The Montana rental application form is a document landlords send out to prospective tenants to determine whether or not they are viable as a future tenant. The requested information relates to eviction history, rental history, and financial information and is used for background screening purposes.
Montana Laws on Rental Application Fees
In Montana, there is no limit on the amount that can be charged 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.
If an application is approved, a security deposit may be collected by the landlord. According to Montana state law, security deposits do not have a cap or maximum amount set. Additionally, a receipt for the security deposit is not required and there are no specified holding requirements for security deposits.
What Montana 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)
Additionally, Montana state laws add additional protections for the following classes:
- Marital Status
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 illegal.
Exemptions from Fair Housing laws do exist. In Montana, the following exemptions are allowed:
- Familial Status – it is acceptable to ask about and base an application decision on applicant age and/or if children will occupy the rented premises in any of the below cases:
- Two-family owner-occupied dwellings.
- Single-family dwelling which rents 3 or fewer sleeping rooms within the property
- 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.
- 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
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.
Montana Eviction Record Search
Landlords in Montana may opt to either collect background checks and eviction records using third-party software or utilize the state’s on-demand public record system to search for the records they need.
To access the eviction records:
- Visit the Montana Supreme Court Docket Search.
- Select from active dockets, closed dockets from 1979 to 2005, or closed dockets from 2006 to present. Once you’ve selected which dockets you’d like to search from, you’ll be taken to the case search.
- Enter the applicant’s name into the “Party Name” field and any cases involving the applicant will pop up.
- Select the case number to view the details of the docket.
- Any documents available for viewing will be linked in pdf format in the details at the bottom of the docket.
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.