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A rental application used in Arizona needs to be filled out accurately and completely by a potential tenant and any co-tenants. Then, the applicant(s) signs the application that declares all statements contained in the application are true and that the landlord has permission to conduct a background check and run a credit history report.
If the rental application is approved by the landlord, attach a copy to the rental agreement.
Under the federal law, discrimination is not allowed because of race, skin color, heritage, religion, gender, disability, or family status. With the exception of housing that is exclusively for older persons, it is not legal to discriminate against families with one or more children. This includes pregnant women and families with foster kids or adopted children.
Under Arizona law AZ 33-1317 (E), if a landlord denies renting to such a family the applicant can sue the landlord for actual damages, court costs, and reasonable attorney’s fees. If the denial by the landlord is intentional, the applicant can sue for up to three month’s rent as a penalty. Additionally, the applicant can ask the court to order the landlord to rent to them.
Housing for Older Persons
Age restriction is allowed under Arizona law AZ 41-11491.04. The legal requirement for a property to be age-restricted is that 80% of the rental units must be occupied by at least one person who is 55 years old or older.
Questions about the age of the applicant, and if the applicant has any children who will live with them, are allowed on rental applications for age-restricted properties. Under Arizona law AZ 33-1317 (C), if the property is age-restricted, landlords are prohibited from renting to applicants with minor children who will live with them.
Background and Credit Checks
This written permission by an applicant for the landlord to order a credit history is required under the federal laws of the Fair Credit Reporting Act Section 604(a)(3)(F). The landlord has the legal obligation to protect the confidential information of an applicant and cannot make unauthorized use of the information or disclose it to others without permission.
Rental Application Fees
There is no limit for application fees under Arizona law. These fees may be charged by the landlord to offset the cost of the background/credit check and for an earnest money deposit.
Background /Credit Check Fee
The landlord may require a non-refundable fee to cover the actual cost of ordering a background/credit history report.
Earnest Money Deposit
The landlord may also require an additional “earnest money” fee to process the application that, when the applicant is accepted, is applied to offset a portion of the first month’s rent and/or the required security deposit. The security deposit is limited to one and one-half month’s rent, except for mobile home parks, which are allowed to ask for two month’s rent for security deposits.
If, when conducting the background/credit history checks the landlord discovers false or misleading information in the rental application, then the landlord can deny the application and does not have to return the earnest money fee. If this is the landlord’s policy, then the rental application must clearly state, in writing, that the earnest money fee is not refundable if the applicant makes false or misleading statements in the rental application.
What is contained in the rental application?
Here are the items to use for an Arizona rental application:
- Describe the Rental Property: Describe the property for rent and show the address of the property. Show the amount of monthly rent and the security deposit.
- Pets: If pets are permitted, show the pet deposit and any pet restrictions.
- Applicant Information: Ask for the full legal name(s) of the person(s) responsible for the rent payments. Ask for the applicant’s Social Security number, driver’s license/ state identification number and the address where the applicant currently lives, telephone number, and email.
- Move-in Date and Term: Ask for a proposed move-in date and how long they want to rent the property. A lease agreement, which is not a month-to-month agreement, may have a minimum length that is usually one year.
- Rent History: Ask the applicant about their rent history, where they live now, lived before, and how long they stayed at each place for the previous three to five years.
- Previous Landlords: Ask the applicant for the contact information of all previous landlords for the previous three to five years.
- Occupants: Ask for the full name(s) of any adult occupants who will live with the applicant, who will be authorized to live there, but not sign the lease agreement. It is acceptable to ask the applicant about another proposed occupant’s relation to them, their age, and their occupation.
- Background/Credit History Authorization: Any background/credit history check requires the applicant to give written authorization. If there is a non-refundable fee for the background/credit check that the applicant must pay, state it clearly. The applicant must sign their name to specifically authorize a background/credit check. This authorization can be included as part of the rental application form or it can be a separate form.
- Earnest Money Deposit: State the amount of the earnest money deposit required for submitting the application for processing. State that the earnest money deposit is non-refundable if the applicant makes any false or incomplete statement(s) on the rental application. State that this earnest money deposit will be applied to reduce the first month’s rent and/or security deposit required prior to moving in. State that this earnest money deposit is non-refundable if the applicant is approved and fails to complete the lease agreement and to move-in to the rental property.
- Guest Policy: It is good to have the applicant know the guest policy by stating it in the rental application. Any person(s) staying longer than the guest policy allows need to apply in order to be authorized to live in the rental unit. Additional rent may be charged by the landlord to allow another person to live there.
- Vehicle Information: Collect the applicant’s vehicle information if this is needed to control parking. This information includes the color, year, make, model, and number of the license plate for any vehicle to be authorized for parking areas.
- Job and Financial Information: Ask about current employment and income of the applicant. Ask about past employment. Ask for two credit references such as a bank account or a credit card.
- Personal References: Ask the applicant to identify three personal references (not ex-landlords). Get the contact information for them and the kind of relationship it is, such as a co-worker, friend, family member, etc.
- Emergency Contact: This is a voluntary part of the application. The applicant may give contact information for a physician, family member, or another emergency contact. This private information is not used for any other purpose besides a emergency.
- Applicant’s History: It is permissible to ask if the applicant has ever paid rent late, left without paying rent that was due, violated any rental agreement, left rental property damaged, or was evicted. It is also appropriate to inquire about any bankruptcy and the date it was discharged.Ask the applicant if there is any litigation involving them in progress such as a divorce or another lawsuit. Ask about criminal records and convictions as well. Allow space on the rental application for the applicant to explain any of these items.
- Smoking Policy: Inform the applicant if there is a no-smoking rule for inside the rental property; however, it should be permissible to smoke outside in an area designated for smoking.
- Discrimination: Include legal language about the prohibition against discrimination, such as a written statement that says “discrimination is illegal on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, or family status.”
- Signature(s): Have a signature section that includes space for the date and the applicant’s signature as well as any others who are co-applicants. Include a written statement in this signature section that says the applicants certify that all the answers given in the application are truthful and complete. The applicant and any co-applicants also acknowledge that any false or incomplete statements in the application may be sufficient grounds for the loss of the earnest money deposit or a later eviction.
There are some optional things for certain circumstances, such as information about pets, parking, and a homeowner’s association.
- Pets: When pets are allowed, ask the applicant to provide the number of pets that they have and the name(s) of the pet(s), weight, color, and type or breed.If there is an additional pet deposit, state it in this section. If there are certain banned animal types, state the types in this section. If there are rules about pets using common areas, state those rules in this section.
- Parking: Give the applicant information about parking restrictions and the cost of parking (if any). Include a copy of parking rules if they exist and inform an applicant if parking is managed by a third party. Give the contact information of the parking company to the applicant. If any part of the applicant’s information is going to be shared with a third party or company, then inform the applicant of this and ask the applicant to give a signature as written authorization to allow this.
- Homeowners Association: If the use of a rental property is controlled by a homeowners association (HOA) with regulations and rules, then the applicant needs to be informed of this. The HOA monthly fee should be stated in the application.The applicants should be told how to contact the HOA and how to get a full copy of the current HOA rules. If any of the applicant’s information is given to the homeowners association, then the applicant needs to authorize this in writing by signing a statement that says this information may be shared as needed with the HOA.
To reduce risks of liability exposure, here are some things to consider:
- Confidential Applicant Information: A landlord should exercise prudent care to protect the unauthorized use of an applicant’s confidential information such as financial information about employment, bank accounts, and credit cards. An applicant’s identification information needs to be protected, such as a driver’s license/identification card number and Social Security number. Only authorized staff should have access to this information.A completed rental application that contains confidential information needs to be stored in a secured system and properly destroyed (shredded) when no longer of any use. Landlords that are not diligent in protecting this information may create liability exposure for themselves if the information is misused.
- Problems with Landlord References: Giving a bad reference about a tenant may expose a landlord to liability for defamation. For this reason, a landlord may refuse to give tenant references or only give good (possibly inaccurate) ones. Be careful when relying too much on past landlord references because they may be biased.For landlords that want to give a reference about a past tenant, it is better to ask the past tenant to request a reference in writing, which authorizes the landlord’s release of the information to a specifically named party.
- Credit Bureau Reporting Policy: If a landlord reports the payment of rent that is late and/or an eviction to credit history companies, tell applicants about this credit bureau reporting policy on the rental application.