The Arkansas 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.
Arkansas Laws on Rental Application Fees
The following laws apply to the application and tenant screening process in the state of Arkansas.
In Arkansas, there is there is no limit to the application fees being charged. The application fee is non-refundable, regardless of acceptance or denial. A landlord can charge a prospective tenant. It’s advised to not charge more than the average out-of-pocket expense, but ultimately the determination of the fee is at the sole discretion of the landlord.
Additionally, security deposits do have a two-month maximum amount set by Arkansas state law, if the landlord has at least six rental properties, if they have less than six, they may charge a “reasonable” deposit. There is no requirement for landlords to provide a written receipt of the security deposit and no required procedure for holding security deposit funds.
What Arkansas 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 an Arkansas rental application form (and/or using them to base an application decision on) is not illegal.
Arkansas does not have specific state protections against discrimination. However, there are certain exemptions to the Federal Fair Housing Act laws 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 of the below cases:
- 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 criteria for a senior housing designation.
- “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, or the landlord owns more than 1 single-family houses. Additionally, race cannot be a deciding factor as per the Civil Rights Act of 1866.
- Religious Organizations – it is possible to use religious criteria to give preferential consideration to certain applicants if the property is owned, operated, supervised, or controlled by a religious organization that does not rent it commercially. However, race and other protected classes may not be used to influence the decision. 42 U.S. Code § 3607
- Private Clubs – private clubs that operate without public access or commercial intent and do not discriminate when it comes to accepting members may provide preferential consideration of applications for lodgings owned or operated by the club. 42 U.S. Code § 3607
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.
Arkansas Eviction Record Search
Evictions in Arkansas are public record and can be accessed by the public. While there are third-party programs and businesses that can collect this information, it can be accessed through the state’s Supreme Court website.
To access the eviction records:
- Go to CourtConnect.
- Accept the disclaimer.
- Select Person or Business Search from the side menu.
- Enter the potential renter’s name and select “EV – CV-EVICTION” from the Case Type drop-down menu to access civil court documents.
Adverse Action Notices
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 you 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 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 days. Additionally, when rejecting an applicant, it’s recommended to specify the reason (but not legally required).