Landlords often charge application fees. If a landlord charges an application fee they have to tell you what criteria they use to decide whether or not to rent to you. Criteria are a list of things they look at like credit, or rental history, etc.
If your application is rejected, most of the time you do not get your application fee back. But, the landlord has to return the application fee to you if:
They don't use it to buy a screening report, credit report, or to check references
The apartment is given to someone who applied before you
They reject your application based on criteria you were not told about when you applied
Tenant screening agencies can only report unpaid bills and evictions for 7 years. Bankruptcies are reported for 10 years. Criminal convictions can be reported forever, but arrests and other police records can only be reported for 7 years.
Evictions (sometimes called unlawful detainers or UDs) are reported for 7 years by screening agencies. An eviction case shows up on your tenant screening report when it is filed. It shows up even if you win the case, settle the case, move, or pay all of the rent you owe.
Note: Evictions can show up on public court records for much longer than 7 years.
If the Court expunges your eviction case, then tenant screening agencies can’t report it. When a case is expunged the Court erases the public record of it.
To find out how to ask the Court for an expungement, and how to tell screening agencies when a case is expunged, see our fact sheet Expunging an Eviction Case.
You can put a statement on your screening report that explains the eviction. For example, you can explain that you lost your job and could not pay the rent, but that you have been working since then. Or, you can explain that someone else caused a problem, but that person no longer lives with you. Say what has changed in your life so that whatever caused you to get an eviction won’t happen now.
The screening agency must put your statement with any new report that it sends on you. You can also make the screening agency send the statement to any landlord who got a report on you in the last 6 months.
The landlord must tell you the screening agency’s name, address and phone number, when you apply. The landlord can show you the report if they want to. The agency can’t make the landlord keep the report private.
If the landlord won’t give you a copy, then get it from the tenant screening agency. You might be able to get your report right away online. Check the agency websites listed at the end of this fact sheet. Or, fill out the attached form and send it to the agency. Also send a copy of both sides of your photo ID (a state or county ID or driver’s license). Keep a copy of the form and write down the date you sent it. The agency must send you the report within 5 days of getting your form.
Most screening companies do not keep files on tenants. If the company has never done a report on you, they will not have one to show you. Do not ask for a report until you have been turned down for an apartment because of one.
Write a letter to the screening agency saying what facts are wrong. The more detail you give, the better. For example, if an eviction in the report does not belong to you, tell them where you lived when the eviction was filed. Keep a copy of your letter.
The agency must check every fact you say is wrong. They can’t charge you for doing this. They must fix your report and take out facts they cannot prove within 30 days of getting your letter.
The agency can refuse to check if you do not give them enough information. The agency has to tell you if they refuse to check. If that happens, send another letter giving them more details.
When the agency is done checking, they have to give you a copy of your new report or tell you they did not find any mistakes.
You can have the tenant screening agency send the fixed report to all landlords who got the one with mistakes in it in the last 6 months.
If you disagree with the investigation, you can add a “dispute statement” to your report. The agency can limit your explanation to 100 words. In the statement, you say why you disagree with facts in the report. The agency has to send this statement to new landlords. If you ask, they also have to send it to any landlords who got your report in the last 6 months.