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Dear PoPville – What Info Do I Need to Rent my Place? Where do I find a Sample Application and Lease Agreement?

by Prince Of Petworth May 12, 2011 at 2:30 pm 26 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user owash

“Dear PoP,

After many months of trying to sell my place to no avail, I have decided to rent. Of course, I’ve had immediate response from folks looking to rent. So, I am trying to figure out what an application and lease should look like and how to do a credit check. Any advice on where to find those things?”

Anyone have stock language or know where to find sample lease info? Who do you get to perform a credit check?

  • Chalk

    My realtor actually stepped in to help me rent my condo. He provided me with a standard DC lease and took care of the credit check. I paid $35 for the credit check processing fee and sent him a bottle of wine. Simple and easy.

  • Anonymous

    Before you even think about a lease and credit check, first you need a Basic Business License to be a legal landlord; then, you need to get a DCRA inspection of your condo.

    • PetworthRes

      OR…you could do none that stuff.

      Seems to me like the overall opinion is it’s not worth the hassle.


      • Tres

        You have no idea what you’re talking about. Other PoP-ers have posted nightmare scenarios about judges who’ve turned down illegal landlords’ pleas for eviction point blank. I remember that one poster’s relative had to buy out their non-paying tenants. So not only do you have a squatter for months on end, you end up throwing down 10’s of thousands of dollars to get them out.

        The bottom line is that an illegal landlord has almost no rights in court, whereas a legal one does. Is that worth the $200 fee?

        • lilnemo

          Right on! This is 100% accurate – and there are tenants out there who know this and take advantage of this! Get the basic business license – it is a hassle, but it is a hassle worth going through because it prevents bigger hassles in the future.

  • Dustin

    I’ve got a friend who has used an online service such as http://www.e-renter.com/ He says it worked well and you can have the prospective tenant can pay fee directly to the website doing the credit and background check. There are other similar web services out there that do the same thing.

  • Emmaleigh504

    You can probably find forms online or at your local library. Most libraries have books with all sort of sample forms.

  • Ken


    • Tres

      +1 Easy to use. It automatically throws in all the laws pertaining yo you locale as well.

  • Mt P Resident

    You can use https://www.mysmartmove.com/, which allows you to set up an account where propective tenants submit information that allows you to see their credit report & criminal history background. You can set it up such that the payment ($35, I think) comes from you or from them. It’s pretty handy.

  • landlord

    I used accurate credit, accuratecredit.com. they have applications, etc. It is kind of a routine setting up an account, though. But they charge I think 20 for credit and 30 for full credit/criminal etc. you can find a ton of leases just by googling, there is also a landlord resource center online that has forms for free. a little googling gets you lots of free options for forms. Let me safe you some strife: dont rent to anyone w credit less than 700. period. and if their credit comes up blank, don’t rent to them no matter how many excuses they have. following this one rule will eliminate 99% of bad tenants.

  • Anonymous

    Have your tenants pull their own credit reports, incl. FICO score, and then provide them with rental applications — that saves you the hassle of jumping through the hoops needed to do it.

    As for application materials, what you really want to verify is (1) employment and income (ask for employers for last 3 years, salary, and last two paystubs — see if they are saving for retirement and have health insurance covered); (b) rental history (ask where they lived, landlord contact, and rent paid … then actually call the landlord to verify it); and (c) the credit stuff (should tell you how much student, credit card, auto payment, etc. debt they have — balance this against their take home pay to make sure there’s enough to pay the rent; don’t rent to anyone who’s been referred to a collection agency).

    Probably a few places to get a lease, but ask one of your friends who rents for a copy of theirs. with 3-4 in hand, you can come up with one that you like.

    • LisaT

      Insurance and retirement? Really? Is that standard now? That seems awfully nosy to me. No owner has ever asked that of us, and now that we own, I wasn’t planning to ask our future tenant. Are people really doing that?

      • Emmaleigh504

        I’ve never had anyone ask me for all that either, and if they did, I’d find some where else to rent. That’s a lot of hassle and a lot of nosy.

        I was a little shocked when I went apartment hunting here and some places asked for references from the last places I rented. I didn’t have all their contact info, so I ended up not even looking at places that asked for anything more than a credit check.

      • man-child

        I would never rent from a landlord that asks for that.

        I provide my own credit report, and I will show that I have 6 months worth of rent already in the bank. Anyone who wants more than that can blow me.

        I don’t make a lot of money, but I have a lot of money saved and generated from investments. If my liquidity is not good enough for a landlord, it indicates that the landlord is going to be a pain in the ass.

        From a landlord perspective (which I have been in the past), I make sure that I am comfortable with what they have available. If they don’t have proof of a reasonable income or reasonable savings, I will ask for a guarantor’s information and signature (notarized).

        I also always put in there that I could give two months notice that they had to move out (due to unpaid rent or the need to sell the unit), and as a renter, I always want a two months “out” clause in case I have to move.

        They key is to be reasonable on both sides, go with your gut on a tenant and make sure you feel adequately comfortable.

      • Lala

        Agreed, why would they need to provide retirement/insurance info? I’ve rented and rented out my apt in the past and no one has ever asked me for that kind of information. Employment, pay stubs, rental history, credit and references are the types of things you should ask of a renter. Paying the rent is more important than knowing if they’re putting away for retirement.

      • Anonymous

        No — I guess I wasn’t clear about that. I’m saying you can see from their paystubs whether they’re withholding for that sort of stuff, which generally is a pretty good indicator of where they stand financially. Someone saving a lot for retirement probably is on pretty solid financial ground and not a very big risk to stiff you on the rent. Health insurance is a little different — but basically it is a relevant data point that tells you that, in the unlikely event of some catastrophic medical emergency, you’re not going to be SOL if your tenant gets crushed by medical bills.

        These are very, very minor points, but the information can be gleaned from most paychecks, which you should get anyway. And if you’re a small-time landlord (as I am), you should be pretty interested in whether a prospective tenant faces any risk that they won’t be able to pay the rent, because the reality is that it will be very costly for you to get that rent if other tenant debts get in the way. So I’m just saying you actually can get a lot more from a paystub than just take-home pay and verification of employment and you might as well take that information into consideration. I’d never base a tenant selection on just that stuff, but given two completely equal tenants, one of whom was having 1000/mo withheld for retirement and the other with 0, I’d probably take it the former is in a better financial position.

        • LisaT

          I can definitely see where you’re coming from, but I can’t even begin to imagine putting away $1k a month. That would be nice, but far from realistic in 2011/this economy/income-to-debt ratio of most people I know (myself included).

  • joker

    I never requested credit checks or tracking down past employers or references when I would rent out my property.

    I would also require first and last months rent, with a full months rent as security deposit, all up front…which came out to about 6K.

    I figured the high cost of entry was protection against deadbeats and it worked for me. That if you could front that much money, then you weren’t hard up. Only had one in a dozen years.

  • Pennyworth

    http://dclibrary.org/node/192 Legal Forms Online

    • anon

      Thanks for the link!

  • Jose Carioca

    I don’t see any need to make the credit bureaus any more dominant in life than they already are. I don’t charge an application fee for my English basement. I just get two personal references, verify steady employment, and (I think most importantly) verify the prospective tenant’s good standing with the prior landlord. Spending a half an hour or so making a few phone calls has resulted in excellent tenants and has not put a dime in the credit bureaus’ bloated pockets.

  • Anonymous

    Be kind to people with student loan debt. I was turned down for an apartment because of it… even though I have a year’s worth of rent saved, plus a steady full-time job with benefits and part-time job on the weekends; literally, the only debt I have is graduate school student loans.

    I don’t know what type of person the guy was expecting to live in his basement unit. For the size, space and location, I imagine the only people wanting to rent it would be current students or those just out of school… aka, those with student loan debt.

  • am2o

    Make sure you get references, or at least have a good feeling about whom you rent to:

    My ex pushed for renting to a woman she knew. The woman is married to someone on probation, and whose family had reported him as dead to the local paper where he was from.

    Rent is consistently late. When there was a leak in the house, she “hired” someone to fix it for 2K without a receipt. It’s late enough in the term that it’s not worth the effort of evicting.

    Our previous tenants were a couple that had moved here after school & whom I had been comfortible with. 5 years, on time, told us in advance about issues (before they got big) & are a lovely couple.

    • am2o

      Note: no, the main leak was not fixed. (It was caused by a firework stuck in a downspout.) The renter had tried to get someone to fix it “immediately”, before I could get known roofers in for an estimate. (~1.5 weeks)

  • eli

    I am a landlord for 3+ years now. Use e-renter.com and always get the background check and credit score. Always verify employment. Employed renters are easier to deal with than students, in my experience. I have also rented to Section 8, which is a more lengthy process bc you do need inspection.

    My understanding is that is you are renting a single unit and have a C of O, you do not need business license or DCRA inspection. If it is a new unit/new construction you may need inspection to get the C of O.

    What I have learned; standard lease is fine. Mine is adapted from my friend the realtor’s. Make sure it says WAIVER OF NOTICE TO QUIT. That shaves 30 days off the eviction process. Also good idea to put a clause in the lease requiring the renter to purchase renter’s insurance. They may or may not do so, but it helps protect you from liability.


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