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How Much Can Landlords Charge for Application Fees?

It depends—some states cap application fees, while others allow landlords to charge what they like.

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.

StateMax Application FeeNotes
California$55Must go towards screening expenses
ColoradoNoneMust go towards screening expenses, can’t vary across applicants
DelawareGreater of 10% of monthly rent or $50
MassachusettsN/AOnly real estate brokers can charge application fees
MinnesotaNoneMust equal screening service cost exactly
New York$20Must be waived if applicant provides their own background or credit check
VermontApplication fees are prohibited
WashingtonNoneMust 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.