The Ohio rental application form is a document that property managers and landlords use to collect information about potential tenants. This includes rental history, income, and other factors used to determine whether the applicant is a viable tenant.
Ohio Laws on Rental Application Fees
In North Dakota, 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 a security deposit. According to Ohio state law, there is no limit to what an Ohio landlord can charge as a security deposit. If a landlord charges $50 or one month’s rent (whichever is greater) and the tenancy is for a period longer than 6 months, the landlord must pay 5% interest annually. Ohio Revised Code § 5321.16 There are no receipt or holding requirements.
What Ohio Rental Application Forms Can’ Ask About
Ohio protects potential renters from unfair discrimination during the application process with both state and federal FHA laws. 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, Ohio state laws add additional protections for the following classes:
- Military Status
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 illegal.
Exemptions from Fair Housing laws do exist. In Ohio, 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.
- 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 can provide preferential treatment of applications for lodgings owned or operated by the club. 42 U.S. Code § 3607
Note: The Mrs. Murphy exemption is not included in Ohio exemptions.
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.
Ohio Eviction Record Search
Ohio provides evictions as part of public record, which may be accessed through the Ohio Supreme Court record search directory or, agents and landlords may elect to use a third-party service.
To access the eviction records:
- Visit the Ohio Supreme Court Public Docket or search for the county court that the applicant’s previous jurisdiction would fall under.
- Select “Show Party Search Options”.
- Enter the applicant’s name and any cases involving the applicant will pop up.
- Select the case number to be taken to the case details. Available documents will be linked in pdf format on the leftmost column of the docket.
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.