A North Carolina rental application form helps a landlord choose a prospective tenant who is well suited to rent a particular property. The form requests personal and employment information plus consent for a credit check (sometimes called a consumer report). Applications often collect a non-refundable fee, commonly equal to the cost of getting the relevant screening reports.
North Carolina Rental Application Laws
North Carolina has minimal regulations on the content or process of a rental application. Unlike some states, North Carolina does not cap application fees or require a specific recipient. In general, if the landlord wants the application fee to be nonrefundable, this must be noted in a clear writing to the prospective tenant (which can be part of the application form).
Quick Guide To Process a North Carolina Rental Application
After receiving a North Carolina rental application, most landlords use the following process to evaluate the potential tenant:
- Verify Credit – Order a credit report for the potential tenant; a score of 600-650 is a common minimum requirement. A credit report can be as simple as a “pass/fail” result or can have comprehensive details, including criminal history. (NOTE: a credit report requires the tenant’s written and signed consent, on the application or separately)
- Verify Income – Check the potential tenant’s employment status and pay scale. This can be done through recent pay stubs and/or contacting the potential tenant’s employer.
- Check Rental History – Contact previous landlord(s) to confirm a potential tenant has in the past been a good renter and neighbor.
- Check Eviction History – Verify the potential tenant has honestly disclosed the details of any past evictions. An eviction check usually covers a longer period (previous 7 years) than a rental history check (previous 3 years).
- Check Criminal History – Confirm the potential tenant’s reporting of any criminal history, especially including a check of criminal databases like sex offender registries.
- Provide a Response – Approve the application if it’s a good fit, or, if rejecting the application, draft an appropriate adverse action notice to limit liability.
Checking Eviction History in North Carolina
North Carolina eviction cases are matters of public record which anyone can access. Unlike most states, North Carolina does not at time of writing have an online system with which to check court records. This means most landlords in North Carolina use third-party services to check eviction history as part of a screening report.
Where this is not an option, a landlord may complete this form and submit to the North Carolina Clerk of the Court to obtain records from the state judiciary. The form requires personal information and notice to the court of which records are requested regarding the potential tenant.
Restrictions on North Carolina Rental Application Questions
The sample rental application provided on this page complies with federal law restricting the information a landlord can request. In general, it’s illegal under the Federal Fair Housing Act to screen tenants by asking for information about the following, or using these as a basis for approving or denying an application:
- National origin (nationality)
- Sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity)
- Familial status (i.e., having or not having children)
- Disability (whether physical or mental)
There are narrow exemptions from the Fair Housing Act for things like senior housing or certain very-small scale landlords, but local regulations may still apply. Always consult an attorney before attempting to ignore federal requirements.
Rejecting an Application: Adverse Action Notice
When taking an action which may disadvantage a potential tenant, a landlord may have to provide an adverse action notice informing the tenant about the decision (sometimes called a “conditional approval,” if the application is approved subject to meeting additional conditions). Federal regulations require an adverse action notice whenever a landlord collects a credit report and takes one of the following actions:
- Rejecting the potential tenant’s application
- Adding a requirement for someone to co-sign the potential tenant’s lease
- Demanding a larger security deposit than before, as a condition for renting
- Asking for higher rent after receiving the report
Important Features of an Adverse Action Notice
An adverse action notice must contain the following details:
- Note that the landlord took adverse action based on information in a consumer credit report
- Details of the consumer reporting agency
- Note that the landlord decided the adverse action, not the agency
- Declaration of the applicant’s right to a copy of the consumer credit report
- Declaration of the application’s right to dispute the report within 60 calendar days
While not legally required, it also is expedient for a landlord to explain the reasons for the adverse action, since this establishes a written record of issues with the application.
For an example, see this tenant rejection letter template.
Fees in North Carolina
North Carolina has the following regulations on fees relating to a new rental:
- Rental Application Limit: No cap
- Security Deposit Limit: Two weeks’ rent (weekly rentals), one and one half months’ rent (month-to-month rentals), or two months’ rent (fixed-term rentals longer than month-to-month)
- Pet Fee Limit: No cap, but must be “reasonable” relative to potential costs
Local jurisdictions may impose stricter regulations than the statewide standard. Always check local laws.