What do landlords look for in lease applications?

Whether you are a property manager or a rental agent screening potential tenants for your client, you’ll want to think like a landlord when vetting your next renter. What do landlords look for in lease applications? What questions are they asking themselves when they’re reviewing a stack of hopeful tenants? We’ll help you develop a systematic approach to the evaluation process so that you can make more reliable decisions.

May 22, 2023

4 min read


There’s no getting past it; when looking for that perfect tenant, you need to go through the rental application process. When you look through lease applications on behalf of the landlord, you are responsible for vetting and properly screening applicants. In the end, you are not making the final decision for the landlord but are just facilitating the process.

When looking through rental applications, you want to be as thorough as possible. To help with this process, we have compiled some of the most important things to look at when reviewing applications:

  1. Is the lease application completely filled out?
  2. Is the information on the application accurate?
Lease application clipboard with checkmarks

1. Is the lease application filled out?

A recurring issue found on lease applications is missing information. While sometimes you are inclined to give an applicant the benefit of the doubt, you shouldn’t under any circumstances accept an incomplete application.In some cases, an applicant will leave blank fields if they’re lazy or just made a mistake. However, the ones you need to watch out for are the ones who leave crucial information like income or residence histories blank. When applicants leave this information blank, it is a big red flag and they could be doing it for the following reasons:

  1. Previous eviction
  2. Not enough income
  3. Unfavorable residence history
  4. Inconsistencies in employment

When you encounter blank fields on a lease or rental application, you should take that as a signal to investigate it further. Empty fields can be a sign that an applicant is trying to hide something unfavorable, and is also why you can’t afford to overlook anything.

To help prevent this, learn to recognize the red flags even out of an application. When you are not satisfied with information found on an application, take this as a sign to speak with the applicant about it. If he or she still refuses to supply you with sufficient information, then you should seriously consider moving forward with another applicant. Taking shortcuts with the leases application can make you look bad in front of the landlord. Even worse, the landlord might be saddled with a problem tenant because you didn’t collect the required information. Can you imagine a worse impression to make with your clients?

2. Is the information on the lease application accurate?

Don’t assume the information you find on an application is correct. When an applicant fills out an application the information is not always 100 percent because it is their subjective truth.Verify all your applicants. It’s the landlord's property, but if you vet applicants properly, you can give the best service you can to the landlord.

Common ways to verify the information on lease applications are to:

Cross-reference with tenant screening reports:

Cross-reference applications by making sure they match with tenant consumer reports. These reports are factual sources that come from consumer reporting agencies that supply: credit report, background checks, and eviction reports from public records.

When you start finding discrepancies between a rental application and a tenant screening report, that alone should warrant an investigation.

Inconsistent information is a red flag, and some of the common cases include:

  1. An applicant’s name
  2. Prior addresses
  3. Employers
  4. Criminal records
  5. Eviction records
  6. Financial information

For example, an applicant indicates that they have no criminal history on their lease application. However, through a criminal background check, you find that they do have a criminal background. From this check, you conclude that the applicant had been hiding information and is also likely to be lying about other information. An applicant caught lying is very unfavorable, and you may not want to rent to a tenant who tends to be dishonest.

Person dialing telephone about the lease application

Contact references

From employers to family members, you can get a clear understanding of an applicant from speaking with contacts. Whether through email or a call, verifying a reference’s legitimacy is also a must. In the worst-case scenario, an applicant will give out fake references, or have someone pretend to be a reference. Spotting these red flags can give you a good idea of what is expected of an applicant. If they’re willing to be dishonest with references, then they might be dishonest elsewhere. Pay attention to the details and don’t get caught by a bad applicant.

Hand passing lease application to another hand

Collect supplemental documents

Want to verify an applicant further? Ask for more documentation. Whether it is checking income or employment, you can always ask an applicant for supplemental documents. From W-2s to paystubs, this information can be just as important as consumer reports when it comes to verifying an applicant.

Remember, before signing leases, make sure that you verify that the information is accurate. Discrepancies should always be looked at, to make sure an applicant is not trying to deceive you. If you ever find yourself in a situation where an applicant is dishonest with you, it is a wise decision to move on to another applicant.

When you provide a lease application to a landlord along with proof that the information has been verified, you will be a hero to that landlord.


In the end, you want to make sure you collect as much information as you can about an applicant. If anything looks out of place, you should thoroughly investigate. When you are working on behalf of landlords, be sure that all applicants are properly screened to help the landlord as much as possible. A relationship with a landlord can be extremely important to your business, so make sure you handle the lease application process properly. Going the extra mile to collect a complete and accurate lease application will greatly impress your client.


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