The Georgia 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.
Georgia Laws on Rental Application Fees
In Georgia, there is no limit or maximum rental application fee 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. The application fee is also known refundable.
Additionally, security deposits do not have a cap or maximum amount set by Georgia state law. There is no requirement for landlords to provide receipts for security deposits.
What Georgia 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.
Exemptions from Fair Housing laws do exist. In Georgia, 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 of the below cases:
- Two-family owner-occupied buildings.
- Housing for Older Persons Exemption – landlords in Georgia 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 communities that meet the federal requirements for senior living.
- Mrs. Murphy Exemption – dwellings with four units or fewer 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 specific applicants when the property 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. However, there must be no discrimination in accepting members based off of protected classes. 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 (like in our free template), 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.
Georgia Eviction Record Search
Georgia eviction records are public and therefore may be accessed by the public. You may choose to use a third-party software for this, or you can access the records yourself. When accessing the records manually, there is a $.50 per page fee for records collected and a small convivence fee.
To access the eviction records:
- Go to PeachCourt.
- Create an account.
- Select ‘Search by Party Name’ and 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.
- Select the case number, and any available documents for the case will be viewable or requestable for purchase.
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).
For an example, see this tenant rejection letter template.