The Oregon rental application form is a document used to collect personal and financial information relating to potential tenancy. The information is used by landlords and listing agents for background screening purposes which help in the decision to rent to the applicant or not.
Oregon Laws on Rental Application Fees
Oregon does not allow application fees charged to exceed the average actual cost of completing the screening process itself, which can include professional fees for the time spent completing the screening manually. A receipt should be provided as well as a copy of the background check upon determination according to Fair Credit Report Act guidelines.
However, the landlord or agent must meet the following criteria to be able to charge an application fee:
- Disclose the cost, method, and criteria of the screening.
- Provide an estimate of similar units for rent as well as pending application estimates.
- Disclose whether renter’s insurance is required and how much rent and the security deposit will be.
A landlord can ask an applicant to pay only one screening charge within any 60-day period, regardless of the number of rental units owned by the landlord for which the applicant has applied to rent. A refund of the application fee must be given within a reasonable timeframe if the landlord fills the rental unit before screening the applicant or does not screen the applicant at all. ORS 90.295
If an applicant is approved, a landlord may charge a security deposit. According to Oregon state law, there is no limit to what a landlord can charge as a security deposit. Landlords in Oregon are required to provide a receipt for a security deposit and must include this amount in the lease agreement; however, there are no specified holding requirements for security deposits.
What Oregon Rental Application Forms Can’t Ask About
Federal and state laws are in effect in Oregon 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)
Additionally, Oregon state law adds additional protections for the following classes:
- Marital Status
- Sexual Orientation
- 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. 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 Oregon, the following exemptions are allowed:
- Familial Status – it is acceptable to ask about and base an application decision on if children will occupy the rented premises 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.
- Sex/Sexual Orientation – the laws against discrimination against sex or sexual orientation do not apply in the cases of a single-family residence where the owner is an occupant, and the occupants share a common area.
- 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
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 5 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.
- Oregon has made it illegal to refuse to rent to a tenant because of a previous arrest, including some criminal convictions.
The landlord shall disclose the name and address of the screening company and credit report company.
Oregon Eviction Record Search
Evictions are publicly accessible through Oregon’s online record searching system, which allows landlords and agents to complete their own screening for evictions as an alternative to using a paid service.
To access the eviction records:
- Visit the Oregon Judicial Department Online Records Search.
- Select Smart Search at the bottom of the page.
- Enter the applicant’s name and complete the captcha to continue.
- Click “Submit” and any cases involving the applicant will pop up.
- Select the case number to be taken to the case details.
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.