If interested in renting Maryland property, prospective tenants must go through an application process, allowing landlords to know if they are a good fit.

With a Maryland rental application form, landlords and property managers can screen potential tenants and assess key information, including their rental history, credit report, and income.

Are you a property owner or manager? These documents let you know the applicant's inability to pay rent or cause a nuisance. In addition, rental applications protect you against future unfair accusations and provide contact details or references if a tenant disappears after signing the contract.

Read on and find the information you need about the most important aspects of a rental application form.

What Must Be Included

A Maryland rental application form is the tool you need to collect personal and financial information from a prospective tenant and streamline the vetting process. Therefore, this document must include:

  • Personal data
  • Personal references
  • Income information
  • Employment details
  • Rental history
  • Consent for a credit check
  • Consent for background check

Legal Disclosures

In addition to the details listed above, Maryland landlords must include legal disclosures in a rental application, reporting information about:

  • Rent control rules
  • The property's condition
  • Security deposit policy and associated fees
  • Potential hazards to the tenant
  • Shared utility arrangements
  • Smoking policy

What not to include

In accordance with the Federal Fair Housing Act, landlords and real estate companies must avoid discriminatory practices that may make housing unavailable to any person because of their:

  • Religion
  • Race or color
  • National origin
  • Gender
  • Disability
  • Family status

Additional State-Protected Classes

Under Maryland housing law, some state-protected classes prohibit landlords from requesting information about:

  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity or expression
  • Marital status
  • Source of income
  • Lawful income (public and/or rental assistance)
  • Age (only protected in Anne Arundel, Baltimore City, Cambridge, Hagerstown, Rockville, Baltimore County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, and Prince George's County)
  • Ancestry (only protected in Baltimore City, Cambridge, Rockville, Anne Arundel County, and Montgomery County)
  • Citizenship (only protected in Anne Arundel County, Annapolis, and Prince George's County)
  • Creed (only protected in these counties: Baltimore, Harford, Howard, and Montgomery)
  • Family Responsibility (only protected in Montgomery County)
  • Presence of Children (only protected in Rockville and Montgomery County)
  • Occupation (only protected in these counties: Anne Arundel, Harford, Howard, and Prince George's)
  • Personal Appearance (only protected in these counties: Harford, Howard, and Prince George's)
  • Political Opinion (only protected in these counties: Harford, Howard, and Prince George's)

Landlords or rental property managers should not request these details in writing or in person. In addition, this information could not be considered within the Maryland rental application unless exceptions apply.

Fair Housing Act's Exemptions

In Maryland, these are the exemptions to the Fair Housing Law:

  • Age: Pursuant to the Housing for Older Persons Act, a rental property owner may ask the potential tenant to disclose their ages in age-restricted communities, including senior housing. This federal exemption can apply to 55+ or 62+ communities.
  • Familial Status: Landlords may also consider family status information for the rental application if the rented premises will be occupied by children. This exemption applies to two-family owner-occupied buildings.
  • Owner Occupancy: The Mrs. Murphy Exemption states that dwellings with four or fewer rental units with at least one owner-occupied unit are exempt from the Fair Housing Act.
  • Religious Organizations: Under the U.S. Code § 3607, applicants' religion may be considered during the application process to rent properties supervised, controlled, or operated by religious institutions as long as the rental is not for commercial purposes.
  • Private Clubs: The U.S. Code § 3607 also enables owners of private clubs to give preferential treatment to applicants for their lodgings if they operate without commercial intent or public access.

Maryland Rental Applications

Maryland state has imposed some laws related to the rental application process. Landlords or real estate companies failing to comply with any of them could face legal repercussions. These are:

Security Deposit

Under the Maryland Code, Real Property § 8-203, landlords may not require security deposits in excess of two months' rent for any housing unit regardless of the number of tenants.

In addition, every landlord must give the tenant a security deposit receipt attached to the written lease agreement.

Application Fee

Maryland law does not limit the application fee for any rental property. However, landlords must return unspent application fees over $25.00 within 15 days of receipt, as set forth in Maryland Code, Real Property § 8-213.

Property managers or owners can only keep part of the fees spent on credit checks or other processes performed on behalf of the tenant.

Notice of Eligibility

All prospective tenants must receive a written notice of the approval criteria or why their application was denied or approved. A signature of acknowledgment is often used to prove that this information was properly shared.

Consent Credit Check

In accordance with the Federal Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), prospective renters must provide written consent for a credit history check as part of any Maryland rental application.

Background Checks

If they have the consent of the prospective tenant, Maryland landlords may conduct background checks during rental applications. These fall into the following categories:

  • Credit Check: It includes the credit history or score and income information of a person looking to lease rental properties. Some details requested are related to their job, salary, previous addresses, and credit inquiries. This process is subject to the tenant's written consent.
  • Criminal Background Check: It shows a tenant's state court criminal records to verify if they have been charged or convicted of a crime.
  • Eviction Check: It shows the history of eviction judgments or fillings against a potential tenant in the last seven years.

Eviction Record Search

Local laws describe evictions as public records. In other words, anyone can access them. Landlords can obtain this information through Maryland's court system website or by a paid third party.

Adverse Action Notices

After receiving a credit or criminal report and taking an "adverse action" in connection with the rental application, property managers or owners must give the tenant a written notice letter, also known as an "adverse action notice."

You must provide an adverse action notice if you reject an applicant, require a larger security deposit, increase the rent, or require a co-signer. It is necessary even if the report's information did not influence the decision and must include:

  • Consumer reporting agency information
  • A detailed explanation that they did not take the adverse action
  • Statement regarding an applicant's right to a copy of the report and to dispute its content

While not required by law, landlords are encouraged to specify the reason for rejecting a potential tenant.

Build Your Own

If you want to create your own rental application form in Maryland but think it is difficult due to all the legal and technical aspects to be considered, download a template here!

Whether you're a landlord or property manager, DoorLoop has everything you need to create your Maryland rental application form in just minutes. You can download a template as a Word document or PDF, or customize it to make some adjustments. 


Why Does a Landlord Need a Maryland Rental Application?

Through rental applications, you can learn more about a prospective tenant before signing a legal agreement. This process allows you to know an applicant's criminal history and perform a credit check to determine if they can pay rent and will not cause problems.

How Are the Reports on a Tenant's Credit History?

After having a tenant's consent, the credit check provides a simple report marked as "passed" or "failed" or a full credit report.

What Should Not Be Asked on Rental Applications in Maryland?

Overall, you should not ask for information on a tenant's race or ethnicity, religion, sexuality, immigration or citizenship status, marital status, or whether they have children or not. However, remember that there are some exceptions per county.

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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!