Legal Issues & Renting

What Information Can Potential Landlords Legally Ask You For?

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What Information Can Potential Landlords Legally Ask You For?

If you’re looking to rent a house or apartment, are there some things that landlords can legally ask you for, and others that are out of bounds. Here are a few examples of what landlords can request, and what they can’t.

Landlords can retrieve information about past rental history, criminal records, and conduct a credit check on tenants.
Landlords can’t ask about anything that could be deemed discriminatory based on a prospective tenant’s race, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or existence of a disability, according to the Fair Housing Act.

A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that landlords can request any information that would be objectively indicative of your ability to pay rent, but not about superficial information that wouldn’t be relevant to your tenancy.

Landlords can deny your application based on information they find in a tenant background check.
Landlords can’t withhold the information they used, such as a credit report, that caused you to be denied a rental agreement.

The landlord must provide the source of the information, and in the example of a credit report, you are entitled to a free report from the credit reporting agency.

Landlords can ask for information such as pay stubs or bank account statements to prove that you are able to afford the rent.
Landlords can’t force you to provide this information.

You are within your right to withhold any information you don’t feel comfortable providing. You may not get the apartment, but it’s better to look elsewhere if you feel like sensitive information would be compromised. You are also entitled to ask how a landlord will use any information you are asked to provide.

One of the best ways to even the playing field with potential landlords is to get your own rental history report. That way you can learn about any potential blemishes that landlords may discover before you pay an application fee.