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What Is a Massachusetts Rental Application?

A Massachusetts rental application provides an organized method for landlords to collect information on potential tenants. This document allows landlords to uniformly collect information about the applicants who wish to enter into a lease agreement with the landlord and move into their apartment or rental property.

Rental applications collect personal and sensitive information and indicate to the landlord whether or not an applicant would be considered an ideal tenant. Landlords look at previous bankruptcies, past evictions, often include a credit check to find out the potential tenant's credit score and income, and may also include a background check to help the landlord find their ideal tenant. However, federal fair housing laws prevent them from excluding a tenant based on their sexual orientation, color, creed, disability, weight, race, religion, or country of origin.

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The Massachusetts Rental Application Process

If you're looking to rent, you should understand that signing a rental agreement means entering into a legally binding contract with the landlord or property management company. Before the lease agreement or rental agreement is offered, you'll generally first need to apply through a rental application.

A rental application collects basic information about you to determine if you are a good fit and that you can afford to rent the property. However, under both state and federal law, you do have rights as a renter.

  • Under Massachusetts law, you have the right as a renter to live in a place that is in decent condition.
  • Under Massachusetts law, you have the right as a renter to live in a place that is considered habitable. This includes being provided with enough water and adequate water pressure to meet ordinary needs, heat that is in good working order, a kitchen with a sink that is of sufficient size, a unit that is free of pests, a unit in good repair, and snow removal for exits.
  • The Massachusetts Supreme Court provided renters with certain reasons which they can use to withhold rent.
  • The Fair Housing Act forbids Massachusetts landlords from discriminating against potential tenants based on their actual or perceived race, color, religion, sex, national origin, family status, or disability.

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A Sample Massachusetts Rental Application with Examples for Each Step

To create a rental application to screen prospective tenants, a landlord may decide to write their own Massachusetts rental application form.

  • Create the top part of the application to capture the personal information of the potential tenant. This includes their full legal name and their birthday. You'll need this information for each potential tenant. You'll need at least two spaces considering that there may be two main tenants on a residential lease if a couple is married or part of a civil union.
  • You'll also need to collect the contact information for each potential tenant. This may include cell phone numbers, work phone numbers, and email addresses.
  • If you plan to run credit checks or background checks (or both), you will also need to collect each tenant’s social security number.
  • Ensure that your rental application asks for the full address for the potential tenant's current residence. This should include their city, state, and zip code.
  • Because the rental application is used as part of the tenant screening process, it should ask for how long the potential tenant has lived at their current addresses and the current amount of rent they pay.
  • Include space to collect the name and contact information for their current landlord. 
  • Create a section to collect their previous rental history. This includes their previous addresses and, if possible, the name and contact information of the landlords or property managers.
  • Create a section to collect their employment history, starting with their most current employer. It should include the name of their employer, the employer’s address, the title, how long they've worked for the employer, the name of their supervisor, and the contact number for human resources or the supervisor.
  • Create a section to collect information regarding the income sources of the potential tenant. It's important to know whether they can afford to fulfill the obligations of the lease agreement if you choose to rent to them.
  • Create a section to ask whether the potential tenant has checking accounts or savings accounts and in which banks those are located. They may not give you their account numbers, but they may likely tell you which banks they use.
  • Create a section to get a description of their vehicles. This is particularly important for Massachusetts landlords who have rental properties where parking passes are issued or where parking is limited. Knowing how many vehicles and the make and model of those vehicles can help ensure that only those who are supposed to park on the property are parking on the property.
  • Get the emergency contact information for the prospective tenant.
  • Create a section that asks for the name and age of each person who will live on the rental property with the tenant.
  • Create a section that asks whether the prospective tenant has any pets and, if so, how many pets, the size of the pets, and the type of pets.
  • Create a final section that includes a disclosure that complies with Massachusetts laws that informs the prospective tenant about whether you will run a credit check or background check and that their signature authorizes you to do so. Mention whether the application fee they paid, if any, is refundable or not. Include a section for the prospective tenant's signature and date.

Rental Application Resources for Tenants in Massachusetts

Massachusetts Legal Aid Tenant's Rights 

Massachusetts Rental Application Laws

Massachusetts delegates that a security deposit for real estate may not exceed the equivalent of one month’s rent. Additionally, the landlord must pay the tenant 5% interest per year or the interest paid by a Massachusetts bank. When the lease is terminated, the landlord has 30 days after the lease termination to return the tenant’s deposit (Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. Ch. 186, § 15B).

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