The Montana rental application form is a document that landlords can utilize during the tenant screening process. It allows landlords to access prospective tenants’ background information, including criminal and credit history and helps them choose the best tenant to rent or lease their property.
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.
A valid rental application ensures equality in the screening process, provided that the same form is distributed to all prospective tenants. This is critical in adhering to the Federal Fair Housing Act. The Federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on race, skin color, nationality, religious preference, gender, age, family status or disability.
Montana Rental Application Form Elements
The sections that should appear in an all-encompassing rental application are described below. Applicants should be clearly instructed to complete all fields in the rental application. Blank spaces or incomplete information should be considered for investigation.
At the time of application, the landlord is entitled to know who will be sharing the unit with the primary applicant. At a minimum, the rental application should ask for potential roommates’ names and relationships to the applicant. This information helps a landlord determine if occupancy regulations are being followed in the unit. In the state of Montana, the generally-accepted limits of occupancy are two people per bedroom, plus one additional tenant.
Depending on the situation or type of unit, roommates may be required to complete their own rental application. This is common in situations where each individual occupant of a unit is billed separately for their own portion of the monthly rent by the landlord.
If an applicant has children, they are not required to list their names in this section of the rental application. The Federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against renters with children. Listing their names in this section could unwillingly introduce bias against the applicant and ultimately lead to a violation of federal law.
Landlords are entitled to ask detailed questions about a potential tenant’s previous residences. The rental history portion of the rental application should request the following information:
- Current address, including street number, street name, city, state and zip code.
- Number of years residing at current address.
- Landlord, manager or owner’s name of current address, if applicable.
- Telephone number of current landlord, manager or owner of current address, if applicable.
This information should also be provided for previous residences. It is common for landlords to request a rental history that includes either the past three addresses or the past five years.
By obtaining this information, landlords can contact previous residences to determine if the applicant is a good fit for their rental. The landlord may:
- Confirm that the rental history provided on the application is accurate.
- Determine if the potential tenant regularly paid rent when due.
- Find out if the potential tenant abided by the residential lease agreement in place at that time.
- Ask if the applicant incurred significant damages to their unit.
- Find out if the potential tenant was the subject of frequent complaints.
- Ask about the applicant’s smoking status at that time.
- Ask if the applicant owned at pet at that time and if they abided by written pet policies.
- Ask if there would be any reason to deny residence to this applicant (remembering the guidelines of the Federal Fair Housing Act).
While it may seem intrusive to some applicants, this section of a rental application provides a landlord with important information to increase their confidence that the prospective tenant will be capable of paying monthly rent on time. A landlord will want to request current monthly income.
Employment history should also be included in the income section of a rental application. Some applications list employment history as a separate section. Employment history should encompass the past five years, beginning with the potential tenant’s present employer.
Financial and employment history is vital information to a landlord and it should be completed in its entirety. Financial and employment information that is incomplete without explanation, employment history that shows numerous job changes, gaps in the employment history or a gross monthly income less than three times the monthly rent amount are possible red flags to renting to a particular tenant.
A landlord may request between one and three emergency contacts on the rental application to keep on file if needed. The landlord may also obtain emergency contacts when the residential lease agreement is signed.
A landlord may request an applicant’s vehicle information if there are assigned parking spaces or if there is limited parking available on-site. In the case of an overcrowded parking lot, the landlord can use this information on file to determine which cars belong in the lot and which do not. If a landlord requests an applicant’s vehicle information, they should obtain the make, model, year, license plate number and state for each vehicle that the prospective tenant owns. The landlord may also collect this information upon signing the residential lease agreement, if desired.
It is within a landlord’s rights to restrict pets, with the exception of service animals. Unruly pets can be a nuisance to neighbors, create a mess and cause significant damage to a unit. A landlord may choose to allow certain types or breeds of pets, enforce size restrictions, limit the number of pets in a unit or completely prohibit pets. If a landlord decides to allow pets in their rental unit, they may require the tenant to sign a written pet policy. They may also collect a pet deposit or charge monthly pet rent.
On a rental application, a landlord should ask if the tenant has pets, and if so, what type of animal it is, what breed it is, and how much it weighs.
Read our guide on pet policies and our blog post about service animal documentation for more information.
This section of the rental application will further assist the landlord in identifying red flags associated with an applicant. It is an excellent opportunity to prescreen an applicant before proceeding with the rental process.
While unfavorable answers may not automatically mean that the potential tenant would create an issue for the landlord, they may warrant further questioning or investigation prior to leasing the unit to this person. This is a prime section to ask any questions that have not been addressed by the rest of the rental application, provided that the questions are compliant with the Federal Fair Housing Act.
The rental application is a landlord’s introduction to a prospective tenant. While it may seem time-consuming to review all sections of the rental application and thoroughly screen each applicant, doing so is in the landlord’s best interest.
In this section, the tenant provides all basic personal information that would be required to verify their identity. When designing this section of a rental application, the landlord must be careful to adhere to the Federal Fair Housing Act and state of Montana regulations pertaining to housing discrimination. The following pieces of personal information are legal to be requested of the prospective renter:
- First, middle and last name.
- Aliases or other names used in the last 10 years.
- Social security number.
- Contact phone numbers and best time to call.
- Email address.
- Driver’s license or state identification number, including state issued.
- Expiration date of driver’s license or state identification card.
While some rental applications ask for an applicant’s birthdate, it is advised to only request this information if it is directly needed in screening an individual, such as in a criminal background check, credit check, identity verification report, housing history report or eviction history report. Asking directly for an applicant’s age is a violation of the Federal Fair Housing Act.
The applicant’s signature is one of the most vital sections in the rental application. Without the applicant’s signature, the information collected may only be of limited use. The rental application clearly state what the applicant’s signature represents. When a prospective tenant signs a rental application, it should be understood that they consent to the following;
- That all information provided on the rental application is truthful to the best of their knowledge.
- That they give permission to the landlord to verify the information provided on the rental application.
- That they consent to all reports needed to verify the information provided on the rental application including a credit report, a criminal background check, employment history report, tenant history report or any other means of collecting information.
In addition to a signature line, this section should include a space for the date. It should also include a space to indicate if an application fee was received, if applicable.
Applicable Law in Montana
When seeking out a new renter or renters, most landlords go with a rental application and screening to ensure a higher level of quality for their tenants. While this is common, it’s important that the application process is non-discriminatory and that the prospective renters consent to any background checks. For this reason, every application needs a signature line for confirmed consent. Some aspects that a landlord may screen out are tenants with eviction history, a lack of adequate income, a credit score under 630, or criminal history. Landlords may screen out tenants without gainful employment as well.
Insofar as application fees, Montana allows its landlords to set whatever application fee they like – there is no upward limit. In addition, there also isn’t a maximum value for security deposits in the state.
Fair Housing Laws in Montana
In most states, rules on fair housing exist on both the federal and state levels. Both of these strictly prohibit discrimination during the rental application process. These include discrimination based on color, race, national origin, sex, religion, familial status, or disability. In addition to those established by both federal and state policies, Montana also has strict prohibitions against discrimination based on creed, marital status, and age. Discrimination includes making housing unavailable for certain groups, providing different housing for specific groups, increasing the rent for protected groups, or falsely stating that housing is unavailable for rental based on the group identity of an applicant.