Apartment Application vs. House Rental Application: What Landlords Need to Know

The Big Picture On House Rentals Vs. Apartment Applications:

Effective tenant screening through comprehensive rental applications is crucial for landlords to safeguard their investment and income.
Recognizing variances between apartment and house rentals, such as space, privacy, maintenance, amenities, cost, and location, is vital for tailoring the screening process.
Landlords must emphasize good neighborliness and adherence to house rules, particularly for apartments, by focusing on noise, pet policies, criminal backgrounds, credit history, eviction records, income verification, employment history, and rental references.

Whether you’re a burgeoning property magnate with a string of properties or just starting out as a landlord, tenant screening remains the most important task you can do. 

To protect your investment and passive income, you must have a completed rental application from your prospective tenants. No ifs, no buts. 

Screenings are an excellent predictor of a tenant’s quality, maximizing your income and saving money, time, and headaches. And you can’t thoroughly check out a tenant without a rental application.

But are all rental applications the same? Is there a difference between the approval process for an apartment rental application and a house rental application?

Spoiler — you need to screen your apartment tenants for good neighborliness.

What’s The Difference Between Renting An Apartment And Renting A House?

At the end of 2023, the US had 44.9 million renter-occupied housing units. This number is also trending up, so the market has plenty of space, and many people are going independent and will go house or apartment hunting for their first residence. 

But what is the difference between renting an apartment and renting a house? While the answer might be obvious, it would be better to discuss the differences to understand why there should be different considerations when leasing them out. 

So, here are the main differences between the two:


Renting a House

Renting an Apartment


Typically offers more space, including outdoor areas.

Generally more compact, with limited outdoor space.


More privacy with fewer shared walls and no neighbors above or below.

Less privacy due to proximity to neighbors.


Renters might be responsible for some outdoor maintenance.

Maintenance is usually handled by building management.


Houses rarely come with amenities like gyms or pools.

Many apartment complexes offer amenities like pools, gyms, etc.


Often more expensive due to size and privacy.

It can be more affordable, especially in urban areas.


Houses are commonly found in quieter residential areas.

Apartments are frequently located in or near city centers.


It usually includes a private driveway or garage.

Might offer parking spaces, often at an additional cost.

Community Facilities

It is less common to have facilities like fitness centers unless part of a housing community.

Often, they have shared facilities like laundry rooms and community spaces.

What To Include In Your Rental Application Process 

Whether it’s an apartment or a house rental application, you need basic information to complete a picture of a tenant.

Make sure your rental application includes these fields:

Number of people moving in, and how many are over 18 years old


Full legal name and contact details


Social security number


Date of birth


Housing history


Current and prior landlord information


Job history


Additional income sources


How many pets they have


How many cars they have




Authorization to do background checks


Application fee statement


Signature field


We offer a free rental application that you can fire off to prospective tenants at the push of a button. You can even include tenant screening reports to help fitting applicants get approved faster. 

To completely ensure you don’t lose money to non-paying tenants, you can buy insurance against them for a few hundred dollars. If the tenant stops paying the rent, the insurance kicks in and starts paying it. Check out Rent Rescue for details.

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Differences in Tenant Screening Criteria for Apartments vs. Detached Single-Family Homes

There are many differences between a house rental and an apartment application. However, you can boil it down to this: landlords must work to keep all the tenants happy in multifamily properties.

Think of an apartment block as a delicate ecosystem. If a disrespectful tenant rents an apartment, everything goes out of whack. Your potential renter might look great on paper, but if they don’t act according to the house rules, they will cause more problems than they are worth.

In apartments, the perfect tenant doesn’t just pay on time and take good care of your property. They also must play nice with their neighbors. So, it bodes well for you to tweak your apartment application to screen out tenants that will cause neighborly issues.

By informing prospective tenants of the house rules up front, you’re clearly conveying your expectations and allowing applicants to decide if your unit is right for them before they view it. To clarify further, here are the fine-print details you must look for. 


If you’ve ever lived in an apartment, you’ll know how noise is a hot-button issue. I still don’t understand how an upstairs neighbor once sounded like they were bowling every night at 2 AM… but they did.

Most places have a hard noise limit, usually from 10 pm to 7 am. You can change this according to your current tenants and previous arrangements. 

Now, if you’re collecting an apartment rental application, include the house rules so applicants can self-sort and not apply if they can’t abide by them. If there are time restrictions on noise, include a quiet hours policy in the apartment application.

You can also ask tenants in an apartment application if they’ve had issues with neighbors or landlords. Ensure to collect references from previous landlords, not just their current ones.

Their current landlord might be so desperate to get a shot of them that they’ll give them a glowing reference!


Whether it’s a house rental application or an apartment application, you should ask about a prospective renter’s pets. Even in a detached single-family home, pets can cause above-average wear and tear or damage to your property. And a barking dog tied up all day in a yard will drive an entire neighborhood to fury.

But especially in apartments, your tenants’ furry pride and joy can be their immediate neighbor’s barking nightmare. Plus, you may forbid pets altogether or pets of a particular size.

If you’re dealing with an apartment application, include a clear pet policy. Now, if pets are not allowed in the house rules, clarify before showing the vacant rental unit. If pets are allowed but with restrictions, ask prospective tenants how many pets they have, including their breed and size.

Criminal Background

A criminal background check is essential to protecting yourself, your property, and your passive income. So, you should always include one, whether it’s a house rental or apartment application. But in a multifamily property, violent or drug-slinging tenants prove a bigger concern.

Of course, you must adhere to the Fair Housing Act and weigh the evidence carefully when deliberating. However, criminal tenants can be downright dangerous to nearby tenants. People will move out in droves if criminal activity, like drug dealing, happens on the property.

Check potential tenants’ criminal backgrounds carefully for any red flags. Contact all previous landlords if they’ve had any out-of-hand conflicts with neighbors.

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What Background Checks Should Landlords Run with a Rental Application?

You can have the most perfect and complete apartment application known to man. But sadly, it’s not enough to protect your property and its neighbors from terrible tenants. To get the big picture, you must run proper background checks to ensure your prospective tenants are the real deal.

Credit History Check

Knowing if the applicant has good credit or bad credit is an essential first step in reviewing rental applications.

If you get a full credit score check with every rental application, you’ll save yourself a fortune in missed rent payments later. Ensure that the applicant obtains written permission to run these checks, such as a clause at the end of the application form. (Our free rental application includes authorization; you get the tenant screening reports simultaneously.)

Go through each credit score report with a fine-toothed comb. Large debts are a massive red flag because they may affect the potential tenant’s ability to pay the rent regardless of income. Take note of any late payments, unpaid accounts, bankruptcies,  judgments, and any other credit score items against them

Again, credit and background checks are essential when sifting through people applying for an apartment or house rental. They might not cover everything you need and may add to the rental application process time, but they will give you a good idea of the potential renter’s ability to pay rent reliably and on time. This, in turn, will save you from a ton of headaches managing your rental properties in the future. 

Eviction Checks

The alarm bells should ring if a prospective tenant has been evicted before. Eviction is the last resort and a lengthy, costly, and stressful process that should be avoided at all costs. Protect your income by conducting eviction checks for every house rental and apartment application.

You may also want to determine whether the eviction was due to failure to pay rent on time, criminal activity, or lease violations. If it takes too long, though, or if you’re already set on removing the candidate from the list, don’t bother. 

Criminal Checks

As I’ve said before, criminal background and credit checks are required when evaluating applicants for rental properties. But it bears repeating that you should run full criminal checks to know exactly what you’re dealing with. In multifamily homes, you may be putting other tenants at risk.

Verifying Income and Employment

Taking a potential tenant’s rental application at face value is not enough. You must also verify their income and employment history and check the results against their application. You should ask yourself the following questions:

Have they moved jobs a lot? How many companies or employers have they had in the past year alone?

Does their current income cover the rent plus normal living expenses for the area?


How does their income measure up against their debts on the credit check?

This verification step is important for landlords or property managers, as it shows how capable the applicant is of paying the security deposit or rental in a timely manner. 

Verifying Rental History with Past Landlords

Don’t take any written landlord references as fact—always follow up by getting the contact information of their current and past landlords. Tenants must provide references from past landlords to complete the rental application. Ensure they have a good rental history, have paid on time, and follow the property’s rules.

When screening tenants for multifamily properties, take reasonable care to ask about any neighbor disputes, noise complaints, or other signs that aren’t suitable for the property.

Who Needs to Fill Out the Application Forms?

Even if it’s a house rental application, you still need to ask how many adults aged 18 or over will live there. That’s because every adult must fill out an application so that you know exactly who is living on your property. This will allow you to screen everyone who is responsible for the rent.

What about if someone is co-signing the lease, like the parents of a college student tenant? Each co-signer must complete an application form and undergo your screening process, even if they aren’t living there. If your tenant can’t pay their rent, you’ve already checked that the co-signers can.

Should Landlords Charge an Apartment Application Fee?

No one likes asking tenants to pay an application fee, but they are necessary to protect your investment and income. It’s an option, though, to have applicants pay any tenant screening fees directly instead of having to collect them.

You can generally charge around $20-$75 for the fee, but some landlords charge up to $100.

One important thing: before the renter pays the application fee, you must be clear that it is non-refundable. 

Our free rental application allows you to include credit reports, criminal checks, and eviction reports, which you can charge the applicant directly!

Over to You

Whether it’s an apartment rental application or a house rental application, you still need to include basic information to protect your precious passive income. But completing rental applications isn’t enough—you must also complete tenant screenings.

There are minor differences in what you should include in an apartment and a house rental application. In multifamily properties, landlords must keep all the tenants happy. That means screening apartment tenants a little more carefully.

When so many live in units that share at least one wall, noise is a bigger factor than in a stand-alone house. The same goes for tenants with pets, which may be against house rules. And tenants with certain criminal histories don’t only pose a potential risk to you — they also pose a potential risk to their neighbors.

So, apply all the steps above, take advantage of our free tools, save yourself thousands of dollars in unpaid rent, and make property management a breeze. 

Any apartment vs. stand-alone rental experiences to share? How do you screen tenants for neighborliness? Let us know in the comments!

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The post Apartment Application vs. House Rental Application: What Landlords Need to Know appeared first on SparkRental.

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