The New York rental application form is a document that landlords provide to prospective tenants to collect information relating to their finances, rental history, and any past evictions they have faced. This is then used to make a determination on whether to rent the property to this applicant.
- Application Fee – in New York, a landlord may only charge an application fee that is equal to the cost of the background check or $20, whichever is less.
- Discrimination Laws – New York offers specific state protections against discrimination, in addition to federal law which makes it illegal in New York to ask about or consider race, color, religion, nationality, gender, disabilities, or familial status (such as children who will live in the property), with some exceptions. Any additional protections may vary by county or municipality, such as New York City.
- Consent for Credit Check – the Federal Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires a prospective tenant to give written consent to check their credit history during the screening process.
New York Rental Application Laws
The following laws apply to the application and tenant screening process in the state of New York.
Collecting an Application Fee in New York
New York limits application fees to the cost of completing the background check or $20, whichever is lesser. If the applicant has a screening report dated within 30 days, this must be accepted in place of collecting a new fee. NY Consolidated Laws Section 238-A
Adverse Action Landlord/Tenant Lawsuit Limitation
When considering an application for a rental property, landlords may not consider an applicant’s history relating to past landlord/tenant disputes or lawsuits. NY Consolidated Laws Section 227-F
Illegal Housing Discrimination in New York
Federal and state laws are in effect in New York to protect potential renters from unfair discrimination during the application process.
Fair Housing Act
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)
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.
New York Fair Housing Laws
Additionally, New York state laws add additional protections for the following classes
- Marital Status
- Sexual Orientation
- Military Status
- Gender Identity
- Source of Income (Public and/or Rental Assistance)
These criteria may not be asked about in writing or in person, and may not be used in the consideration of a rental application.
Exemptions to Fair Housing Laws
Exemptions from Fair Housing laws do exist. In New York, the following exemptions are allowed:
- Age/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.
- Rental of a room in a single family home that is occupied by the owner or other housing occupant
- Housing for Older Persons Exemption – 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+ communities that meet the requirements.
- Sex – the sex of an applicant may be considered in the case of established same-sex housing communities.
- 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 Credit 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 (example template).
New York Security Deposit Law
If an applicant is approved, the following laws apply to the collection of security deposits in New York:
- Standard Limit / Maximum Amount: New York allows for 1 month’s rent to be charged as a security deposit, except in the case of rent-stabilized residential units such as assisted living, senior communities, and property subject to rent control laws. NY Gen Oblig L § 7-108
- Receipt Requirements: there is no requirement for landlords to provide a written receipt of security deposit, but they must provide notice according to the financial holdings laws.
- Financial Holdings: funds held as a security deposit are held in trust, so they may not commingle with other funds. Deposits should be held in a bank with an office in New York and should be accompanied by a notice that outlines where the funds are held. If the landlord receives 6 or more security deposits from tenants, they must be placed in an interest-bearing account that accrues to the tenant. NY Gen Oblig L § 7-103
Sending Rental Application Forms
Landlords can send rental application forms to tenants in one of two ways:
- Manually – using the PDF and Word templates available for free on our website (see the top right of this webpage), landlords can send a rental application form to tenants via a physical copy or email.
- With Software – most popular property management software services include an online rental application form that can automate the collection and screening process for landlords.
For reviews of popular property management software, click here.
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 York Eviction Record Search
New York eviction records are public domain, so anyone can access them to complete a background check. Landlords may choose to use a service, or complete the check themselves using the New York court’s online system.
To access the eviction records:
- Visit the New York State Unified Court System’s eCourts WebCivil Search.
- Select ‘Party Search’.
- 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 details. Note that only minimal information may be shown.
Responding to Rental Applications
If an applicant meets all of your tenant screening criteria, then there’s nothing you need to do beyond notifying them and moving forward with the normal leasing process.
However, if you acquire a consumer report for an applicant (i.e. credit, eviction or criminal history) and you make an “adverse action” against them (EVEN IF the report’s information wasn’t the primary reason for doing so), you are required to provide the tenant with a notice letter that includes certain details, known as an “adverse action notice”.
An adverse action is defined as either rejecting the applicant or instituting additional/higher requirements than you have for another applicant (i.e. requiring a co-signer, larger security deposit, higher rent or an additional deposit).
In these cases, an adverse action notice is required to be sent to the applicant, and must include the following:
- The agency’s name, address and phone number that supplied the report.
- A statement explaining that the CRA didn’t make the decision for the adverse action themselves, and as a result, that they can’t explain why the decision was made.
- A statement explaining the applicant’s right to dispute such information and their right to a copy of the report in question within 60 days.
To learn more about requirements surrounding adverse action notices, see this article from the Federal Trade Commission. To get an idea of what an adverse action notice might look like, see this example letter.
Additionally, to protect against accusations of illegal discrimination, it is always recommended to include the exact reason why the application was not approved in the rejection letter.