The Utah rental application form is a document that landlords send out to a prospective tenant to collect information that will be used for screening purposes. The information requested relates to finances and history as a tenant, which landlords will use to make a determination.
Utah Laws on Rental Application Fees
In Utah, 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 an application is approved, a landlord can collect a security deposit. According to Utah state law, there is no limit in place for the maximum amount that can be charged for a security deposit. Additionally, there is no receipt or holding requirement to provide a receipt for a collected security deposit.
Disclosure of Screening Criteria
If a landlord plans to charge an application fee, they must inform the tenant in writing about the anticipated availability of the rental unit as well as the criteria used for screening, which can include details like the applicant’s criminal history, credit, income, employment, or rental history. UT Code § 57-22-4 (2019)
A landlord may not accept a rental application or charge an applicant a rental application fee, until the owner complies with the disclosure requirement.
What Utah Rental Application Forms Can’t Ask About
Federal and state laws are in effect in Utah 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, Utah state laws add additional protections for the following classes:
- Source of Income (Public and/or Rental Assistance)
- Sexual Orientation
- Gender Identity
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 Utah, 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-restricted communities such as senior housing. This federal exemption, known as the “Housing for Older Persons” exemption, can apply to 55+ or even 62+ communities that meet the requirements.
- 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 – 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 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.
Utah Eviction Record Search
Evictions are public record in Utah, which means they are accessible to anyone. However, Utah charges for access to this information online so whether to complete the search manually or use a third-party service will come down to how many searches will be completed per month.
To access the eviction records:
- Email the Administrative Office of the Courts with XChange in the subject line and a completed subscription agreement to be approved for an account with Utah State Courts’ XChange Case Search.
- For the subscription account, this allows for 500 free searches per month (additionally searches are $0.15 per search). There is a $25 registration fee, and a $40 monthly subscription fee that allows up to 500 searches per month. For one-time user account, this is best for individuals who want to look up a few searches. Each search is $0.20 and $5.00 registration fee for any mix of searches and documents.
- You will receive a response normally within 48 business hours, providing both login and payment information.
- Log in to XChange, enter the applicant’s name, and any cases involving the applicant will pop up.
- Select the case number to be taken to a detailed case history. If documents are available for purchase, they will be linked under a ‘Purchase’ column. All documents are in PDF format and cost $0.50 each, regardless of the number of pages.
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.