We have all heard similar stories from our friends and family, when someone goes to apply for a rental property and is charged an exorbitant amount to simply apply, where another person was charged less at the same location. All landlords have the responsibility to screen potential applicants who want to rent their properties, and to a certain extent, such necessities as background checks, credit checks and repairs to the property might be needed in this process.
These all cost the landlord a certain amount of money upfront that he usually tries to offset with application fees. However, some unethical landlords are finding out how lucrative it can be to simply keep the property open and make money from charging outrageous application fees for all who apply instead. To most landlords application fees are not the primary source of income on the property, however.
Remember, application fees are intended to cover the cost of the screening process, and ideally should only be used for such. However, many states have weak laws, if any at all, governing this practice. Most of the time, the transaction is considered a private matter between two individuals, and only comes to light if the property is owned by a licensed company.
Some states do regulate this practice, however, and declare that the application fee itself should not be higher than the cost of a background and credit check. Renters should always be aware of his state’s laws regulating landlord practices, especially Arizona real estate laws, and should be willing to report a potentially unethical landlord to the state housing authority or the state health department.
In a regular rental situation, you should not pay any more than $30-50 to apply for a rental. Presently, anything much over that will likely not be going towards the background and credit checks for which landlords are supposed to be using the fee. If you have any questions on how rental fees are supposed to work in your state, check out this website, as it can assist you on familiarizing yourself with rental fee processes and laws for your state.
If you feel that you have been unfairly charged an exorbitant rental application fee, you may have some recourse depending on the laws in your state. Remember too that different rental properties might charge a higher application fee depending on the area and the current housing market. Occasionally, landlords charge higher rental application fees to discourage those who are not truly serious about the property from applying, or to ensure that only those in a certain income bracket apply for their property. While this might be questionable, it is not necessarily illegal. A rental unit in a highly desirable area will likely pull a higher application fee.
In cases where landlords have been found to hike the application fee price in a state or county where laws govern against such actions, filing a claim with the housing authority or other legal assistance will often resolve the issue and result in a refund. Even in states where there are no specific laws governing this practice, filing a claim with the local justice of the peace might resolve the issue.