What renters need to know about reusable rental applications

In today’s competitive rental market, one vacancy can quickly turn into a bidding war among multiple parties. As renters increasingly find themselves applying to multiple units just to stand a chance at finding their next home, reusable rental applications can be the reprieve they need for an otherwise costly situation.

February 20, 2024

5 min read


In today’s competitive rental market, finding and securing an apartment can be a challenge for many renters. Throw in the various fees that come with apartment hunting, including a rental application fee, and renting can quickly become a financial burden for many would-be renters.

According to a recent Zillow consumer trends report, 84% of renters said they paid an application fee in 2023 with two-thirds (66%) of renters saying they submitted two or more applications. With rental application fees ranging anywhere from $25 to as high as $350, applying to multiple properties in the hopes of securing your dream home can be unexpectedly expensive.

One emerging solution to alleviate this cost burden comes in the form of reusable (or portable) rental applications. In this article, we’ll go over what a reusable rental application is, how it can save renters time and money, and when renters can expect to see reusable applications become more widely available.

Rental application fees can be a cost burden

When demand is high in a low supply rental market, renters can find themselves needing to submit multiple rental applications simultaneously in their home search. In Milwaukee, for example, apartment occupancy in 2023 stood at 95.8% with an average of 14 prospective renters competing for just one unit. With each application costing anywhere from $25 to $350, applying to even two apartments can cost applicants a minimum of $50.

Making matters even more challenging is that many rental application fees aren’t refundable in full once they’ve been paid. So for applicants asking themselves “can I get my application fee back if I’m denied?”, it’s highly unlikely they’ll see any of that money once they’ve applied for an apartment. With this in mind, it’s easy to see how money can be an immediate barrier to renters who may be struggling to find a home in a tight market.

How a reusable application can level the playing field

Now imagine a world where renters can fill out an application, pay a one-time fee, and use that completed package to apply for multiple apartments in the span of a month. With a standardized reusable application, renters can improve their chances of finding their next home without breaking the bank. And landlords can quickly get the information they need about an applicant to make an informed decision and minimize vacancies.

In other words, a reusable rental application can reduce the financial strain on renters having to pay for multiple applications and ensure they have a fair shot at securing a home. It also saves renters a significant chunk of time that can be better spent on other activities. Considering a rental application can take anywhere from one hour to several to complete, a reusable application helps expedite the entire rental process and at no additional cost to the landlord.

Recent legislation suggests a positive change for renters

In light of the rising cost of living, some states are taking the necessary steps to help tenants better navigate the rental landscape while mitigating application fees.

California Governor Newsom recently signed into law AB 2559 which seeks to standardize reusable screening applications for rental applications. This bill would reduce the cost burden of multiple application fees and allow renters to share a report prepared by a third-party company with landlords who accept reusable applications. This report includes criminal history checks, eviction history reports, employment verification, and previous addresses and must be prepared within the previous 30 days.

A similar bill in Colorado also calls for landlords accepting reusable applications, known as “portable screening reports”. Under this bill, most landlords would be required to accept a portable report in place of another screening report that they would otherwise charge an application fee for. To reduce chances of fraud, the bill states landlords must receive the screening report directly from the Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) and reports cannot be older than at most 30-days old.

While landlords still need to opt in to accept a portable application, it’s a promising sign for renters that several states are exploring legislation that minimizes application fees. Like any other policy, it’ll take time for landlords and renters to get used to reusable applications but the benefits of recycling reports can no longer be ignored.

Increase your chance of finding a home with RentSpree

Searching for your next apartment is already a stressful experience; with RentSpree Rental Application, we’re making that process just a little bit easier for renters. RentSpree’s easy-to-use, online rental application can be completed on mobile or desktop and paints a comprehensive picture of a tenant’s financial and rental history.

Now, renters have the opportunity to reuse their RentSpree Rental Application and screening package to apply to even more properties without having to fill out a new application every time. For an additional $15, applicants can save and re-share their reusable screening package up to five times a day for the next 30 days. Renters will not only save money but also time, putting themselves in a position to quickly apply to homes as they go on market and increase their chances of being considered by the landlord or listing agent.

Ready to apply to your next home and save time and money while doing so? Apply with RentSpree Rental Application today and show your future landlord why you’re the best candidate for consideration.


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