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Do you need to find a tenant for your rental property? You'll need to draw up a rental application form to gather important information for a background check.

These legal documents offer insight into the criminal background, evictions, and credit history of a prospective tenant.

Federal and Alabama laws govern what can and can't be included in a rental application, so if you want to ensure that you're complying with these laws, you'll need to understand them.

We have drawn up this guide to help you create a compliant Alabama rental application form.

What to Include

The purpose of a rental application is to gather information about the applicant and provide certain disclosures pertaining to rules and the condition of the rental unit. You can draw this form up yourself or have your real estate agent do it instead.

Furthermore, you would use this application to conduct a background check on a potential tenant before drawing up a lease agreement.

We'll discuss what you need to include in this legal document below.

Obtaining Information from the Potential Tenant

Requesting certain details from the candidate is an essential step in the tenant screening process. Here's what you need to include in this section of the application:

  • Personal information
  • Details about employment and income
  • Rental history
  • Credit history
  • Personal references
  • Signature granting the landlord permission to conduct a credit check

Mandatory Disclosures

In addition to this request for information, you will also have to provide certain disclosures that warn the applicant of any potential hazards and provide more details about the condition of the property. Here are some of the disclosures you'll need to include:

  • The state of the property
  • Rental control rules
  • Details about associated fees
  • Smoking and pet rules
  • The presence of any environmental, health, or safety hazards
  • Shared utility arrangements
  • Requirements for the security deposit and monthly rent

What Not to Include

According to the Fair Housing Act, it is illegal to discriminate against potential tenants. Here's what you are forbidden by law to request in a rental application:

  • Sex
  • Color
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Familial status
  • Race

Keep in mind that certain exceptions may apply.

Alabama Laws

In contrast to other regions with a cap on the amount that can be charged as a rental application fee, Alabama has no restrictions on how much a landlord can ask for. While there are no restrictions on the application fee, there are restrictions placed on deposits.

According to state law, only one month's rent can be charged as a security deposit in Alabama if a candidate is accepted.

Nevertheless, there are several situations where this restriction is not applicable. It does not apply to pet deposits, improvements to the rental unit, or anything else that would make the landlord more liable.

There are no rules for how security deposits must be handled, and landlords are not obligated to give tenants a receipt for their security deposit.

Background Checks

Once you have obtained the relevant information, along with written consent, from the applicant, the next step in the tenant screening process is running a background check. Here's what you need to know:

  • Criminal history check. You can conduct a criminal history check on the potential tenant by contacting the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. This will tell you whether the applicant has been arrested or served jail time.
  • Credit check. There are several online resources you can use to conduct this background check. Results are often displayed as a simple pass or fail, while others offer detailed insight into the applicant's credit score.
  • Eviction search. To do this check, you can use the Alabama State Trial Court Records to find public records of previous evictions. Simply visit this website, sign up, and use the name search page to find criminal records.

Laws and Consent

According to the Federal Credit Reporting Act, the candidate must grant written approval before a landlord can perform a credit check using the details on the filed application pertaining to the potential tenant. You can obtain this written consent in one of two ways: 

  • Include a section in the application for the applicant to sign as proof that they agree to allow the landlord to conduct a background check
  • Use a separate document for this purpose

Adverse Action Notices

You can take adverse action against a candidate by rejecting their application, requesting a co-signer, or requesting a higher monthly rent or security deposit amount. In this case, you are legally obligated to provide the prospective tenant with an adverse action notice.

Even if the evidence from the consumer report wasn't the driving force of the adverse action, this is still necessary.

The letter informs the applicant that they were rejected because of data on a consumer credit report and describes why. This notice has to include information about the consumer reporting agency. It should have a statement indicating that the potential tenant has the right to request a copy of the credit report and to contest its validity within 60 days. 

Build Your Own

Now that you know what you need to include in your application, how do you create one? There are three options to do this:

To learn more about our intuitive software that offers a plethora of benefits, such as the ability to run checks, receive payments, and list properties for rent, all in one place, give us a call today!

Final Thoughts

Drawing up an Alabama application isn't as difficult as you would think. With DoorLoop, you can create personalized forms in no time. Book your free demo today!

FAQs

Do applicants need to provide information about their rental history in a rental application?

Yes. Your application form should have a section for the potential tenant to add these details.

What are some protected classes that are exceptions to the Fair Housing Act?

The following protected classes are exempt from the Fair Housing Act, which means that you may request this information in a lease application:

  • Age-restricted facilities (such as apartments for senior citizens)
  • Private clubs may give preference to members of the same club
  • Religious organizations that are leasing a space

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David Bitton

David is the co-founder & CMO of DoorLoop, a best-selling author, legal CLE speaker, and real estate investor. When he's not hanging with his three children, he's writing articles here!