Virginia Rental Application Form

Last Updated: March 4, 2022 by Elizabeth Souza

The Virginia rental application form is a document used as part of the tenant screening process before leasing a property. The application collects personal information, financial information, and rental history to help the agent or landlord determine whether to rent the property or not.

Virginia Rental Application Laws

Virginia allows landlords to charge an application fee that does not exceed $50. The landlord can charge additional out-of-pocket expenses such as third-party screening services, background checks, credit checks, etc. If the dwelling unit is regulated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the fee shall not be over $32 (this does not include any additional out-of-pocket expenses). They may also require a refundable application deposit, which should be returned to the applicant within 10-20 days upon rejection of the application. (VA § 55.1-1203)

If an applicant is approved, the landlord may collect a security deposit. Virginia landlords may charge no more than two months’ rent as a security deposit. Additionally, there are no specified holding requirements or receipt requirements for security deposits.

What Virginia Rental Application Forms Can’t Ask About

Federal and state laws are in effect in Virginia 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:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National Origin (Nationality)
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Familial Status (Having or not having children)
  • Disability (Physical or Mental)

Additionally, Virginia state law adds additional protections for the following classes:

  • Sexual Orientation
  • Gender Identity
  • Age (“Elderliness” age 55 and older)
  • Source of Income (Public and/or Rental Assistance)
  • Military Status (Includes members of the uniformed forces of the United States, veterans and dependents of a service member)

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 Virginia, the following exemptions are allowed:

  • 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 two-family owner-occupied dwellings.
  •  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. (18 VAC 135-50-210)
  • 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)

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.

In Virginia, eviction records are part of the public record which can be accessed by anyone. This includes online through the District Court’s online records database, where they can be viewed for free.

To access the eviction records:

  • Visit the Virginia General District Court Online Case Information System.
  • On the left side of the page, under Court, select from the dropdown menu of the jurisdictions that are applicable to the applicant.
  •  Under Civil, select “Name Search.”
  • Enter the applicant’s name, and any cases involving the applicant will pop up.
  • Select the case number to be taken to the case summary.

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.