Virginia Rental Application Form

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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.

QUICK INFO
  • Application Fee – In Virginia, a landlord may charge up to $50 as an application fee on top of the actual cost to complete a screening. However, if the unit is part of government housing, the application fee can be no more than $32. This is separate from the application deposit, which is both not limited and refundable.
  • Discrimination Laws – Virginia offers specific state protections against discrimination, in addition to federal law which makes it illegal in Virginia to ask about race, color, religion, nationality, sex, source of income, familial status (such as children who will live in the property), and more – with some exceptions.
  • Consent for Credit Checks – the Federal Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires a prospective tenant to give written consent to check their credit history during the screening process.

Virginia Rental Application Laws

The following laws apply to the application and tenant screening process in the state of Virginia.

Collecting an Application Fee in Virginia

Virginia allows landlords to charge an application fee that does not exceed the cost of third-party screening service charges, plus $50 (or $32 for government housing leases). 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

Illegal Housing Discrimination in Virginia

Federal and state laws are in effect in Virginia to protect potential renters from unfair discrimination during the application process.

Fair Housing Act

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)

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 not allowed.

Virginia Fair Housing Laws

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

  • Sexual Orientation
  • Gender Identity
  • Age (“Elderliness”)
  • Source of Income (Public and/or Rental Assistance)
  • Veteran Status

These criteria may not be asked about in writing or in person, and may not be used in the consideration of a rental application.

Exemptions to Fair Housing Laws

Exemptions from Fair Housing laws do exist. In Virginia, the following exemptions are allowed:

  • Age/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 below cases:
    • Two-family owner-occupied dwellings.
    • Housing for Older Persons Exemption – 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.
  • Mrs. Murphy Exemption – dwellings with four units or less where one unit is occupied by the owner are exempt from Fair Housing Laws, unless a real estate agent represents the landlord. Additionally, race cannot be a deciding factor as per the Civil Rights Act of 1866
  • 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

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.

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 (example template).

Virginia Security Deposit Law

If an applicant is approved, the following laws apply to the collection of security deposits in Virginia:

  • Standard Limit / Maximum Amount: Virginia landlords may charge no more than 2 months’ rent as a security deposit.
  • Receipt Requirements: There is no law requiring a receipt for the security deposit in Virginia.
  • Financial Holdings: There are no specified holding requirements for security deposits in Virginia.

Sending Rental Application Forms

Landlords can send rental application forms to tenants in one of two ways:

  1. Manually – using the PDF and Word templates available for free on our website (see the top right of this webpage), landlords can send a rental application form to tenants via a physical copy or email.
  2. With Software – most popular property management software services include an online rental application form that can automate the collection and screening process for landlords.

For reviews of popular property management software, click here.

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, select the court that the applicant’s previous jurisdiction would fall under from the dropwon ‘Courts’ menu. 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.

Responding to Rental Applications

If an applicant meets all of your tenant screening criteria, then there’s nothing you need to do beyond notifying them and moving forward with the normal leasing process.

However, if you acquire a consumer report for an applicant (i.e. credit, eviction or criminal history) and you make an “adverse action” against them (EVEN IF the report’s information wasn’t the primary reason for doing so), you are required to provide the tenant with a notice letter that includes certain details, known as an “adverse action notice”.

An adverse action is defined as either rejecting the applicant or instituting additional/higher requirements than you have for another applicant (i.e. requiring a co-signer, larger security deposit, higher rent or an additional deposit).

In these cases, an adverse action notice is required to be sent to the applicant, and must include the following:

  • The agency’s name, address and phone number that supplied the report.
  • A statement explaining that the CRA didn’t make the decision for the adverse action themselves, and as a result, that they can’t explain why the decision was made.
  • A statement explaining the applicant’s right to dispute such information and their right to a copy of the report in question within 60 days.

To learn more about requirements surrounding adverse action notices, see this article from the Federal Trade Commission. To get an idea of what an adverse action notice might look like, see this example letter.

Additionally, to protect against accusations of illegal discrimination, it is always recommended to include the exact reason why the application was not approved in the rejection letter.