The Alabama rental application form is a document that landlords send out to a prospective tenant to determine whether they are a viable tenant or not. The information requested relates to rental history, eviction history, and financial information and is used for background screening purposes.
Alabama Laws on Rental Application Fees
While other states specify a maximum amount to collect as a rental application fee, Alabama does not have any limitations on who can charge the application fee, or how much this fee can be.
If an applicant is approved, Alabama’s state law limits the amount of security deposit that can be collected, which is no more than one month’s rent. However, there are exceptions to which this limitation is not applicable, this doesn’t cover deposits for pets, any modifications to the premises, or anything that could increase liability risks to the landlord or premises.
A landlord is not required to provide a receipt for a security deposit and there is no procedure for how security deposit funds must be held.
What Alabama Rental Application Forms Can’t Ask About
The Federal Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate against the following protected classes:
- National Origin (Nationality)
- Familial Status (Having or not having children)
- Disability (Physical or Mental)
As a result, asking about any of these items on a rental application form (and/or using them to base an application decision on) is not allowed.
Alabama does not have additional housing protections for classes of people that are not outlined in the Federal Fair Housing Act.
Exemptions from Fair Housing laws do exist. In Alabama, the following exemptions are allowed:
- Familial Status – it is acceptable to ask about and base an application decision on if children will occupy the rented premises in any two-family owner-occupied buildings.
- Age– Housing for Older Persons Exemption – landlords may ask for an applicant’s age in the case of age-restricted communities such as senior housing. This federal exemption, known as the “Housing for Older Persons” exemption, can apply to 55+ or even 62+ communities that meet the requirements.
- Mrs. Murphy Exemption – dwellings with four units or less where one unit is occupied by the owner are exempt from Fair Housing Laws, unless a real estate agent represents the landlord. Additionally, race cannot be a deciding factor as per the Civil Rights Act of 1866.
- Religious Organizations – religion can be used as a basis for giving preference to certain applicants for property that is owned, operated, supervised, or controlled by a religious organization that does not rent for commercial purposes. However, other protected classes may not be the basis for making a decision as a result of this exemption. 42 U.S. Code § 3607
- Private Clubs – private clubs that operate without public access or commercial intent may provide preferential treatment of applications for lodgings owned or operated by the club. 42 U.S. Code § 3607.
Federally, race is a non-exemption criteria that cannot have an influence on the choice of whether to rent to an applicant or not regardless of existing exemptions.
Consent for Background Checks
Before a landlord can run a credit check based on the prospective tenant’s information on the submitted rental application, the Federal Credit Reporting Act requires that written consent must be given by the applicant. This written consent can be given via a statement of such and signature on the rental application form itself, or via a separate consent form (such as this one).
Processing a Rental Application
The next step in the tenant screening process is to use the information on the rental application form to conduct a background check:
- Credit Check – subject to the tenant’s written consent, a credit check will either provide a simpler “pass/fail” report, or a full credit report including the tenant’s credit score and information about their income, employment, past addresses, credit inquiries and more.
- Eviction Check – an eviction check aims to show the tenant’s history of eviction filings or judgments against them at any point in the last 7 years.
- Criminal History Check – a criminal history check aims to show any records involving the tenant in state court criminal records or in databases such as the national sex offender public registry.
Alabama Eviction Record Search
Evictions in Alabama are public record. This means they can be accessed by anyone who uses the state’s Judicial Court Directory, which provides an on-demand record requesting system.
To access the eviction records:
- Go to Just One Look.
- Create an account.
- Access the Name Search page.
- Enter the potential renter’s name and choose “CIVIL” or “BOTH” to access civil court documents. You may designate a county if you know which jurisdiction their previous rentals fall under.
- Press “continue” to pay for and access the documents. The payment is $9.99.
Adverse Action Notices
According to the Federal Trade Commision (FTC) and the Federal Fair Housing Act (FCRA), if you acquire a consumer report for an applicant (i.e., credit, eviction or criminal history) and take an “adverse action” against them such as any of the following:
- Rejecting the applicant.
- Requiring a co-signer (when they didn’t include one before).
- Requiring a larger security deposit.
- Requiring higher rent.
Then landlords are legally required to provide the tenant with a notice letter that includes certain details, known as an “adverse action notice”. This is required even if the consumer report’s information wasn’t the primary reason for the action.
The notice explains and notifies the applicant that they were denied due to the information on a consumer credit report. The notice must include details about the consumer reporting agency, an explanation that they didn’t take the adverse action themselves (and can’t explain why it was made) and a statement on the applicant’s right to a copy of the report and to dispute its contents within 60 calendar days. Additionally, when rejecting an applicant, it’s recommended to specify the reason (but not legally required).
For an example, see this tenant rejection letter template.