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Before a lease agreement is signed, potential tenants are screened using a Massachusetts rental application form. In contrast to many other states, Massachusetts forbids landlords from charging a renter an "application fee."

Again, Massachusetts is fairly tenant friendly. Therefore, in this situation, the landlord is responsible for paying the application fees. If you're wondering how to draw up this document, we'll provide all the information you need in this article.

Massachusetts Rental Application Forms

Landlords and tenants are required to provide information on the rental application form. The applicant will provide details about their income and employment, while the landlord lets the potential tenant know more about the condition of the rental property.

What Landlords Need to Include

Here's what landlords are responsible for providing on a Massachusetts rental application form:

  • The condition of the property
  • Any potential health or environmental hazards
  • Details about the security deposit
  • Smoking policy
  • Applicable rent control rules
  • What associated fees may apply

Tenant's Details

Prospective tenants in Massachusetts must provide the following information:

  • Personal details
  • Income and employment information
  • Credit history
  • Rental history
  • Written consent allowing the landlord to conduct a background check

In addition to these details, Massachusetts law (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 276 § 100A) requires landlords to include a mandatory disclosure on rental applications to inform candidates of their legal right to withhold their criminal history, including information about prior arrests.

You will have to include the following excerpt in your Massachusetts rental application:

"An applicant for employment or for housing or an occupational or professional license with a sealed record on file with the commissioner of probation may answer 'no record' with respect to an inquiry herein relative to prior arrests, criminal court appearances or convictions. An applicant for employment or for housing or an occupational or professional license with a sealed record on file with the commissioner of probation may answer 'no record' to an inquiry herein relative to prior arrests or criminal court appearances. In addition, any applicant for employment or for housing or an occupational or professional license may answer 'no record' with respect to any inquiry relative to prior arrests, court appearances and adjudications in all cases of delinquency or as a child in need of services which did not result in a complaint transferred to the superior court for criminal prosecution."

What Not to Include

State and federal laws govern restrictions on what can and cannot be included in these documents. We'll discuss them in the section below.

State Restrictions

According to Massachusetts rental application laws, landlords may not discriminate against the following groups of people (and may not ask for this information in rental application forms):

  • Sexual orientation
  • Genetic information
  • Age
  • Gender identity
  • Marital status
  • Children
  • Ancestry
  • Whether a tenant receives rental assistance

Federal Restrictions

According to the Federal Fair Housing Act, the following details may not be requested in a rental application:

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

Laws

A landlord cannot legally collect any amount as an application fee in Massachusetts. (Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 186, § 15(b) (2020)). That being said, the same law doesn't apply to real estate brokers or agents. These professionals can demand payment from a potential tenant. No upper limit is mentioned regarding how much can be charged.

If a potential tenant's application is accepted, the landlord may demand a security deposit equivalent to one month's rent.

Moreover, the landlord must give the tenant a report on the condition of the unit after collecting the deposit or within 10 days of the lease's start date. The security deposit must also be kept in a separate, state-licensed bank account that pays interest.

Background Checks

In the section below, we'll explore some of the types of background checks you can run and provide you with some direction on how to conduct them. Remember that you can use DoorLoop to perform all these checks quickly and easily.

  • Credit check. There are a number of resources you could use to conduct this check. Some offer a simple "pass or fail" credit report, while others provide a more detailed report.
  • Criminal history check. A criminal background check attempts to uncover records concerning the renter in criminal databases. You can conduct this check on public registries.
  • Eviction history check. This search will tell you whether a tenant has been evicted in the past seven years, which can help to determine whether the person will be a suitable candidate for your rental property.

Eviction Records

Here's how to do an eviction record search using publicly available databases:

  • Visit the Massachusetts eAccess site.
  • Choose "Housing Court" from the drop-down menu.
  • Next, select one of the six housing court divisions.
  • Use the applicant's name and birthdate from their rental application form to perform a search.

Important Laws

According to the Federal Credit Reporting Act, the candidate must grant written approval before a homeowner can perform a credit check using the details on the completed rental application.

Adverse Action

Suppose you need to increase the rental or deposit amount, reject the application, or request a co-sign. In that case, you'll need to submit a written notice to the prospective tenant.

Create Your Own

You can download one of our free forms,  available in Word and PDF formats.

As an alternative, you can personalize your rental applications using DoorLoop's user-friendly online tool. You can quickly draft your rental documents with the help of an autofill feature, so you'll never have to spend hours drawing up these documents.

Additionally, DoorLoop offers a variety of tools like free listings, maintenance request management, lease agreement building, and more to help you manage and expand your real estate business.

eSignature

Filling out a Massachusetts rental application is your biggest opportunity to lay the foundation for a pleasant tenant experience, and that relies on making the process as easy and efficient as possible.

With DoorLoop, you can get your leases eSigned in a few seconds. You can also get to the eSignature step much more easily by creating reusable lease templates that are autofilled with tenants' information.

DoorLoop also makes it so simple to find the best tenants in the first place by syndicating your listings on popular websites Zillow, Trulia, Hotpads, Apartments.com, and more. You can also make sure you're bringing in the best tenants by screening your prospects in seconds through DoorLoop.

To get a closer look at DoorLoop, learn more or schedule a free demo.

Final Thoughts

The truth is that drawing up a rental application for the first time can be daunting, but with a little practice, knowledge, and the right tools, you'll be well on your way to growing your business!

FAQs

Does Massachusetts require landlords to disclose the reason for rejecting an application?

No, landlords are not required by law to reveal the reason for rejecting an application, although this is highly recommended.

What is the purpose of a rental application?

These documents provide written consent and the information for landlords to conduct the necessary background checks before agreeing to lease a property to a tenant.

Which tool can I use to conduct all my background checks?

You can use DoorLoop's property management software to do the necessary screening.

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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!