The Colorado rental application form is used to evaluate whether a potential renter is the right choice for their property. The information collected provides insight into rental history, income, and other factors that can help the landlord to make an informed decision.
- Application Fee – in Colorado, there is no limit to the application fees being charged, but it must reflect the actual cost to the landlord. These costs should be itemized with a receipt and remaining funds should be returned within 20 days. Fees must be uniform for all applications.
- Discrimination Laws – Colorado Fair Housing Law provides specific state protections against discrimination alongside national Fair Housing Act laws, which makes it illegal in Colorado to ask about race, color, religion, nationality, sex, disabilities, ancestry, creed, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or familial status (with some exceptions).
- Limitation on Rental or Credit History – history that has occurred more than 7 years before the application may not be considered.
- Limitation on Criminal History – history that has occurred more than 5 years before the application may not be considered, except in the case of methamphetamine charges, sex offender registry, or homicide.
- Consent for Credit Check – the Federal Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each prospective tenant to give written consent to a credit check as part of the screening process.
Colorado Rental Application Laws
The following laws apply to the application and tenant screening process in the state of Colorado.
Collecting an Application Fee in Colorado
While there is no maximum application fee that can be charged to Colorado rental applicants, the amount charged must be relative to the cost of screening services and the landlord’s time investment into completing the screening. The landlord is required to disclose the expected or actual cost of the screening and review process, which should include an itemized report and a receipt for the collected fee. (Colorado Rental Application Fairness Act (2019))
To prevent discrimination liability, the fee charged must be the same for all applicants and if the landlord owns multiple properties, it should stay uniform throughout all properties for rent.
Illegal Housing Discrimination in Colorado
Federal and state Fair Housing Act laws are in effect in Colorado to protect potential renters from unfair discrimination during the application process.
Fair Housing Act
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.
Colorado Fair Housing Laws
Additionally, Colorado state laws add additional protections for the following classes:
- Marital Status
- Sexual Orientation
- Gender Identity
Asking about any of these criteria is not allowed, nor may they be considered when determining eligibility. Additional protections may vary by local municipality.
Exemptions to Fair Housing Laws
Exemptions from Fair Housing laws do exist. In Colorado, the following exemptions are allowed:
- Familial Status – it is acceptable to ask about and base an application decision on age or if children will occupy the rented premises in the case that the property is designated as senior housing according to the “Housing for Older Persons” exemption, which applies to certain properties with age restrictions of 55+ or 62+.
- “Mrs Murphy Exemption” – single family dwellings which are renting a single room are exempt from Fair Housing Laws if the landlord or owner lives in the dwelling.
- Religious Organizations – preferential consideration can be given for property that is owned, operated, supervised, or controlled by a religious organization that does not rent for commercial purposes. 42 U.S. Code § 3607
- Private Clubs – as long as they don’t discriminate in accepting members, private clubs that operate without public access may provide preferential treatment for lodgings owned or operated by the club without commercial intent. 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 in any scenario.
Limitation on Rental or Credit History
In Colorado, rental or credit history, such as evictions or bankruptcy filings that have occurred more than 7 years before the application date may not be considered when determining whether or not to rent a property to the prospective client. Therefore, they cannot be cited as a cause for rejection.
Limitation on Criminal History
If using criminal history to determine the eligibility of an applicant, Colorado law does not allow records exceeding 5 years before the date of application to be considered, except in the case of methamphetamine abuse, sex offender registry, or homicide charges. As a result, these reasons may not be used to deny an applicant.
Consent for Credit 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 (example template).
Colorado Security Deposit Law
If an applicant is approved, the following laws apply to the collection of security deposits in Colorado:
- Standard Limit / Maximum Amount: No limit aside from “unreasonable” amount.
- Receipt Requirements: there is no requirement to provide a written receipt of the security deposit.
- Financial Holdings: there is no requirement for holding security deposits.
Sending Rental Application Forms
Landlords can send rental application forms to tenants in one of two ways:
- Manually – using the PDF and Word templates available for free on our website (see the top right of this webpage), landlords can send a rental application form to tenants via a physical copy or email.
- With Software – most popular property management software services include an online rental application form that can automate the collection and screening process for landlords.
For reviews of popular property management software, click here.
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.
Colorado Eviction Record Search
Evictions are public record, so you can complete the eviction search yourself using the state’s Judicial Court Directory, which provides an on-demand record requesting system. Alternatively, there are third-party screening services available as well.
To access the eviction records yourself:
- Go to the Colorado Judicial Branch Docket Search.
- Enter the potential renter’s name to access civil court documents. You may designate a county if you know which jurisdiction their previous rentals fall under.
- Identify and select the appropriate civil case to review.
- To view case history, you must make a $15 payment, with an additional 3% credit card fee.
Responding to Rental Applications
If an applicant meets all of your tenant screening criteria, then there’s nothing you need to do beyond notifying them and moving forward with the normal leasing process.
However, if you acquire a consumer report for an applicant (i.e. credit, eviction or criminal history) and you make an “adverse action” against them (EVEN IF the report’s information wasn’t the primary reason for doing so), you are required to provide the tenant with a notice letter that includes certain details, known as an “adverse action notice”.
An adverse action is defined as either rejecting the applicant or instituting additional/higher requirements than you have for another applicant (i.e. requiring a co-signer, larger security deposit, higher rent or an additional deposit).
In these cases, an adverse action notice is required to be sent to the applicant, and must include the following:
- The agency’s name, address and phone number that supplied the report.
- A statement explaining that the CRA didn’t make the decision for the adverse action themselves, and as a result, that they can’t explain why the decision was made.
- A statement explaining the applicant’s right to dispute such information and their right to a copy of the report in question within 60 days.
To learn more about requirements surrounding adverse action notices, see this article from the Federal Trade Commission. To get an idea of what an adverse action notice might look like, see this example letter.
Additionally, to protect against accusations of illegal discrimination, it is always recommended to include the exact reason why the application was not approved in the rejection letter.