Rejecting a Tenant Application

Posted by Teresa on June 18, 2009 under Fair Housing Act, Screening and Background Checks, Tenant Credit Checks, Tenant Screening & Background Checks | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

Rejecting Tenant ApplicantWhat are your risks when considering applicants for your rental property? Even in these tough times, you cannot approve every applicant. It’s important to know your parameters when you must reject a potential tenant.

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discriminating against tenants on the basis of race, religion, sex, disability, or national origin. Some states have laws making it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation or marital status.

Of course there are legitimate reasons to turn down an applicant. Just be sure to document your process thoroughly and to be fair and consistent with each applicant—so you are well prepared if you’re ever accused of discrimination.

Here are some legitimate reasons to turn down a rental applicant:

Income level: It is legal to use a prospective tenant’s income as a basis to approve or reject their application. Be sure to check the income of all tenants on the application to avoid any potential problems.

Bad Credit History: Prior bankruptcies or low credit score are objective criteria for rejecting tenants.

Exceeding Occupancy: You do not have to rent to a family of six applying to rent your one-bedroom apartment.

Inadequate Rental History: You may require a reasonable number of positive rental references, and reject an applicant based on a negative reference from a previous landlord.

Past Eviction: If an applicant has ever been evicted, you may reject the application. However, if he or she won an eviction lawsuit brought by a previous landlord, you cannot hold the lawsuit against them.

Criminal Record: If an applicant has been convicted of a crime, it is probably enough reason to reject their application. Take care, however, to make a distinction between an arrest and a conviction.

Pets: If you do not allow pets in your rental unit, you may reject a pet-owning applicant. However, be aware of how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) views therapy pets. You may have to make an exception to your no-pet rule to accommodate a disabled tenant.

As always, staying consistent with procedures is extremely important—especially when considering whom to approve or reject as tenants. Keep your paperwork in tip-top shape, and follow the same process with each applicant. Favoring any person or type of person over another is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Your best practice is to run credit and background checks on each applicant. Screening tenants is quick, easy, and inexpensive—and it could potentially save you thousands in legal fees. Use the facts—just the facts—to determine whether or not you approve an applicant.