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Rental Application Tips for Renters

September 22, 2023

Smart Renters Guide

Sometimes in life, it’s all about winning. 2nd place just doesn’t cut it. And in the rental market, only one applicant will win the lease.

It’s a tough market for house and apartment renters of recent.  Low rental supply, too much competition, high utility bills, fast rising rent prices, unrealistic credit rating demands, and more barriers to renting make renters feel discouraged.

Build Your Renter Profile

You’ll need to build a stronger renter profile to be selected to sign the lease. Get organized and you can do it!

There’s a lot written about tenant screening and selection criteria, but the landlord’s decision when choosing among many equally qualified renters is often a personal one. It doesn’t mean discrimination, but more a focus on character, attitude, responsibility, and reliability — the overall profile of the applicant.

Landlords do have their challenges including renter non-payment, payment delays, tenant churn, rising insurance rates, cost management, costly evictions, and more that could ruin their investment.

It’s better to put away your skepticism and focus on getting all the details organized to give yourself an edge in the rental wars.

Landlords are Choosey About Who They Rent To

Landlords have all the power, however they must find reliable, rent paying tenants and ask good questions. Smart landlords are looking for tenants with a steady income, solid rent payment history, multiple earners in the unit, good background check and credit check, and high salary to ensure there are no disruptions in their cash flow going forward.

They’re smart business people.

Many landlords were financially injured during the pandemic. They had to take a loss during that period which has affected their current financial status, and business processes.

Other rental owners survived, but now are faced with renter affordability issues, rent controls, building and tenancy regulations, increased taxes and financing/operations costs.  And their current tenants may quit their leases — because they can’t afford the apartment or house any longer.

There are plenty of cross currents in the landlord’s business financial flows and there is risk for them in leasing to poorly selected tenants. This risk isn’t appreciated by tenants or by the media who have portrayed landlords as heartless wealthy villains.


The relationship you’re trying to build with prospective landlords is a professional business relationship.  They’re going to be particular regarding details, income verification, credit checks, background checks, and will interview you to be very sure you’re an acceptable renter for them.


You’ve got more positives going for you than you think. And other renters face the same challenge. Going into your apartment search, you must build a positive state of mind.

How to Be the Best Rental Applicant

Yes, think of yourself as the ideal renter and build every possible signal that you’re the best.  A lot of it is impression management, proven reliability, and ability to pay rent. Tenant interview questions and casual conversations could cover a lot of ground.

Be sure you’re ready for questions from the landlord about anything. For instance, they might ask how you handled getting a notice that you had to move out within two months (they sold the property). How did you feel and what did you do? Were you full of resentment or did you face it constructively?

They do want to know if you’re going to be a problem and this may be a bigger selection factor than you realize. Of course, there are rules and regulations in your city/state.  Yet landlords want to know things and they’ll look you up online, review all your material for gaps/errors, and ensure the big picture of you is consistent and valid.

It’s not just about paying rent. They don’t want trouble.

Factors to Fortify in Your Profile:

  • good rent history — have written documentation showing rent paid on time through the years
  • character and reliability: business and personal references — get the best references and in writing if possible
  • ability to pay — good work history, and make it look stable without fudging dates
  • diligence: complete application — it’s all digital and errors and omissions will be found
  • more than enough income — present and discuss your financial status if it’s positive
  • diligence and conscientiousness — your credit history and proven willingness to pay debts each month on time
  • landlord references — discuss with current landlord how you’ve been tidy, clean, responsible, and cooperative so they’ll convey that when they’re interviewed

And your preparation to lease from them says a lot about what will happen in the years ahead. It’s these preparations that say more about you as a prospective tenant. Be prepared for everything and you’ll be continuously ahead of other applicants who slack off and make mistakes.

27 Questions, Topics, and other Matters to Cover:

Your quest is to investigate, answer, and understand the details of your ability to rent.

  1. how long do you typically stay in a rental lease?
  2. do you appear to be a long-term renter, or just filling a gap?
  3. are you easy to reach, immediately?
  4. do you have your rent/security deposit ready for them right now?
  5. do you have your rent payment history ready for them to view?
  6. have you completed the rental application thoroughly and completely?
  7. what is your current job title?
  8. how long have you been with your current employer and will you qualify for unemployment insurance payments?
  9. are you self-employed working gig jobs and are you proving your ability to pay as we enter a recession?
  10. how many income earners will be living in the unit?
  11. how much is your gross salary and net income?
  12. what is your current salary per month?
  13. what does your credit history and rating look like?
  14. can you explain the negative events on your credit rating?
  15. do you have multiple past landlord references?
  16. what will landlords say about your cleanliness, behavior, and attitude?
  17. do you have all your paperwork ready to present professionally in a folder? (your organization and show of respect/consideration for them speaks volumes)
  18. what impression will the landlord get when they check you out online?
  19. what impression will the landlord get about your intended co-renters when checked out online?
  20. do you start the conversation with landlords on a friendly note?
  21. are you speaking in a pleasant calm tone and wearing nice clothes in meeting with landlord?
  22. do you have things you liked about your previous landlords ready to share with them?
  23. how do you describe your past rentals, landlords, and preferred living location?
  24. how far do you live from where you want to rent?
  25. are you ready to pay several months rent up front?
  26. do you have important questions about the rental and its monthly costs and condition prepared?
  27. have you read up on how to be an awesome tenant?

That sums up our guide to being the best renter applicant.

If you think about and prepare all the details, your application will seem to be the truest to the landlord. If you thought your income to debt ratio would ruin your chances, you might find that one criterion does not make a winning bid.

Keep on smiling and you’ll be the one the landlord wants.

Learn more about the challenges landlords face and ask better questions in your inquiry and interview. Empathy for their goals is one way to get them on your side.

Check out all the powerful features for landlords and tenants in the ManageCasa Rental Platform.

The ManageCasa blog has many tips for professional level tenant management. See more on how to write great vacancy listings, write a lease, onboard tenants, evict tenants, select great tenants, create tenant benefit packages, and make tenants happy.


More on the ManageCasa blog:  Property Management Software | Property Management Guide | Small Landlord Software | Top Landlord Mistakes | Landlord Software Features | Landlord Accounting Tips | Landlord Accounting Software | Landlord Challenges | Tenant Landlord Issues | Mobile Landlord Tools | Landlord Reputation Management | Enjoyable Landlord Software | Simple Landlord Software | Rent Negotiation for Landlords | Landlord Support | Landlord Tax Deductions | Landlord BookkeepingProperty Market ResetLandlord Software Features

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