The New Hampshire rental application form is a document that landlords use to screen potential tenants for a lease agreement. The information collected includes financial information and rental history that the landlord or agent may use to make a determination on the property.
New Hampshire Rental Application Laws
In New Hampshire, there is no limit or maximum rental application fee a landlord can charge a prospective tenant. 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 a prospective tenant’s application is approved, the landlord may charge no more than $100 or one month’s rent for a security deposit according to New Hampshire state law. Cities and counties may impose their own limits. Additionally, security deposits should be held in a financial institution within the state, separate from the landlord’s personal finances. The landlord must provide a signed receipt stating the amount and holding location of the security deposit or surety bond. However, if the security deposit is paid using a check, no receipt is required.
What New Hampshire Rental Application Forms Can’t Ask About
Federal and state laws are in effect in New Hampshire to protect potential renters from unfair discrimination during the application process. 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)
New Hampshire Fair Housing Laws
Additionally, New Hampshire state law adds protections for the following classes:
- Marital Status
- Sexual Orientation
- HIV/AIDS Status (Only applicable to evictions)
- Gender Identity
These criteria may not be asked about in writing or in person, and may not be used in the consideration of a rental application. 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 not allowed.
Exemptions from Fair Housing laws do exist. In New Hampshire, 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:
- Property providing three or fewer dwellings, with one being the owner or a member of their family.
- Rental of a room with five or fewer rooms for rent if the owner or their family member resides in a room.
- Age -landlords may ask for an applicant’s age in the case of age-specific communities, such as senior housing or 55+ communities, due to the Housing for Older Persons 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
Federally, race is a non-exemption criteria that cannot have an influence on the choice of whether to rent to an applicant or not regardless of existing exemptions.
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.
New Hampshire Eviction Record Search
In New Hampshire, evictions are public record, which means they can be accessed by anyone.
Landlords have the option to use a third-party service to collect information, in addition to the option of the state’s on-demand record requesting system.
To access the eviction records:
- Visit the New Hampshire Odyssey Portal.
- Create an account on the top right corner by completing the Registration Form.
- Select ‘General Public’ from the dropdown Role menu to request access.
- Read and agree to the court’s terms and conditions to continue.
- Enter the applicant’s name into the appropriate fields and any cases involving the applicant will pop up.
- Select the case number to view a summary of the case. At this time, documents in cases are not available for viewing by non-attorney parties or parties not involved in the cases.
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.