Many years ago, I stopped collecting application fees. I have never regretted that decision and the time has come for all landlords to reconsider application fees.

The rate of tenant turnovers in my region is significantly less than other parts of the county. Still, I am hearing applicants repeat the same scenario of paying application fees and then never hearing from the property manager again. Alternatively, they are not selected as another tenant “beat me out.” The demand for single-family homes in my region is astronomical. I just ran an ad for 24 hours that generated over 30 phone calls, 40 emails, and over 20 showings. It was rented in less than 21 hours. Tenants are almost frantic to find a suitable house and I often have to call applicants to let them know that someone else was chosen as the tenant. It’s always an awkward conversation; I think it would be even more uncomfortable if I were keeping an application fee. I just had a prospective tenant tell me they had paid $150 dollars in application fees this week and were not selected for either property.

To say it leaves a bad taste in the mouths of applicants is an understatement. Losing a $50-$75 application fee is a financial insult that makes property managers look callous and greedy. Many applicants end up feeling that they never had a chance of renting the property anyway, and the application fee was just a way for property managers to “line their pockets.” I would not go so far as to say it’s a gimmick to “line the pockets,” but I do understand the frustration and contempt for the process.

The pandemic has strained the property management industry. Managers and tenants alike seem to have all attended law school in the past 2 years, and the level of distrust is higher than I have ever known it. The landlord/tenant relationship needs some counselling right now. We should all try to take our law diplomas off the wall and avoid being so distrustful one another’s intentions. How about we stop charging application fees and instead ask the applicants to provide a copy of their own credit report? That prevents the property manager from having to pay to “run the credit.” I seem to remember an old antiquated concept of abstaining from all appearance of evil. Let’s be honest, application fees do frequently suggest the appearance of impropriety. Let’s, at least, try to not smell fishy. Drop the fee.

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