One of the best ways for a landlord to reduce the risk of having non-paying tenants is to run a credit report through a company like ASP Screening when they fill out the rental application.
Screening companies usually charge a fee in the $20-25 range for this service. So can the landlord pass this fee along to the applicant? Yes.
The city of Minneapolis does require the landlord to follow some guidelines before charging an application fee, however.
First, the landlord can only screen one tenant at a time. If she has multiple applicants, she must complete the screening process for one, and accept or decline that person before moving on to the next. She may not take a fee from all applicants, running all of their credit histories, then select the “best”.
Second, the landlord’s application must include a place for the prospective tenant to provide an address where the fee may be returned. It must also disclose the name of the screening company the landlord intends to use.
Of course, applicants would likely appreciate knowing the necessary criteria before applying to rent a Minneapolis duplex. The city thinks so too, and requires landlords to provide it, in writing, before taking the application fee.
Should the landlord choose to reject an applicant, she must provide a written explanation within 14 days, naming the afore-mentioned criteria that were not met. She must also provide the name and contact information of the screening company she used in the process.
So what if she turns down the applicant for a reason not detailed in the credit report? The application fee must be refunded.
As always, any violation of this protocol can result in the revocation of the landlord’s rental license.