Rental application process

7 Replies

Hi everyone,

I'm closing in on becoming a first time landlord!  I was wondering what process others follow for processing tenant applications?  If I plan to have an open house to allow multiple potential tenants to see the property, in the event that I get multiple applications, what is the best/most fair way to work through the applications?

Would you collect an application fee for each applicant, run all the reports, and select the most qualified tenant?  If so, would you return application fees for the other applicants?

Or would you process the applications on a first come first serve basis and take the first tenant who passes the approval process?  Again in this case, would you return any application fees?

Appreciate any advice you can offer.



Following a policy of first come, first qualified, first served is generally the best policy to follow as it exposes you to less to running afoul of fair housing laws. 

Updated about 1 year ago

Following a policy of first come, first qualified, first served is a better policy to follow as it reduces the risk that you will run afoul of fair housing laws. (Updated due to grammatical error in my previous post).

quite a few landlords use online screening tools like BP has an online tool too and cozy com would be fine too.

First thing I would do is set your qualifications of what you will and will not accept as a landlord. Set those qualifications and do not deviate from them. Have them stapled to the application and make sure they all know what you will and will not accept. This is SUPER important because if you change or deviate from this it can be construed as a fair housing or discrimination violation on a person's rights. Not saying  you would intentionally would but you never know what people think.

If you are not sure where to start or what you should or should not know you can PM me and I would be happy to share ours with you. We have a 1% eviction rate with over 750 properties in Houston and Dallas. If anything could be a good starting point for you

I would select the best candidate even if they are not the first applicant. I would only tell the rejected tenants if they inquire that we filled the apartment. I would only run a credit and background check if the tenant(s) passes your basic screening criteria. So if they do not meet your income requirements for instance or disclose something to you at the open house that makes you not want to rent to them I would not bother doing a credit or background check.

Hi Eric,

Make sure you have a written set of criteria. This ensures you have have a fair method for choosing a tenant. You are supposed to choose the first qualified tenant that applies and to go in order of the applications received. 

Do you plan on using an online applications? It's a lot safer way to store tenant's personal information. I see a lot more tenants shy away from filling out paper applications. That may really help! 

Thanks everyone for the advice, much appreciated!

I recently reviewed Texas law pertaining to applications. It seems that you must have your criteria in writing. If you do not and people pay an application fee and have no chance of being approved, there could be a bit of legal trouble if the application fee is not returned.

Also, it helps you not waste time with non-qualified applicants.

Good luck! :-)

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