previous landlords and their ability to pay rent payments as they are due. A rental history that encompasses their past three residences or past five years is customary.
You will want to collect the following information pertaining to the prospective tenant’s current and previous residences to perform the necessary verifications:
- The street number, street name, city, state, zip code and county of each residence
- The length of time that they lived at each residence
- The landlord’s name at each residence, if it was a rental
- The contact information for the landlord at each residence, if it was a rental
Once you obtain this information, you can use it to ensure that your experience with the applicant will be a positive one. Contact their previous landlords to find out the following:
- The accuracy of the information provided on the rental application
- Their payment history, including frequency of late payments
- Any violations of previous lease agreements
- Record of damages caused by the prospective tenant
- If the applicant’s previous landlords received multiple complaints about the applicant
- The applicant’s adherence to pet policies at previous residences
When it comes to questions about finances, some applicants may be reluctant to answer. As long as the financial questions included on a rental application are legally compliant with local, state, and federal regulations, landlords should take blank spaces in this section as a red flag to entering into a lease agreement.
To find out if the prospective tenant will be able to fulfill the financial obligations of renting your property, the landlord may request the following information on a rental application:
- All current sources of income
- The names of all banks where the applicant holds accounts
- Bank account numbers
- Current balances in all bank accounts
- Credit card information
If an applicant leaves any or all of these fields unanswered on a rental application, some of this information may be obtained through a comprehensive background check.
An applicant’s employment history can be considered a part of their financial history. Generally, a thorough rental application collects the past five years of an applicant’s employment history. Request the following information to get a complete picture of the applicant’s employment experiences:
- Company or business name
- Company or business address
- Telephone number
- Position held by the applicant
- Length of time that the applicant held the position
- Supervisor’s name
As a landlord, you have a right to know exactly who is occupying your rental. This includes potential roommates, whether or not these occupants contribute to monthly rent or other costs of living in the unit. This allows you to ensure that your unit is not overcrowded. In general, limits of occupancy allow for two tenants per bedroom, plus one additional tenant residing in a unit.
You may require each person occupying your rental to complete their own rental application. You may also require all persons occupying your rental to be named on the lease agreement. These are both reasonable requests intended to legally protect you in the event that the lease agreement is violated.
The Federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against families with children. Therefore, a rental application must not include questions about the number of children that will reside in the unit or the names of any child residents. Including questions that are intended to determine if children will be living in the rental is a clear violation of federal law.
Pets are a part of the family, yet can cause endless headaches for a landlord. A landlord has the right to restrict or outright prohibit house pets on the premises. If a landlord decides to allow pets, they should adopt a written pet policy. Their pet policy may restrict breed, size, type of animal, and number of animals allowed in the unit. This policy must be uniformly applied among tenants to prevent accusations of discrimination. You may want to make your policy available to potential tenants during the application process so that they can decide if your unit is a good fit for the furry members of their family. In order to effectively apply your written pet policy, your rental application should gather the following information about an applicant’s pets:
- Vaccination status
- Whether the pet is a male or female
- Whether the pet has been spayed or neutered
- Whether the pet is licensed
- Whether the pet has injured another person in the past, including documentation of the incident
Landlords must make exceptions for service animals. It is unlawful to discriminate against potential residents who own service animals, as stated in the Federal Fair Housing Act.
Some landlords feel that personal references are of limited use on a rental application. While personal references must be taken with a grain of salt, they can be an unexpected resource, providing little-known information about the person who is applying to live in your rental. Applicants will include personal references that will present them in a favorable light. If they fail to provide any personal references, this is a potential red flag to be addressed in an application interview.
In order to conduct a proper reference check, a rental application should request the following information for each reference:
- Current address
- Current telephone number
- Their relationship to the applicant
- Number of years that they have known the applicant
If you decide not to pursue an applicant’s personal references, be sure to do a thorough reference check with their previous landlords and employers to gain the information you need. Conduct your reference checks uniformly for each candidate to ensure that you don’t discriminate inadvertently.
As long as the personal history section of a rental application asks the same questions for each tenant, it can provide a wealth of miscellaneous information for a landlord. In this section, you will want to include any questions that you deem important but have not asked in other sections of the rental application. You may decide to ask:
- Whether the applicant uses any form of tobacco or vapes
- Whether the applicant has previously faced eviction
- Whether the applicant has previously declared bankruptcy
- The criminal status of the applicant
If the applicant answers unfavorably to any of these questions, they must provide a written explanation of their response and be prepared to discuss the issue in an application interview.
All rental properties are unique. Perhaps your property requires additional questions that you need answered before entering into a lease agreement with a prospective tenant. Feel free to include these questions in the personal history section of your rental application, provided that they are asked of all applicants and in compliance with the Federal Fair Housing Act.
Like personal references, some landlords decide to omit the personal statement section of the rental application because it may not offer much usable information. An applicant may provide a personal statement along with their rental application, whether or not the landlord asks for one. If you are one of the lucky landlords who receives a personal statement with a rental application, do not disregard it. The applicant deserves to be taken seriously and might provide must-know information about their financial status or lifestyle that could clue you in on their compatibility with your rental situation.
If you decide to include space for a personal statement, give the opportunity in an open-ended way, providing several lines for the applicant to speak their piece. If an applicant leaves the personal statement blank, it is likely not a cause for concern or additional verification. Many applicants feel awkward providing a personal statement and you may obtain more candid information from them with a face-to-face chat.
The applicant’s signature might be the most important part of the entire rental application. Their signature gives you consent to run all necessary background checks and contact previous landlords, previous employers, and personal references. In addition to a line for the applicant’s signature, this section should include a consent statement so that the applicant understands what they are giving you permission to do. The consent statement should tell the applicant exactly what their signature means. This will include:
- That they have answered all questions on the rental application truthfully
- That they give permission to the landlord to complete required background checks
- That they give permission to the landlord to contact all previous employers, previous landlords or personal references
Collect that signature! If an applicant turns in a rental application without a signature, you do not have permission to verify their identity in any way.
Regulations in Indiana Governing Rental Applications
While states may have identical laws and regulations for rental applications, there are some unique features in the state of Indiana that landlords must know about. Keep in mind that certain municipalities and cities in the state may also have specific local ordinances that may otherwise affect landlords and tenants.
Below are a couple of important information to keep in mind for screening potential tenants as well as processing rental applications in Indiana.
- Indiana allows landlords to require tenants to pay an application fee. This application fee is compensation for the time and effort the landlord is expected to spend in conducting background checks.
- There are no limits as to how much landlords can charge for this fee, and landlords should exercise sound discretion in determining how much to charge applicants.
- Unlike a security deposit, this application is non-refundable. To avoid any problems in the future, landlords may state this piece of information in writing in the consent statement.
- Before running a background check on an applicant, landlords must first get a signed consent form. This consent should be included in the rental applicationt.
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