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.
Here’s a quick summary of states with application fee maximums or regulations that pertain to you if you’re applying for an apartment.
|State||Max Application Fee||Notes|
|California||$55||Must go towards screening expenses|
|Colorado||None||Must go towards screening expenses, can’t vary across applicants|
|Delaware||Greater of 10% of monthly rent or $50|
|Massachusetts||N/A||Only real estate brokers can charge application fees|
|Minnesota||None||Must equal screening service cost exactly|
|New York||$20||Must be waived if applicant provides their own background or credit check|
|Vermont||Application fees are prohibited|
|Washington||None||Must equal screening service cost exactly|
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.
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.