Top Reasons to Reject a Rental Application

There are many reasons for a landlord to reject a rental application.  This includes rental, credit, employment, criminality, and other miscellaneous criteria pertaining to your property.  Any one of the following can provide just cause to reject an applicant for rent.

Rental History

  • Bad landlord references: If a previous landlord provides you with information about the tenant that was hazardous to the previous property or community, you can choose not to rent based on that.
  • Continuous/broken moving history:  Watch for when the tenant jumps from property to property on a continual basis.  If the periods of time at each property are less than a year, it’s not a good sign.  If the tenant has an empty space in their moving history, it’s important to inquire into it.  In all fairness, they might have been living with a family member in a privately owned home, but they also might be hiding a bad rental history from you.
  • Evictions:   This is one of the top reasons not to rent to somebody.  Usually a person gets evicted because of non-payment of rent, or a criminal offense on the property.  It might be prudent to follow up on the reason for the eviction.
  • History of late rent payments: You usually will find out about this from a landlord reference, but this also may show up in their credit report  .  If a tenant has been frequently late on paying rent in the past, they’re likely to repeat this behavior at your property as well.


  • Bad credit / too many debts:   Much like the late rent payment history, this is predictive of whether or not the tenant will pay rent on time, or at all.  If they can’t keep track of their expenses, can you rely on them to be prudent?
  • Insufficient income: There is no exact rule, but you are able to set your own guideline for what percentage of the tenant’s income should be taken up by rent.  The tenant should be able to show you supporting documentation that shows they have a strong working history and sufficient income to pay their rent and debts.  If it’s not large enough, no matter how responsible the prospective may be, the apartment might not be realistically in their price range to pay you every month.


  • Bad employer references: Believe it or not, the landlord has equal right to look at employer references as landlord references.  There’s going to be a correlation between how a prospective tenant behaves in their job to how they behave at the property.  If they’re irresponsible in their work, they will likely be irresponsible in paying rent or how they take care of their unit.
  • Short employment term(s): This may be considered another factor in being able to pay rent.  If the renter was just employed, you may not feel assured that their employment will continueand that they will be able to pay rent.  After a few months have passed, you’ll have a better idea if their job is stable.  If each of the tenant’s jobs in the past were held for short periods of time, it might be predictive that they will suddenly be unable to pay rent because of losing their job.


  • Illegal drug users: Certain drugs are illegal for a reason.  Besides personal health issues for the tenant, illegal drugs bring with them crime, health risks to the general community, liability, and decreased overall value to the property.  You have a right to not have it anywhere near your property.  The worst case is if the individual is dealing in the illegal substances.  Any landlord may be held liable in a court of law for knowingly providing housing to a drug dealer and who then causes damages to the other tenants through their illegal activities.
  • Evidence of illegal activity and/or crime: A lot of different kinds of criminal activity can show up on a report.  It is perfectly within your right to reject someone based upon a criminal history, such as a conviction for crimes to property; persons, resulting in injury or death; or conviction for the manufacture and/or distribution of illegal substances .  Just like in the case of the drug dealer, if criminal activity happens on your property due to one of your tenants, you may be held liable as the landlord for not taking the proper steps to prevent it.


  • Too many vehicles: There are some instances where you simply don’t have the space to house the multiple vehicles that your tenant wants to bring.  It’s not necessary to deny the tenant outright.  The tenant is free to store their vehicles at another location.
  • Pets:You have a right not to permit pets in your property (notwithstanding, you cannot discriminate for service animals, including therapy pets) as they can degrade the property value.  Cleanliness is a major issue here.
  • Smokers: Like it or not, smokers bring significantly greater risk of fire occurring on the property and the smoke can be a health hazard to others.  Once the tenant vacates, it may be difficult to clean the property sufficiently to remove the odor.
  • Too many co-applicants: Check your own local laws on what is a permissible number of occupants in each of your units.  You are able to set limits (in accordance with Fair Housing and local Laws) on how many people you permit.  First, the more occupants there are in a unit, the more wear and tear it will receive.  Second, the presence of too many co-applicants can indicate to you that no-one-tenant has the capacity to pay all of the rent on their own.  While this can be ok to some landlords, there is a significantly high probability that one of the tenants will be unable to pay rent, or leave without notice.  It’s still 100% their responsibility to pay their rent on time, but you can be doing yourself a favor by putting a limit on that occupancy.

** Always be sure to follow all proper procedures when handling a tenant.  Please be sure that any metric you use in review of an application must be applied to all applications to rent.  A comprehensive view of F.C.R.A. law and procedures can be found here.  Also be sure to follow all fair housing laws and not to discriminate based on race, gender, minority group, etc.  Please also observe local ordinances, which may supersede some federal laws. **

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