What Miscellaneous Questions Should be Asked on a Standard Rental Application?

January 5th, 2021
What Miscellaneous Questions Should be Asked on a Standard Rental Application?

This isn't your first rental rodeo. You already know that you need to ask applicants the basic questions on your rental application. You've covered income, rental history, pet policies, and more. Yet with these standard rental application questions, you still feel like you're missing the "bigger picture" on developing a cohesive view of your potential resident. Legally, there are many questions that you can't ask to avoid discriminatory practices, but did you know there are many different miscellaneous rental application questions you actually can use to learn more about a renter?

Here are some ideas to help you think outside of the box and let you know what miscellaneous questions should be asked in a standard rental application.

How did you hear about this rental?

This great question can give you information for more than one purpose. First, if the renter was referred by a former tenant or industry ally, this can speak to the responsibility and reliability of the applicant. Referrals are excellent screening tools for landlords and property managers. Additionally, finding out exactly how an applicant found your property can help with future marketing and recruitment efforts. Learn if people are finding your property on Google or an apartment listing service, or if instead, they noticed a sign while driving by a location.

Why are you moving?

This rental application question can help guide property managers to better understand what a new tenant may be looking for, as well as provide insight into the character of the potential renter. If a renter is moving due to a job change or upgrade, an expanding family, or the desire to be in a quieter area -- this information can help shed insight into the personality of the person or persons applying. In addition, if the information doesn't match the property, such as someone seeking extra room but requesting a studio apartment, inconsistencies can help determine if there are potential red flags in the lease application. You'll also want to dive deeper if the applicant uses this question to complain about former landlords or neighbors, especially if they did not have an option to renew a lease at another location.

How many vehicles do you own?

It's easy to get caught up on details like how many people will be living at a location, but it's good policy to ask about how much stuff will be moving with them. For many locations, parking is in high demand. A tenant with four vehicles would likely have to store at least some of these offsite. Even in residential locations, excess vehicles may create issues with neighbors or city parking ordinances if there is not enough space available.

How many people smoke in your household?

While it's common to have a non-smoking policy for indoor consumption, you must remember that smoke also carries outdoors. If there's a potential issue of outdoor smoke annoying other tenants or neighbors such as balcony to balcony, you may want to limit the number of smokers in each unit. Additionally, you could extend your nonsmoking policy to include the entire property, not just indoor use.

Additionally, it's legal in many states for persons to smoke both medicinal and recreational marijuana. You may not want to add a blanket ban on this practice, as there are medical reasons a person may require relief -- so consult with a loal lawyer first on this one. When it comes to recreational use, however, most states have guidelines about public marijuana consumption that will cover common areas. In addition, marijuana is now available in many different non-smoked forms both recreationally and medicinally, so a non-smoking policy can still leave open many legal options to renters without being overly restrictive.

Why should we rent to you?

This rental application question seems so simple, but it's a very basic option for a rental applicant to make their case. While the answer need not be eloquent or a professional level essay, a responsible renter should be able to provide you some basic info as to why they are the right fit for your property or community. A failure to be able to describe their good rental qualities, or even to express their ardent desire for your rental opportunity should raise some questions. After all, if the applicant doesn't know why they are worth a chance, how can you know any better?

Standard rental application questions must always cover the basics, but your miscellaneous questions and answers can provide fantastic insight in a fair and legal manner to help everyone get a more complete understanding of the parties involved.