The New Mexico rental application form is a document that collects personal, financial, and rental history information from a prospective client. The listing agent or landlord then uses the information collected to decide to rent to the applicant or not.
New Mexico Laws on Rental Application Fees
In New Mexico, 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, a landlord may collect a security deposit set by New Mexico state law. For rental agreements shorter than one year, New Mexico landlords may charge no more than 1 month’s rent for a security deposit. If the rental agreement is for a year or more, there is no limit. If the landlord charges more than one month’s rent, they will be required to pay interest to the tenant. Additionally, there are no receipt or holding requirements for security deposits in New Mexico.
What New Mexico Rental Application Forms Can’t Ask About
Federal and state laws are in effect in New Mexico to protect against 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)
Additionally, New Mexico state laws add additional protections for the following classes:
- Marital Status/Spousal Affiliation
- Sexual Orientation
- Gender Identity
None of these protected classes of information may be utilized or asked for by the landlord or agent. Asking about any of these items on a rental application form (and/or using them to base an application decision on) is illegal.
However, exemptions from Fair Housing laws do exist. In New Mexico, the following exemptions are allowed:
- Familial Status – asking about and basing an application decision on if children will occupy the rented premises is allowed in any two-family owner-occupied buildings.
- 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.
- Owner Occupied Properties – if an owner lives in one of the units of a single-family property, it has 4 dwellings or less and the owner represents themselves during the leasing process, then they are 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 – the applicant’s religion can influence an application decision for property that is owned, operated, supervised, or controlled by a religious organization that rents for personal 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 – clubs that operate privately with no commercial intent may provide preferential treatment of applications for lodgings owned or operated by the club, as long as membership isn’t discriminatory. 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.
New Mexico Eviction Record Search
Landlords can choose to use a service that provides background checks for a fee, or access the public record cases online through New Mexico’s courts system for free.
To access the eviction records:
- Visit the New Mexico Courts Case Lookup.
- Agree to the disclaimer.
- Complete the captcha to continue to the case search.
- Enter the applicant’s name and any other applicable information you may have, and any cases involving the applicant will pop up.
- Select the case number to be taken to the case summary.
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.