Further, all that information is routinely asked. It's not just legal; it's appropriate to be asked. I agree, it's intrusive. Still, the landlord wants to verify that you're who you say you are. You may claim to be Dragonfly_7, but really you're really Housefly_007. The driver's license will help verify that. And the landlord wants to know if you can pay the rent--thus, the financial information.
The children's names are a bit different. There are laws against discriminating against people with children; one way around that is simply to ask for their names. If you supply any names, a discriminating landlord will know, then, that you have children. And it might also touch on other areas of discrimination. Some members of ethnic or religious groups use certain names that other groups don't. For instance, if you said your children's names were Mohammad and Abdulla, you probably would be indicating your religion. Same thing if your kids were named Baruch and Chaim. And perhaps the landlord is trying to discriminate.
Most leases require the names of all adults who'll be living at the address to be listed. I'm not aware of similar policies regarding children.
There's plenty of stuff online regarding housing discrimination. See, for example, http://www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/FHLaws/index.cfm
Hope that helps.
I'm a landlord in PA. I can't say that I know every possible law but I'm pretty familiar with most of them. We certainly can ask, "So who will be living the in the apt"? And if you only say you and your wife and don't mention any kids - then that can get you into trouble because the LEASE might specify that only you two are the "occupants". But their names? Nah ... none of their business - not during the application anyway.
My application does include a credit check, your name (primary), wife's name (if co-applicant), SS#s, and DL #s. The credit check would reveal pretty much anything of interest financially that we would want, and then there might be subsequent questions. I would personally never ask for your bank account #, balance, credit card balances etc. I'm not sure if it's legal to do so but I sure don't - I'd personally rather not know that info. The credit report is very comprehensive and tells us if you have a good payment and credit history. It would also be common for a landlord to ask a small fee to cover the cost of the credit check - about $15 or so, more if they conduct other checks (criminal and such). I also ask about pets and that's legal and a common enough question.
What you might consider doing is putting an ad on Craigslist (it's free), with what you are interested in, and prospective landlords will come find you. This can take some of the chore out of your hands of finding all of them on your own. And CL is, in my opinion, the best way for me to advertise to find prospective tenants as well. I tried everything and CL just makes it so much easier.
This time of year, a landlord should be glad to have you, provided your credit history is good and that you have all the deposit money. January isn't a time for a landlord to be overly picky ... :-)
Best of luck to you and stay warm!!!
If all you were doing was looking at a rental to decide if you were interested then the questions were inappropriate. If however you were making an application to rent the dwelling then the landlord was totally within his rights to ask these questions. There is a landlord tenant guide for Pennsylvania that you could get from your realtor.
Fran and Mark Redding
Prudential Fox & Roach, Realtors
1010 stonyhill Road
Yardley, PA 19067