Pennsylvania landlords and property managers use a Pennsylvania Lease or Rental Application form to screen and vet potential tenants to determine whether they are reliable and able to pay rent on time.
A standard rental application allows a landlord to screen for any red flags a tenant may raise, ranging from credit history to past employment references.
Smart landlords and property managers use a rental application to minimize risk during the application process before entering a Lease Agreement in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania Rental Application Statistic/Specifics
According to the 2020 Pennsylvania Human Relations Annual Report, Pennsylvania docketed 1646 cases of discrimination, with more than 200 of those being housing discrimination cases.
Pennsylvania imposes unique requirements on landlords screening potential future tenants via rental applications and it protects tenants’ rights under the screening process.
For example, Pennsylvania Statutes provide for the following:
The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act filled in a gap left by federal law by defining age as any person forty (40) years or older when it comes to housing discrimination when a landlord refuses to lease a rental property to a tenant based on age.
Ensure you are not viewed as being discriminatory when you collect age (birth date) information on your rental application. Watch your words with prospective tenants and the language in your housing ads.
In cases of disabled tenants, a landlord may not refuse to permit reasonable modifications to the premises.
The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal for anyone to threaten, coerce, intimidate, or interfere with any person exercising a fair housing right or helping others exercise their rights.
Rental Application Fee
There is no Pennsylvania statute regarding rental application fees including any limits to the fee amount or whether the fee is non-refundable.
Other fees may be involved in processing rental applications, but security deposits are not one of them.
A security deposit is not a fee but is a security deposit a landlord collects at the time the parties sign the lease agreement. The security deposit typically covers costs due to damages incurred by the tenant during the rental.
Remember that landlords may request pet and security deposits from approved applicants when it comes time to sign a lease agreement to move into a rental property.
Timeframe to File Complaint
Tenants must file their housing discrimination claim within 180 days of the discriminatory act.
After the filing of a tenant complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, the tenant will be assigned a docket number within thirty (30) days of the date of docketing, and the respondent (landlord) must answer the complaint within sixty (60) days of the date of service.
If the complaint has not been resolved within one (1) year, the tenant may commence an action in the Court of Common Pleas or in the Commonwealth Court.
For tenants who have been arrested and convicted of second or third-degree misdemeanors, have completed their punishment, and have had no arrests or prosecutions within the last year, Pennsylvania Law allows them to petition the courts for an order of limited access to information.
A building with a no-pets policy must make accommodations and allow a visually impaired tenant to keep a guide dog.
Pennsylvania Rental Applications and Federal Law
All states are subject to the federal Fair Housing Act, which protects all renters and buyers from landlord and seller discrimination.
The Fair Housing Act protects against discrimination (on a Pennsylvania rental application form or during screening) based on the following:
- Race or color
- National origin
- Sex (gender identity and sexual orientation)
- Familial status
Take care to ensure your rental application questions are not discriminatory. You can help protect yourself from discrimination claims by using our attorney-reviewed rental application form.
Landlords can include certain questions with specific objective criteria to better screen applicants on a Pennsylvania rental application form.
Doing so allows landlords to determine whether the tenant(s) are fit to pay rent in a timely and trustworthy manner.
With the applicant’s permission, landlords may screen future tenants (through background checks and other screening methods) by inquiring about the following:
- Past employer’s contact information and references
- Tenant eviction history and past landlords
- Credit and rental history and proof of ability to pay rent
- Criminal history
- Sex offender registry
- Salary specifics
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) regulates consumer credit reporting and protects consumers.
This includes applicants’ or prospective tenants’ consumer credit information obtained during tenant screening and the rental application process
Adverse Action Notice
An adverse action notice is a written or electronic notice that informs an individual when an unfavorable action related to credit, employment, insurance, or other benefit is taken against the individual based on information in a credit report.
An example is when a landlord obtains and reviews an applicant’s credit report and then denies renting to that applicant.
Consumer Report Details
The applicant has a right to know the name, address, and the number of the consumer reporting agency that issued the credit report to the landlord.
The landlord must also disclose the applicant’s credit score and information (score factors, score date, score range) for the applicant to see.
Copy and Opportunity to Dispute
The tenant must be provided a copy of their Pennsylvania rental application form and consumer screening report and be allowed to dispute the accuracy and completeness.
How to Write a Rental Application
Follow the steps below to write a rental application in Pennsylvania.
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 is for the applicant(s) to provide basic identifying information about themselves.
Step 3 – Gather 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 – Collect 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 Pennsylvania Rental Application Form
Use this free form to collect data on your rental applicants for screening (downloadable in Adobe PDF and MS Word).