View a sample Massachusetts rental application form below and read further to learn more about what information should be included on rental applications in Massachusetts, what information a landlord CAN’T ask for, and what Massachusetts-specific regulations apply to the application process.
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Disclaimer: the templates provided on this website are for reference & general informational purposes only. You should always speak with an attorney for all legal matters.
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Quick Facts for Massachusetts
Purpose of a Rental Application
Rental applications demonstrate good work ethic and give both landlords and tenants confidence in their final decisions. They also serve as helpful documentation and proof of the screening process, which can help protect landlords in the event of a lawsuit. Tenants should be wary of landlords who don’t use rental applications; you want to know all the right steps are being taken when filling a vacancy.
Rental Application Fees
Landlords in Massachusetts are NOT allowed to charge a rental application fee.
Who Needs to Fill One Out
Prospects over 18 years old who will be living in the property for any length of time should fill out a rental application and anyone who isn’t living in the home but who is co-signing the lease should fill out a rental application. Tenants who move in at a later date should also fill one out.
Usually 48-72 hours; you should keep rental application records until the tenant is out of time for making a legal claim, which is 4 years for written lease agreements, and 2 years for oral agreements. After approving a tenant, remember to send them a copy of the lease within 15 days of signing.
Read further to learn more about rental applications in Massachusetts such as what fields should be included, what information a landlord can’t ask for, and what other Massachusetts-specific rental regulations apply to the rental application process.
Do You Need to Use a Rental Application?
Rental applications serve as helpful documentation for landlords. Not only will they help the tenant screening process easier it will also help protect your property and yourself. By choosing the best-qualified prospect, you will feel confident in signing a lease. At the same time, you will have proof to support your decision-making process. An applicant can sue a landlord if they deny them, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
If you are a renter, you should definitely look out for landlords who don’t use a rental application, especially if you are looking into multi-family or apartment complexes. You want to know the landlord is taking their time to screen potential tenants to ensure the security of the residence.
Rental applications are a demonstration of good work ethic and its the first step toward becoming a successful landlord.
What is a Rental Application?
A rental application is a form that allows landlords to screen potential tenants to determine if they are a good fit for a property by asking for a variety of personal information. Rental applications are a vital first step that a landlord must take prior to following through with a lease agreement. A well-designed, detailed form is a valuable tool that consolidates basic information about a potential tenant and streamlines the rental process for both parties. A rental application should be complete with a signature line to obtain consent for the landlord to run a credit check, background check or other verification processes on the applicant.
In states such as Massachusetts, landlords are granted a decent amount of leniency by the law in regards to their ability to select tenants from a pool of potential tenants. However, should the landlord decline an unfavorable tenant, it is important to ensure that proper documentation for the reason the tenant was declined is gathered. This ensures that the landlord has a valid reason for not selecting the tenant and reduces the likeliness of legal issues should the applicant choose to attempt to sue the landlord. Furthermore, this application allows the landlord to gather valuable information about the tenant such as their employment status, contact information, and emergency contact information. This ensures that the potential tenant will be reliable in paying rent and other utilities. It allows the landlord to determine if, by their discretion, the applicant would meet the expectations of the landlord as a tenant.
Any time that a person wants to apply to live in an apartment, they are going to need to fill out a rental application for the landlord to look at. This will help them to determine which applicant is going to be the best fir for the unit and to do things like a credit and a background check with the permission of the applicant. The landlord will also be able to get general information on the individual and even references that they can use to get an idea of the type of person that they are.
In the state of Massachusetts, it is unlawful for a landlord to refuse a potential tenant access to a unit because of their race, gender, or a disability. If the landlord determines that the applicant has a low credit score or they are unsure of their ability to pay the rent on time, they can decide to request that the potential tenant has a guarantor that will sign for them that has better credentials. This will allow the landlord to make sure that they can get the rent from the guarantor when the tenant cannot produce it in a timely fashion.
Massachussetts Rental Application Form Elements
There are several sections in the rental application that should be included to ensure that all relevant information is gathered so that the landlord is able to fully understand what to expect of the potential tenant throughout the leasing period, which is explained below.
A Description of the Unit
In any rental application, the first piece of information that is going to be seen is going to be the description of the unit that is being rented. This will help the landlord keep track of the different units that they are renting out, and it will also help the applicant make sure that this is the unit that they are interested in. In the description, make sure to include the number of bathrooms and bedrooms the specific unit has. This will be important when it comes to the number of people living in the unit. A tenant is not going to want a one-bedroom unit with four adults living in the space.
Next, it is essential to include the actual square footage of the unit. This will help the potential tenant know whether the bedrooms are large enough to share or they are designed to be a smaller room for a child. In this section, the full address of the unit should be included as well as any cross streets or other identifying features of the property. If there is storage on the property that can be used by the tenant when they move in or a pool, make sure that it is mentioned in this section as well.
This section is going to have the most important information on the application in it. To start, make sure that the date is at the top of the section so that the landlord will know which applicants inquired about the unit first. Next, the application is going to ask about the applicant’s full name. This will require that they put their first name, last name, and middle initial. They will also need to provide their birth date as well as a phone number where they can be contacted. The application is also likely to ask about a social security number and a driver’s license number so that the landlord can adequately perform a background and credit check. When the individual does not have a license in the state, any type of state ID will usually work.
An alternative phone number and an email address may be placed in this section as well. If the application asks the preferred method of contact, that is the option that the landlord will use first. The alternative options will be used if the applicant cannot be reached.
The next section is designed to help the landlord find out the rental history of the applicant. This information is designed to help the landlord decide whether the applicant is a good fit. The previous rental history will tell them whether the potential tenant has paid their rent on time and whether they have caused any issues in the past.
The information that will be requested in this section will include the name of the last three landlords that the tenant has had as well as the address of each location that they rented. The application will also ask for a good phone number to reach the previous landlords and for the applicant’s permission to contact them. Typically, the last three locations will be requested, but if there are fewer, the landlord may require the potential tenant to have a guarantor if the rental period was not long enough. If the applicant stayed at one location for quite a while, this may not be a requirement that the landlord will need to consider.
In the application, the financial history is also going to be an essential section that will determine whether or not the applicant has enough income to make the rent payments on time. The amount that the tenant makes per month will not have to be excessive; it just needs to cover more than the amount that the landlord charges for the rent of the unit.
The application is going to have a section that will ask for the work history of the potential tenant. This will most likely include the employers of the applicant for the past five years. It will also ask if they are currently employed full time, part-time, retired, a student, or unemployed.
This section will need to provide enough space for the name of the last several employers, the name of the company that the applicant worked for, the position that was held, the length of time they were at the job, the name of a supervisor, and a number where they can be reached. Some applications will also ask for the reason that the applicant left the company to determine whether they are likely to simply leave their job suddenly.
In the space for the current employment information, there will be a section that will ask about the current monthly income that is made so that the landlord can determine whether or not it is possible for the applicant to pay the rent. If there is more than one tenant, both of their incomes can be considered. Their income does not need to be included, but if the income of a single applicant is low, it could help them to secure the unit.
In addition to the income that the tenant receives from their place of employment, other factors will be considered as well. This can include things like lottery winnings, dividend checks, pensions, and savings accounts. If these payments are significantly more than the rental, then the applicant will be able to sustain the tenancy without actively working every day. Credit cards will also be considered in this section because a potential tenant that has credit cards that are kept current is likely to pay their rent on time.
When a person has a roommate in the unit, they are not required to be listed on the lease. This means that they will not be considered a primary tenant, and their income will not be considered in the application. When there are additional tenants that are planning on living in the unit, they may be asked to fill out part of the application to make sure that they are on file as living in the unit. Most landlords will ask for the name of the co-tenants as well as their relationship to the primary tenant who applied.
The landlord may ask if the individuals who will be living in the unit are children as well. This will allow the management to be aware that youngsters are living on the premise so that they will have access to things on the premises. The landlord will want to know about adults who are living in the unit as well. This will allow them to let the tenants into the unit when the primary tenant is not at home without breaking the terms of the lease. The landlord will not want to be liable for accidents that occur on the property, so they will ask that the tenants all have their names in writing somewhere on the lease if they are accepted as tenants.
When an applicant has pets that live with them, one of the first things that they are going to want to know is whether or not pets are welcome in the unit that they are applying to live in. If pets are not allowed on the premises, then they may decide not to go further with the application process. Some landlords will have rules that will limit the number of pets or the breeds that a tenant can have in the unit. If this is something that will need to be known by the applicant, it should be listed in this section of the application so that they do not waste their time trying to get a unit that does not work for their needs.
If the unit is pet-friendly, this section of the application may ask a bit of information about the applicant’s pets. It may ask for the type of pet, the breed of the pet, the name of the pet. The landlord can also ask the applicant if they are willing to pay a pet fee. This fee could be a one-time thing that is paid when the initial payment is due, or it could be a payment that is made once a month.
In the next section, the application is going to ask for personal references that the landlord can contact to find out the character of the applicant. There will be enough space for up to three references, all of which should not be relatives of the applicant. They can and should be long-term friends, co-workers, landlords, and other individuals who know the applicant’s personality. This section will ask for the name of the individual, a phone number to reach them, and the number of years that the person has known the applicant. The potential tenant will need to provide their permission for the landlord to contact these individuals as well by initialing this section.
Personal History and Statement
If the applicant has something in their past that may seem questionable to a landlord, this section will allow them to explain the circumstances so that they can have a chance of being accepted into the unit. This could be something like being evicted in the past or declaring bankruptcy. If they were ever convicted of committing a crime, then this should be explained here as well.
The personal statement section of the document is designed to allow the potential tenant space that they can use to inform the landlord of other relevant information that they would like them to know before they move in. This can include specialized things that they will need to live in the space like first-floor access or parking that is accessible and close to the unit’s door. If the person has a caregiver or a service dog that lives with them, they will need to disclose this information as well. This will allow the landlord to prepare the space for the applicant so that it is more convenient for them to stay in the space if they are selected.
The final section of the application is going to require the applicant to sign the document. This section will only be completed by the potential tenant, and their signature on the document indicates that all of the information is correct. The applicant will also need to print their name so that it is easy to read, and underneath the signature should be the date that the document was filed out. If the financial situation of the applicant is not the best, they can add the name of a guarantor to the base of the document that can be contacted and added to the official residential lease.
Applicable Law in Massachusetts
In Massachusetts, a landlord must follow certain practices in order to screen for tenants without violating state laws on discrimination. These laws don’t preclude running a background check, but for a check of this type to be performed, the prospective tenant must provide the landlord with signed consent. Also, a landlord can screen some tenants as long as the screening is stated in the application. Screening criteria can include things like pet and smoking policy, criminal history, eviction history, and income to rent ratio. Unlike many other states, as of 2014, Massachusetts explicitly forbids landlords from charging application fees for their tenants.
Fair Housing Laws in Massachusetts
Fair housing dictates that a landlord may not void an application based on race, national origin, color, religion, familial status, sexual orientation, disability, veteran or active military status, or sex. These laws are presented both on the state and federal level, and violating any of these laws during the application process provides for some serious repercussions. These laws are designed to protect tenants that fall within certain protected groups that have historically been prone to discrimination. Unlawful practices for landlords looking to take on new tenants can include:
- Threatening to report prospective tenants to immigration authorities.
- Refusing to rent to pregnant women or families with children.
- Disregarding the applications of or failing to make accommodations that are reasonable for applicants with disabilities.
- Refusing the application of prospective tenants that are on public assistance.
- Increasing the rent for members of the protected groups.
Learn more about topics that are off-limits with tenants here.
Other Massachusetts Templates and Forms
- Residential Lease Agreement
- Sublease Agreement
- Room Rental Agreement
- Lease Termination Notice
- Eviction Notice
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