Landlords will typically ask for a small payment—known as an "application fee"—when you apply to rent one of their units. This fee is supposed to pay for any background or credit checks that a landlord runs as part of their approval process. It's not refundable.
Certain states, including New York and California, have a hard cap on how much a landlord can charge you for an application fee. Other states don't explicitly mention a dollar amount, but they do say that the application fee can't exceed the landlord's actual costs in conducting any background checks.
There are also states, such as Texas or New Jersey, that don't limit application fees at all. Although that means a landlord can legally charge as much as they want, most online services for credit and background checks cost between $30-40. Assuming a landlord also factors in their time spent checking in with previous landlords, you shouldn't be seeing application fees much higher than $50 or $60 at the very most. If you're being asked to pay a fee that's way higher, consider looking elsewhere for an apartment—landlords shouldn't be using application fees as a way to make money.
Learn more about the other fees you could be asked to pay during the rental approval process—plus, make sure you understand the federal laws that protect prospective tenants like you.
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.
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