The Delaware rental application form is a document that landlords use to collect personal information from prospective tenants. The information requested relates to rental history, eviction history, and financial information that landlords factor into their decision on who to rent the property to.
- Application Fee – in Delaware, a landlord may only charge 10% of one month’s rent or $50, whichever is greater.
- Discrimination Laws – Delaware Fair Housing Law provides specific state protections against discrimination, in addition to federal law which makes it illegal in Delaware to ask about race, color, religion, nationality, gender, familial status, disabilities, or familial status (such as children who will live in the property), with some exceptions.
- Consent for Credit Check – for the landlord to complete a credit check, the applicant must provide written consent according to the Federal Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to the landlord before the check may be completed.
Delaware Rental Application Laws
The following laws apply to the application and tenant screening process in the state of Delaware.
Collecting an Application Fee in Delaware
In Delaware, a landlord may only charge 10% of one month’s rent or $50, whichever is greater, as part of the application screening process. The landlord should also furnish a receipt for the application fee charged to the applicant. (25 DE Code § 5514 (2019))
Illegal Housing Discrimination in Delaware
Both federal and state laws are in effect to protect potential renters from unfair discrimination during the Delaware 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.
Delaware Fair Housing Laws
In addition to federal FHA laws, Delaware state laws add additional protections for the following classes:
- Marital Status
- Sexual Orientation
- Gender Identity
- Lawful Source of Income (Public and/or Rental Assistance)
Similar to federal FHA laws, information relating to these classes may not be asked for or considered as part of the decision-making process.
Exemptions to Fair Housing Laws
Delaware provides the following exemptions to the federal FHA laws:
- Age – it is acceptable to ask about and base an application decision on the applicant’s age in the case of senior housing. This federal exemption is known as the “Housing for Older Persons” exemption, and can apply to certain communities meeting the required criteria.
- “Mrs Murphy Exemption” – dwellings with four units or less where one unit is occupied by the owner are exempt from Fair Housing Laws Additionally, race cannot be a deciding factor as per the Civil Rights Act of 1866.
- Religious Organizations – the applicants religion may be used as a basis for preferential consideration if the property is owned, operated, supervised, or controlled by a religious organization that does not rent it commercially or discriminate against other classes. 42 U.S. Code § 3607
- Private Clubs – privately owned clubs that operate without public access or commercial intent may provide preferential treatment of applications for dwellings owned or operated by the club as long as there is no discrimination in accepting members. 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. Additionally, FHA laws do not apply to single-family homes rented without a broker.
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).
Delaware Security Deposit Law
If an applicant is approved, the following laws apply to the collection of security deposits in Delaware:
- Standard Limit / Maximum Amount: 1 month’s rent for a lease term of at least one year. The limit does not apply if: the lease term is less than one year, the lease term is indefinite, if the unit is furnished, or if the property is covered under a federal-assistance housing program. Any pet deposit does not count towards the security deposit limit, and is limited to 1 month’s rent.
- Receipt Requirements: Landlords are required to provide a written receipt of the location and amount held in the escrow account for a security deposit after deposit and within 20 days of request from the tenant.
- Financial Holdings: Security deposit funds must be held in an escrow account.
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.
Delaware Eviction Record Search
Anyone can perform an eviction record search through public record. While some third-party programs compile this information for you, it is also accessible yourself
To access the eviction records for Delaware:
- Go to CourtConnect.
- Select the ‘Search by person name, business name or case type’ option
- Accept the disclaimer to access the Person/Case Type Search page.
- 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.
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.