planning to rent?

A Sample Rental Application

prepare for yourself here

An Interactive Tool
prepared and posted 12-2008; note that laws change and forms may be revised at any time


The Fair Housing Council (FHCO) has used the Oregon Rental Housing Association’s (http://www.oregonrentalhousing.com) (ORHA) and the Metro Multifamily Housing Association’s (http://www.metromultifamily.com) (MMHA) Rental Applications as sample rental application forms.

PLEASE NOTE: We do not sell these, or any other, form. The application form used here as a sample, along with other rental forms, may be purchased through Oregon Rental Housing Association (http://www.oregonrentalhousing.com) and Metro Multifamily Housing Association’s (http://www.metromultifamily.com) (MMHA).

It is our aim is to demystify the process of filling out a rental application by providing tips and instructions you can use in filling out this or other similar rental application forms.  We provide this material to assist you in becoming an informed renter with an understanding of what will be asked of you and why, in order to help you protect your rights as a housing consumer.

In addition to hyperlinked tips and instructions specific to this form, we have provided you with additional links throughout this document with more general renting information and definitions.

The FHCO would like to give special thanks to the industry professionals, advocates, and colleagues who helped provide the material for this interactive forms project!

Jump to the:

Interactive Sample Rental Application now

View the Sample Rental Application in:

Arabic (ORHA form) Chinese (ORHA form) French (ORHA form)
Korean (MMHA form) Lao (MMHA form) Russian (ORHA form)
Spanish (ORHA form) Vietnamese (ORHA form)  

Contents of this Page:

Questions About Your Credit?
What Are Landlords Looking For?
What to Expect When Filling out a Rental Application
General Recommendations
Additional Words of Caution
About the ORHA and MMHA Rental Application Forms
Using this Interactive Tool

return to top of page

If you have questions about your credit:

  • For a list of Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-approved housing counseling agencies by state visit http://www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/hcc/hcs.cfm.
  • If you feel you have been a victim of predatory lending, contact the Oregon Dept. of Consumer and Business Services Division of Finance and Corporate Securities at 866/814-9710, or http://dfcs.oregon.gov.  
  • Visit our Preparing to Rent, Credit, & Financial Literacy page at
    www.FHCO.org/prep_to_rent.htm for more information.

return to top of page

What Are Landlords Looking For?

Landlords want renters who will do the following:

  • Pay rent on time
  • Not cause damage (nothing beyond “normal wear and tear”)
  • Not disturb neighbors
  • Abide by all rules and regulations
  • Avoid illegal activity

From your rental application (and any credit and/or background checks) the landlord will attempt to determine if you will likely pay your rent on time, abide by all rules and regulations, avoid damage to the property, avoid disturbances to your neighbors, and engage in no illegal activity. If you want to be accepted as a tenant you will want to reassure your landlord that there will be no problems in any of those five areas.

return to top of page

What to Expect When Filling Out a Rental Application:

Your landlord may accept your application during a face-to-face appointment, over the telephone, through the mail, or via the internet. You should read and review the entire form, as well as any addenda or attachments, very carefully.  Be certain that you fill it out completely, that you thoroughly understand it before signing it, and that all of the information is accurate.

If you are unable to read or write you have the right to take the application home and get help from someone you know or an assistance agency. You may also choose to take the application with you to fill out later if all of the necessary information is not readily available to you. You should know that it is possible that someone else may come, apply, and rent the unit you were considering in the meantime so be sure to stay in touch with the potential landlord and return the completed application to him/her as soon as possible.

Never sign a legal document with blanks not filled in or “scratched out” as unscrupulous individuals could alter the document without your knowledge, making it look as if you had signed it with the information s/he had added. Both you and your landlord will sign the original application; be sure you get a copy of the signed contract as well. Note: You should obtain a copy of any document you sign at the time you sign the document; that way you will know you have received an accurate copy of what you signed and not something that may have been subsequently altered.

You should know that many landlords will deny you simply for leaving blanks on your application form empty, the reason being that they want complete and comprehensive information on you and your history before making a decision on whether to rent to you or not. If you’re unable to answer a question on the application, at the very least you should write “not applicable,” “information available upon request,” or if absolutely necessary, “unknown.” You may also choose to write a separate letter to explain a special circumstance; just be sure you write “see attached letter” on your application.

return to top of page

General Recommendations:

Never sign any document you don't understand or that has blank lines that are not filled in or otherwise crossed out. Your rental application asks for information about you and your history that is designed to allow your potential landlord to determine whether or not you will be a good renter.

Based on the information you provide, s/he will most likely run a background check on you to check your credit and criminal histories. S/he may contact your previous landlords to ask for a recommendation on you, how well you kept the property, and whether or not you paid the rent on time, etc. By signing the application form, you’re agreeing to allow these investigations. At the time you submit your application to your potential landlord, s/he will most likely require you to pay an application charge. If your landlord’s application charge is a “deposit,” you should know that deposits are refundable in certain circumstances (make sure you understand what those circumstances are before paying the deposit). “Fees” are not refundable; so if the landlord’s application charge is a fee you should not expect to get that money back.

Note that it is legal under the state Landlord / Tenant Act for landlords to discriminate against applicants based on: past landlord references, criminal background, credit history, insufficient income, etc. These are a few examples of when a landlord might legally reject an applicant with cause – while the landlord is discriminating in these situations, these are notillegal forms of discrimination under fair housing laws. Landlords are advised to review each application in the order received and use consistent criteria in screening applications to avoid running afoul of fair housing laws.

Landlords can legally evict renters under state landlord / tenant law because of: late rent, disturbing neighbors, damage to property, illegal activity, etc. These are a few examples of when a landlord might evict a resident with cause – while the landlord is discriminating in these situations, but these are notillegal forms of discrimination under fair housing laws. Rules and procedures should be consistent and penalties for breaking the rental contract or community rules should be based on the bad behavior and treated consistently regardless of protected class status.

For more information on Oregon’s Landlord / Tenant Act visit:

For more information on Washington’s Landlord / Tenant Act visit:

It’s advisable to know what each potential landlord’s screening criteria are before you fill out his or her application and pay an application fee. You should ask for and receive the landlord’s screening criteria before you submit your application and invest in the screening charge (either a non-refundable fee or a potentially refundable deposit), the reason being that if you know you won’t meet the criteria, you may choose not to pay and lose your screening charge. Just as importantly, you might consider approaching the landlord openly about the situation and inquire about alternative screening criteria. In these situations, landlords may legally choose to accept your application despite the fact that you do not meet their ordinary screening criteria. The landlord may put stipulations on you in exchange for accepting you despite the fact that you don’t meet his / her ordinary screening criteria. For example, s/he may request that you complete a Ready to Rent or similar renter education program, or charge a higher security deposit, or require a co-signer, etc.

If you have derogatory history (for example, a poor credit history, a bankruptcy or eviction on your record, etc.) you should consider a Ready to Rent or similar program if available in your area. Click here to learn about the Ready to Rent program in the Portland / Vancouver area.

return to top of page

Additional Words of Caution:

  • Excessive application fees . There is no official cap on what landlords can charge as an application fee; however, it should be consistent with current market practices in the area. Application fees often run $35-$40. You should not be spending more than $60; but there are reports of landlords charging as much as $150.
  • Landlords collecting application fees, without running a background check . Unscrupulous landlords may charge an application fee, keep the money, and tell you that they were denied without running a background check on you. It is advisable to ask for an itemized list of what the application fee is paying for. You should also know that if the landlord takes an application fee and then denies you, s/he must tell you why you were denied (i.e., credit score lower than s/he requires, criminal history, past evictions, etc.). If you are denied because of credit, you can get a free copy of your credit report based on the denial. On the report, it will say whether or not the landlord checked your credit.

return to top of page

About the ORHA and MMHA Rental Application Forms:

The Fair Housing Council has used the Oregon Rental Housing Association’s (ORHA) and Metro Multifamily Housing Association’s (MMHA) Rental Applications as sample rental applications. Both organizations are landlord trade associations with member landlords in Oregon and SW Washington.

Among other services, both associations sell rental forms to their members and the general public in their Portland, OR offices and at http://www.oregonrentalhousing.com and http://www.metromultifamily.com. The Fair Housing Council would like to thank ORHA and MMHA for allowing us to use their Rental Application forms as models for this interactive project.

return to top of page

Using this Interactive Tool:

Click here to open a copy of the sample Rental Application in Portable Document File (PDF) format. 

You will need the Adobe® Reader® software to view this document; in addition, if you have any difficulty viewing the document, downloading the latest version may remedy the matter. Download a free copy of Adobe Reader (http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html) if needed.

Once opened, you may read the file online or save a copy by selecting File / Save As and choosing a location on your computer to save the sample document.

Whether reading the file online or saved to your computer, simply roll your mouse over the form to find hyperlinked sections. 

LEFT click once on each link to view the tips and instructions relevant to that section.  When you’re done with each, hit the "Return" button at the bottom or use your browser's "Back" button to continue on with the Interactive Rental Application Form.

Go to the Interactive Sample ORHA Rental Application now

return to top of page

"Thank You"

The FHCO would like to thank our partners and members for their support.
Their contributions and grants have helped to make the resources on this site possible.
Please join them in supporting our efforts!

If you have a fair housing question, or to report a fair housing complaint, please call 503/223-8197 Ext. 2 or 800/424-3247 Ext. 2 (TTY and translation available). Alternatively, you may call HUD at 800/877-0246.

Office Location:

1221 SW Yamhill Avenue #305, Portland, Oregon 97205
information@FHCO.org .| .503/223-8197 .| .Hotline 800/424-3247 Ext. 2

The work that provided the basis for this publication was supported by funding under a grant with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and the publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Government.

©1999-2014. FHCO. All rights reserved.