The Minnesota rental application form is a document that is used to collect screening information about potential renters. Landlords use them to determine whether or not to enter a lease agreement with the tenant based on information like finances or eviction history.
Minnesota Laws on Rental Application Fees
In Minnesota, the landlord may charge no more than the screening service’s fee for an application fee. There is specific criteria and rules for rental applications under MN Stat §504B.173. Below are the rental application criteria a Minnesota landlord must follow.
A landlord may not:
- Charge a screening fee if there is no rental unit available or within a reasonable amount of time in the future.
- Collect a screening fee without providing the applicant a written receipt (upon the applicant’s request).
- Deposit an applicant’s screening fee until all other applicants have been screened and rejected or declined to enter the rental agreement.
A landlord must return the application fee if:
- The applicant is rejected.
- The landlord doesn’t obtain a credit report or tenant screening report.
- There are unused funds for the screening process.
The application fee must be returned by mail, retrievable in person, or destroyed upon the applicant’s request if the payment was made by check.
Lastly, the landlord must provide the following disclosures in writing prior to accepting the screening fee:
- The contact information of the tenant’s screening service (including the name, address and phone number). If the landlord does not use a tenant screening service, then this does not need to be disclosed.
- The criteria on which the decision to rent to the prospective tenant will be based on.
- Notify the prospective tenant within 14 days of rejecting the application and list the criteria the applicant failed to meet.
If the landlord is found to be in violation of the screening process, they may be liable for the screening fee plus up to $100, civil court filing fees and costs and attorney’s fees.
Any prospective tenant found to have false information on their application may be liable for damages, a civil penalty fee up to $500, court filing fees and costs, and attorney’s fees.
If a prospective tenant is accepted, according to Minnesota state law, there is no maximum amount a Minnesota landlord can charge for a security deposit. Additionally, a receipt for a security deposit is necessary when the landlord has accepted the funds in cash. The security deposit must be held in an interest-bearing account, bearing interest at the rate of 1% annually.
What Minnesota 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)
Minnesota state laws add additional protections for the following classes:
- Marital Status
- Sexual Orientation
- Gender Identity
- Public and/or Rental Assistance
Asking about any of these items on a Minnesota rental application form (and/or using them to base an application decision on) is illegal.
Exemptions from Fair Housing laws do exist. In Minnesota, the following exemptions are allowed:
- Familial Status – landlords may ask about and base an application decision on if children will occupy the rented premises in any two-unit owner-occupied buildings.
- Age – in the case of age-restricted communities such as senior housing, familial status is exempt from FHA laws. This federal exemption, known as the Housing for Older Persons Exemption, can apply to 55+ and 62+ communities that meet legal requirements for senior living status.
- Owner Occupied Properties – if an owner lives in one of the units of a single-family property, it has two dwellings or less and the owner represents themselves during the leasing process, or, in the case where a room in a single-family unit is being rented, the owner resides in the unit. This is exempt from abiding by FHA laws under the “Mrs. Murphy” exemption. However, race can never be a deciding factor (per the Civil Rights Act of 1866) and there cannot be any discriminatory advertisements to discourage applicants of a certain group.
- Religious Organizations – religion may be considered 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 commercial intent may provide preferential treatment of applications for lodgings owned or operated by the club. 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, 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.
Minnesota Eviction Record Search
In addition to third-party services which collect eviction records for landlords, this information is also available to the public online by performing a case search of the Minnesota court system.
To access the eviction records:
- Access Minnesota Public Access (MPA) Remote.
- Select “Civil, Family & Probate Case Records”. You may also select a county/court location from the dropdown menu on this page.
- Enter the captcha code at the top of the screen, and select “Search by Party” from the dropdown menu below it.
- Enter the potential tenant’s name to view any existing records.
- Select the case number to be taken to the register of actions, which contains any available information.
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.