Legal Blog

Spring Cleaning: Three Things Every Property Management Team Should Do To Clean Up Its Rental Application Process

Springtime is the prime season for attracting new renters and filling vacant units to get your community at maximum capacity. Here are three things every property management team can do now to ensure a smooth rental application process during this busy time of year.

#1 – Advertise to all

Fair Housing laws apply not only to existing renters, but also to potential renters. As a result, advertising for your community should make clear by words and pictures, if used, that all members of the community are welcome. Additionally, online advertising has become more prevalent, and some online platforms allow you to specify the type of audience that will see your ad. For example, Facebook allows you to target ads to those in a specific demographic, like consumers in a specific age range, consumers of a certain gender, and consumers with a particular marital status. Advertising for housing targeted in this way may run afoul of Fair Housing laws and should be avoided.

#2 – Obtain authorization to run credit checks and criminal background checks

Your property management team likely runs a credit check and criminal background check as a routine part of its application process. However, you cannot do so without the express written consent of the applicant. As a result, you should review the language in your rental application to ensure it contains an authorization to run such checks and requires the applicant’s signature to signal approval of the authorization.

#3 – Apply application fees and deposits properly

Jurisdictions vary regarding the charges that are permitted at the rental application stage. For example, some jurisdictions allow a landlord to charge an applicant both a nonrefundable application fee and a refundable application deposit, whereas other jurisdictions don’t allow an application fee to be charged at all. Additionally, some jurisdictions place a cap on the maximum


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