Wise landlords in Massachusetts use an attorney-drafted Rental/Lease Application to screen prospective tenants for real estate property rental.
The landlord can use it to review an applicant’s current circumstances and history to assess their fitness as a tenant before offering a lease agreement.
Our Massachusetts rental application also allows the landlord to run a background check on an applicant, provided the applicant gives consent.
Anti-discrimination laws in Massachusetts prohibit landlords from giving out rental applications selectively. Landlords should make rental applications available to all prospective tenants.
Massachusetts Rental Application Fees
Landlords in Massachusetts may not charge an application fee. A landlord may charge only the following fees under Massachusetts law:
- The first full month’s rent
- The last full month’s rent
- A security deposit equal to the first month’s rent
- A lock-change fee (purchase and installation cost for key and lock)
Landlords may screen prospective tenants with objective, non-discriminatory criteria. In a Massachusetts rental application, landlords may ask questions about the following:
- Employment, including income
- Rental history, including prior landlord references
- Credit history
- Criminal history
Federal and state Fair Housing and anti-discrimination laws protect prospective Massachusetts tenants from being asked discriminatory questions.
As a landlord, you should be vigilant not to break these laws. The consequences can range from government penalties to lawsuits.
Federal and Massachusetts Fair Housing Laws
Landlords must follow both federal and state laws against discrimination when screening prospective tenants.
At the federal level, the Fair Housing Act (FHA) prohibits landlords from discriminating against prospective tenants based on their:
- National origin
- Sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation)
- Familial status
Massachusetts has its anti-discrimination laws that additionally prohibit discrimination based on the following:
- Genetic information
- Military or veteran status
- Marital status
- Source of Income (i.e., receiving public assistance)
Prospective tenants may file a complaint to the FHA within one year of the discriminatory housing practice.
At the state level, complaints may be filed within 300 days from the discriminatory act to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD).
Applicants can also file a state civil rights complaint with the Massachusetts Attorney General.
Authorization for Background Check
Before running a background check, the landlord must have a background check consent form signed by the prospective tenant. It is illegal to run a background check without such consent.
Massachusetts has its own in-state criminal record database called the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI).
The landlord must ask the prospective tenant to provide a completed and signed CORI Acknowledgement Form if the landlord wants to conduct a criminal background check through CORI.
How To Conduct an Eviction Record Search in Massachusetts
There is no single database for eviction records in Massachusetts. Landlords may use their method of choice to conduct an eviction record search.
A popular way is to search the Massachusetts trial court records for any housing-related cases with the prospective tenant’s name.
- Navigate to the Massachusetts Trial Court records website
- At the bottom of the page, select “Click here to search public records”
- Select “Housing Court” in the Court Department dropdown box
- Select the desired Court Division and Court Location dropdown options (you can go through all divisions and locations one-by-one)
- Enter the prospective tenant’s last name and first name
- Click “Search” at the bottom of the page
Other Resources for Landlords in Massachusetts
- Massachusetts Anti-Discrimination/Fair Housing Laws
- Massachusetts Landlord/Tenant Laws
- Massachusetts Attorney General’s Guide to Landlord/Tenant Rights
- Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry
How to Write a Rental Application
Follow the steps below to write a rental application in Massachusetts.
Step 1 – Fill in Property Address Information
Write the date of the rental application and the address of the rental property.
Step 2 – Collect Basic Rental Applicant Information
This section provides the applicant(s) basic identifying information about themselves.
Step 3 – Collect Applicant’s Residence History
In this section, the applicant(s) provides their residence history including addresses, dates of residency, and reasons for moving.
Step 4 – Gather Applicant’s Employment History
This section is for the applicant(s) to provide current and previous employment information and other sources of income.
Step 5 – Gather Applicant’s Financial History
This section is for the applicant(s) to provide bank account and credit card information.
Step 6 – Collect References
The applicant(s) provides personal references’ names and contact information in this section.
Step 7 – Additional Questions and Verification
This section contains additional questions to determine more information about the applicant such as smoking or pets.
Sample Massachusetts Rental Application Form
Below is an example of a standard Massachusetts rental application form.
You may download this free form or use our document builder to create a customized Massachusetts rental application that covers all the details unique to your real estate needs.