Application Fees for Apartments

Money is a very delicate subject and most people do not enjoy asking for it or talking about it all too much. When it comes to rental properties and apartments, there will be many things that need to be paid for including application fees for apartments. Rental application fees are not the best in the eyes of a potential tenant, but these fees are very necessary in order to make sure that a landlord is getting their most ideal tenant to live in their apartments.

Before we get into all the details about application fees for apartments, it is important to define what a rental application fee is so that you have a clear understanding of what it involves.

Application fees are intended to cover the cost of running a credit and background check. Taking a hard look at an applicant’s credit history, employer, former landlord, and doing a background search on criminal records will give you a good sense of whether someone would be a good tenant or not.

So as you can see from the above definition, it is vital for landlords to charge for these application fees so that in the end they are getting the best tenant possible that will cause the least headaches and frustrations and that actually pay their rent on time.

Application Fees for Apartments

How Application Fees Relate To Tenants 

When it comes to renting, a landlord needs to know that you will be able to pay your rent on time and because they need to know this they can charge an application fee so that they can run their own credit check to make sure you will be a good tenant. However with that being said, a landlord can also choose to ask you these questions directly and require you to provide some sort of proof that you would be able to pay your rent each month.

This proof can be a payslip for example, that can kind of give the landlord an idea of your financial situation. Some landlords however do not always like the idea of a tenant providing their own income proof so we would say that the majority of landlords would opt to perform their own credit check on a tenant and this is all made possible because of the application fee.

Be Careful of Scams

Application fees for apartments are typically very affordable and the cost of an application fee can range from $20 – $50 and the amount that you pay will all come down to the location of the apartment and how hot the market currently is. In some situations you can even expect to pay upwards of $100 for a rental application fee.

The sad and unfortunate part about charging potential tenants for a screening process is that in some situations there will be landlords that try and take advantage of tenants and charge them outrageous fees for their application. This in our opinion is completely out of order and that is why we are bringing this to your attention in this article so that you can be aware of what you should typically have to pay for an application fee.

When you come across a landlord that seems to just be in it for the money, we would advise that you just walk away and never do business with that landlord. In certain states they actually limit the amount that a landlord can charge for their application fee. So if you live in a state that has these laws then you do not need to worry about being taken advantage of too much, but you still want to be careful when dealing with landlords.

Your Application Fee Can Be Refunded

You may be put in a situation where your application fee will actually be refunded. This could happen if a landlord had a multitude of applicants apply for the apartment and then they decided to take on one specific tenant before they were actually able to get to your application. Or maybe they went through your application and did all the required screening and decided that you will not be the most ideal tenant for their apartment.

One thing to take note of also is that just because you did not get accepted for the rental, that does not mean that you are entitled to a refund of your application fee. If the landlord did in fact do the screening and all the necessary credit checks, then the cost for all of that will have to come out of your application fee and in that situation you will not get a refund.

Now that we have covered some of the things that you need to be aware of from the point of view of a tenant. Let’s now go over some of the aspects of a rental application fee for apartments from the landlord’s perspective so that you have a good understanding of what is required from both parties.

The Application Fee Should Only Cover The Actual Costs 

Like we mentioned earlier on in this article, the rental application fee will be used to run a screening process on the potential tenant as well as do all the necessary background checks to make sure that they are a good fit for the apartment. So, the application fee should only be as much as it would cost to do these required things, without any added fees on top.

How much you can charge as your application fee will all depend on where you live and some states say that you are only allowed to charge the amount that credit and background checks costs. 

Do Not Try and Make Profit From Application Fees

It is no secret that the business of real estate is a tough one and can be very competitive and the process for finding tenants for your rental properties can be a stressful and time consuming thing. Some landlords may decide to overcharge for their rental application fees as they feel the need to justify the time that they are spending.

Application Fees for Apartments

As we mentioned, this is not a best practice and can actually kill your business and your reputation if you are known for overcharging for your rental application fee for apartments. 

Let’s just say that you are a landlord and you decided that you were going to charge an extra $60 for your rental application fee. Sure you might get away with charging that price for a few months, but eventually people are going to realize that your application fee is much higher than the average and they are going to start questioning you as a landlord and your reputation will be completely ruined if you carry on charging these high prices in an attempt to make a profit.

Rather, think of the application process that you need to complete as a standard procedure and it is being funded by the potential tenant. You should absolutely not try to game the system to make a profit from application fees. Trust us when we say it, but you will regret it at the end of the day. 

We have covered some very crucial and important information so far in this article and we want to thank you for making it this far. What we want to cover now is some of the things that should be done with application fees and some of the things that should be avoided at all costs.

Some Do’s and Don’t When It Comes To Application Fees

  • You absolutely want to make sure that as a landlord you are upfront and tell applicants that you do charge an application fee. This just helps to set the tone for the meeting and gets things going off on the right foot. The last things someone wants to do is spend a few hours and then only come to realize that there will be additional fees that are included with an application. 
  • One thing that you will want to mention is whether or not your application fee is non-refundable. That way there are no hidden surprises for the tenant when they inquire about why they have not received their application fee back. We mentioned it already, but we will mention it again. If a landlord has gone through and paid for the credit and background checks to be complete then in that situation am application fee will not be refunded. 
  • When it comes to whether or not a landlord will actually take a new tenant on, a landlord should never accept a rental application fee for an apartment unless they are actually going to consider that potential tenant to fill their apartment. It is not always the easiest thing to know straight out of the gate and a landlord may want to do a check on a handful of tenants to try and get the most ideal tenant. But as a landlord you should absolutely respect a tenants time and money and only accept their rental application fee if you are actually going to take them into consideration for your apartment. 
  • Don’t set a fee without checking with your state and local housing regulations. Some states limit or prohibit rental application fees and are specific about a landlord’s obligation when collecting these types of fees. For example, in some states, the maximum screening fee a landlord can charge is $35 and they must provide an itemized receipt.

Should You Charge Every Applicant an Application Fee?

A common best practice is to charge potential tenants an application fee if you as the landlord are actually going to go ahead and follow through with their application and screening process. We have mentioned this already but it is important to emphasize, because there are so many landlords that are charging an application fee for every single tenant even when they know that they only have 1 or 2 that they are seriously considering.

Application Fees for Apartments

In the situation where you should not charge an application fee is when you have determined from either interviewing the potential tenant or from their rental application form that they are not really an ideal candidate for your apartment so then it will make very little sense to charge them an extra application fee. That would just be wasting that person’s time and hard earned money.

Are Application Fees The Best Way To Screen Potential Tenants?

If you are a landlord then you will appreciate it when we say that your time is of the utmost importance and when you are in the rental business you are going to be put in front of people and situations that waste yours and their time.

That is why having a rental application fee can be one of the best ways to screen and get rid of all the people that are not that serious about your apartment and would otherwise just end up wasting your time.

If a potential tenant has to go through the process of paying to make sure that they are the best fit then that process will only attract the highest quality tenants for your apartment and that is ultimately what you want to happen.


So now you should have a pretty good understanding of everything that is involved with rental application fees for apartments, most landlords will follow a similar process for the application fees and the information in this article is created to give you all the necessary information that you need. 

If for any reason you still have further questions regarding application fees for apartments or you are a little bit unsure about anything that we spoke about in this article then feel free to get in touch with us. We would be more than happy to assist you. With many years of experience in the rental property industry, we are more than qualified to assist you with any questions or concerns that you may have. Feel free to also browse the rest of our website, we cover a wide variety of topics in the rental space so be sure to check those out, I’m sure you will get great value out of this information.

Application Fees for Apartments
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Application Fees for Apartments
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