Spending a lot on rent applications? Platform similar to Common App in the works

CHARLOTTE — The Charlotte area has a competitive housing market, and the first hurdle for many families is just applying for rentals.

Landlords and tenants both say application fees typically range between $25 and $100 in Charlotte.

The Greater Charlotte Apartment Association says landlords use that money to pay for each criminal background check, credit check, rental history, and income verification, even if the applicant doesn’t pan out.

Landlords have no obligation to tell you if a lot of people already applied for the same home, so if you keep striking out, it can get expensive.

Tamara Shorts told Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke she shelled out hundreds applying for rentals.

“I would say at least five [rentals], just hoping somebody would say yes,” she said.

But Vicki Meath thinks there’s a better way. She’s the executive director of the nonprofit Just Economics, which is in the Asheville area.

“We work on the issues of living wages, better working conditions, affordable housing, and better transit,” she told Stoogenke.

Just Economics is close to launching a centralized rental application for that part of the state.

“You can apply to multiple housing units from different landlords with one application and one application fee,” Meath said.

The fee is only $20.

“It’ll work similar to the Common App with colleges and universities, where you can apply to multiple through one application,” Meath said.

Some cities and states like California have already gone this direction. Spokane, Washington is considering it.

Others have gone another route by putting caps on how much landlords can charge to apply. New York limits them to $20 per application.

One thing you can always do is ask the landlord how many other people applied, so you can decide if that home is worth spending an application fee on.

>> To learn more about Just Economics and its work on affordable housing, click here.

(WATCH BELOW: Gaston County woman struggles to stay off streets, find affordable rent)