You cannot be charged a fee just to have your name placed on a waiting list, but you can be charged other costs associated with applying to housing. These costs include an applicant screening charge and a deposit to hold.
An applicant screening charge is a payment that covers the costs of screening tenants, such as reference checks and credit reports. These charges can be collected only if there is a unit for rent (or that will be soon), unless you agree otherwise in writing. The landlord must give you a receipt for the payment. You must be given a written notice before you pay an applicant screening charge of:
- the amount of the charge;
- the factors the landlord will consider in deciding on your application (the screening or admission criteria);
- the process the landlord will use in screening, including whether the landlord uses a tenant screening company; and
- that you have the right to send a statement to any screening company or credit reporting agency used by the landlord if you think the information the landlord gets is wrong.
Before accepting the applicant screening charge, the landlord must also give you an estimate of the number of other applicants who are ahead of you in applying for the unit or units of the size you want. This information can help you decide whether it’s worth applying.
If the landlord charges you an applicant screening charge and you are denied, or if you did not pay an applicant screening charge but request in writing the reason for denial, the landlord must promptly provide you with one or more reasons for your denial in writing. ORS 90.304. If a landlord does not rent to you because of any information the landlord gets from a tenant screening service or credit reporting agency, the landlord must tell you this. The landlord must also tell you the name and address of the screening service or reporting agency. These rules apply even if you did not pay an applicant screening charge.
If the landlord doesn’t do the screening after you’ve paid an applicant screening charge (because, for example, the unit is rented to someone else first), you must be refunded the money within a reasonable time.
If the landlord makes you pay an applicant screening charge without following these rules, you can sue the landlord for the amount of the applicant screening charge plus $150. ORS 90.295. See the resource ‘Can Small Claims Court Help Tenants?‘ for information about small claims court. See the Time Limit Warning above.
A deposit to hold the unit is a fee paid before you enter into a rental agreement so that the landlord will hold the rental unit and not rent it to others. There must be a written agreement that describes when the deposit must be refunded to the tenant and when it can be kept by the landlord.
If you and the landlord enter into the rental agreement, the landlord must give back the deposit — either by giving you a refund or by crediting your account. If you don’t take the necessary steps to enter into the rental agreement, the landlord can keep the deposit. If the landlord doesn’t take the necessary steps to enter into the rental agreement, the deposit must be refunded within 4 days. If the landlord charges a deposit without following these rules, you can sue the landlord for the amount of the deposit plus $150. ORS 90.297. See the resource ‘Can Small Claims Court Help Tenants?' for more information about small claims court. See the Time Limit Warning above.