Maryland Rental Application Form

Last Updated: February 23, 2022 by Elizabeth Souza

The Maryland rental application form is a document used by landlords to collect personal and financial information from tenants looking to rent a property. The screening looks at past screening history, eviction history, and other factors like income.

Maryland Laws on Rental Application Fees

In Maryland, there is no limit on what a landlord can charge for an application fee, but unspent fees (the difference in completing the screening and the fee collected) totaling more than $25 must be returned within 15 days of receipt, unless the landlord is renting four or fewer dwellings, renting seasonally, or renting condominiums. MD Real Prop Code § 8-213 (2019)

If the landlord is withholding more than $25 for the application fee, it is acceptable to ask the landlord for a written explanation of the expenses incurred. This should also include an itemized list of the cost of each item.

If a prospective tenant is approved, Maryland landlords may charge no more than two months’ rent for a security deposit. Additionally, a receipt for the security deposit is required, which may be included in a written lease agreement. Security deposits must be held in a separate account in a federally insured financial institution within the state. The account must be exclusively for security deposits and generate interest.

What Maryland Rental Application Forms Can’t Ask About

The Federal Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate against the following protected classes:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National Origin (Nationality)
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Familial Status (Having or not having children)
  • Disability (Physical or Mental)

Maryland has additional state protected classes, and some are only protected in certain counties:

  • Age (only protected in the following counties: Anne Arundel, Baltimore City, Cambridge, Hagerstown, Rockville; Baltimore, Harford, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George).
  • Ancestry (only protected in the following counties: Baltimore City, Cambridge, Rockville and Montgomery County)
  • Citizenship (only protected in Anne Arundel, Annapolis, and Prince George)
  • Creed (only protected in the following counties: Cambridge, Rockville; Baltimore, Harford, Howard and Montgomery) 
  • Family Responsibility (only protected in Montgomery County)
  • Gender Identity/Expression
  • Lawful Income (Public and/or Rental Assistance)
  • Lawful Source of Income (only protected in Annapolis County)
  • Martial Status
  • Occupation (only protected in the following counties: Anne Arundel, Harford, Howard and Prince George)
  • Personal Appearance (only protected in the following counties: Harford, Howard, Prince George)
  • Political Opinion (only protected in the following counties: Harford, Howard, Prince George)
  • Presence of Children (only protected in the following counties: Rockville and Montgomery)
  • Sexual Orientation

These criteria may not be asked about in writing or in person, and may not be used in the consideration of a rental application.

Exemptions from Fair Housing laws do exist. In Maryland, 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 two-family owner-occupied buildings.
  • Age – 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 requirements.
  • Owner Occupied Properties – 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. This is known as Mrs. Murphy Exemption.
  • Religious Organizations – religion can be used as a basis for giving preference to certain applicants for property that 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. 42 U.S. Code § 3607

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.

Evictions in Maryland are public record, which means they can be accessed by anyone. This information can be found online on Maryland’s court system website, or you can pay to have it gathered by a third-party service.

To access the eviction records:

    • Access Maryland’s Judiciary Case Search.
    • Agree to the disclaimer.
    • Enter the potential tenant’s name and other information you may have to view any existing records.
    • Select the case number to be taken to any available details.

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.