My Lease Application Was Denied: What Now?

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A denied lease application

It could be that you’ve been renting for a few years now, or perhaps even a few decades. Whatever the case may be, it definitely isn’t your first rodeo. So when it comes to applying for a new apartment, you’re feeling pretty confident. You’ve narrowed down your search and think you’ve found your “dream place” that ticks off all of the boxes: great location, state-of-the-art amenities, and on-site parking. Naturally, you apply right away, feeling optimistic…

Until the letter comes back denied, that is. You can’t help but take this news as a bit of a shock, especially if you really had your heart set on that particular unit. Still, instead of taking it so personally, it’s better to view this situation from the standpoint of a landlord or leasing office so you can figure out the objective reasons for your being denied. Some of those reasons are fortunately things you can exercise some degree of control over.

First Thing’s First: Being Honest About Your Background

The moment you send in a rental application, the screening process begins. This can be quite comprehensive, often involving a criminal background check, credit check, proof of adequate income and/or employment, and your overall history as a tenant. If you’ve ever been in hot water legally, have a poor credit history, been evicted, or lied on an application — even a little lie, like your exact income level — you may very well have just found the reason why your most recent application was denied.

Legal Protections

Of course, landlords usually must abide by both the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Fair Housing Act. There could also be anti-discrimination laws in place that protect you as a tenant in your state or jurisdiction. However, if those protections don’t exist where you live, a lease application can be denied for almost any reason, however arbitrary. Very often, the case may be that multiple people, including you, applied but didn’t make the cut. You were most likely one of several applicants who just weren’t deemed as qualified as the tenant whose application was ultimately accepted. This is an incredibly routine occurrence that you shouldn’t waste any time stewing over.

Still Wondering Why You Were Denied?

However, you may want to know what it was specifically that caused you to be turned down. Know that unless it was related to your credit report, the landlord doesn’t necessarily have to disclose why your application was rejected. In your letter, you should see the credit reporting agency that generated the report, along with their contact information. You usually have 60 days after your application is denied to request a free copy of your credit report from that agency. By obtaining a copy and looking over it, you can determine whether or not any errors were made or see what may have come across as a red flag to management. If you do discover any mistakes, take immediate steps to correct them, and then re-submit your credit information to management.

Former landlords can be another source of information used to gauge whether or not you’re a diligent tenant. If a third party was contacted regarding a previous lease you had, what they said may have contributed to whatever decision was made. Again, no one is legally obligated to tell you anything, so try to resist the temptation to obsess over who may have been saying unflattering things to the potential landlord about you or your rental history. It doesn’t benefit you, and it probably won’t improve your chances of being reconsidered.

Seek Out a Lease Guarantor

It’s also entirely possible that your stated income just wasn’t sufficient for that particular apartment. Some landlords stipulate a minimum income level that must be met in order to proceed with a lease agreement. If that’s what you’re up against, all is not lost. After all, you could always offer to get someone you know (maybe a parent or other close family member) to act as a guarantor. This means that in the event you ever aren’t able to come up with the rent, that person will agree to pay it on your behalf. The guarantor’s express consent and signature on all relevant documents is absolutely required by law, of course, so it’s a good to approach your potential guarantor before even applying to apartments, just in case.

Cleaning Up a Spotty Past

If you suspect that a prior offense or misdemeanor is affecting your ability to obtain housing, you may be eligible for record expungement. Call an attorney and meet with them to discuss your options, as it’s possible to successfully clear a criminal record, especially if the convictions occurred years ago or if you were a juvenile at the time.

Although you might be feeling blindsided right now, understand that you may never find out exactly why your application was denied. It doesn’t hurt to contact the landlord if you want to learn more, but they’re well within their rights to refuse to tell you. They don’t owe you an explanation, and you shouldn’t expect one, either. Your best bet moving forward is to do everything in your power to address any of the aforementioned issues. Doing so will greatly increase your chances of getting future applications approved and create a much more favorable impression of you as a prospective tenant.

18 Responses to “My Lease Application Was Denied: What Now?”

  1. September 21, 2012 at 12:42 pm, tina said:

    I have paid and paid and paid someone please stop the. Crdit people for raceterring. Selling my card off again and again .


  2. November 20, 2012 at 4:52 pm, Anonymous said:

    My application was denied because of my credit, but I asked if I could have a cosigner they told me they don’t have cosigners. Also, before I had asked for the requirements and I made more the income requirements.


  3. December 03, 2012 at 4:52 pm, Mayra said:

    An my aparment application be denied because my husband is an alien and they are worried of how I’m going to pay for the rent if he were to get deported but I explained to her they won’t becuase of the new law and he’s working into getting his citizenship and then she told me well he doesn’t have a good social and I told her he does and she told she will talk to her supervised


  4. March 19, 2013 at 2:05 pm, Dave said:

    My girlfriend applied for an apartment. We wasted lots of gas trying to get it arranged, payed for a month, payed the $45 application fee, was told that the apartment is hers, then less than 24 hours later got a call saying the application was denied due to something in her background check. She’s never been in trouble with the law. Now, she is out $45 (which may not sound like a lot to you, but it is to her) and we have to wait up to 2 weeks for the $300 that was payed in advance. Out expensive gas, out $45 completely, and they get $400 for free for 2 weeks. Now she is freaking out because there is something on her background check that they won’t tell her and she has never been in trouble with anything in her life. If there isn’t a federal law against this, then there should be. Completely unacceptable behavior inflicting stress, taking money interest free, and outright taking $45 with NOTHING to show for it, not even a reason why.


  5. June 04, 2013 at 2:53 pm, michele rhoads said:

    Did u contact the fair housing authority? They handle disputes such as this. They cannot hold back the upfront money you deposited. It should be given back in a timely manner! If there is a credit denial, they are bound to tell you, anything else they are not. See a lawyer about getting your money back. Lots of them offer a free consultation. These guys are to be their names/leasing company on facebook and let them know how ‘a,b&c’ treated you and the outcome.
    Hope this helps.


  6. June 04, 2013 at 2:54 pm, michele rhoads said:

    Take them to court. The money is due you. If any other reason except for bad credit rating, they don’t have to give a reason.


  7. September 16, 2013 at 12:53 pm, Kae Ross said:

    I applied for an apartment rental and was denied because it was missing my phone number and no one was able to reach my agent(no number) so the person emailed my agent. My agent stated she never recieved an email. This sounds suspicious to me because I made sure the application had my number on it. The application was completed as soon as I seen the apartment and checks was given as well. I was told my checks were not cashed until 1 month later I seen it was. Now I am fighting for my application fee, $300. My credit check fee ($50) was returned to me and I had to cancel the third check which cost me $20. This is so unfair that apartment owners and agents play these games.


  8. September 12, 2016 at 11:54 am, Dexter said:

    Beware of landlords,property management companies,or even a prospective employer who uses an information source other than a ConsumerReporting Agency to perform background checks,because the Fair Credit Reporting Act mandate that they do so.A CRA is held high gov't standards
    concerning the collection , accuracy, and
    reporting of info. A landlord or leasing agent is supposed to inform you in writing
    as to what CRA they will use and what they want to know, upon receiving your
    app fee. If this was not done GET A LAWYER, because the non CRA service
    used is liable.Check yourself for inaccurate
    Info. Not using a CRA is grounds to appeal
    a denial alone. Research the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Fair Housing Act.
    See your state statutes on this topic also.


  9. September 14, 2016 at 8:50 am, micky said:

    The more people they deny, the more money they make. Sure, not all of them do this, but plenty do, and why wouldnt they who doesnt like free money.


  10. November 02, 2016 at 3:06 am, Gary said:

    My advice for all tenants is to be honest with feature landlords. Some renters try to deceive property owners, but it never ends well. So, if you have some problems, that you background check can show, tell about them.
    Otherwise, if you have nothing to hide, background check will boost your chances to get the apartment. I advise you to take advantage of some rental application platforms, like this one and run criminal report for free.


  11. November 15, 2016 at 9:06 pm, Kiya said:

    I was denied because of a eviction I wrote a Appel letter and haven't heard anything what should I do ?


  12. November 29, 2016 at 9:46 am, Jo-ann Button said:

    We applied to an apartment complex here in Spokane Valley, was approved, made several trips to sign different papers they "forgot" about, gave all the info they asked for. They said we were approved, then said they needed more info. The day before we were to move, they called and said they were sorry, but we were un-approved. BULLshit! And they will not give us back the $75 fee. Washington state rots in this area.


  13. December 30, 2016 at 11:15 pm, victoria said:

    evening, we sublet in an apt complex and when that lease was up,we applied 100.00 for our own lease.I was given no paperwork.just a flat denial with no we moved.I received another letter that approved us.But we ha moved already.should I get my 100.00 back?


  14. January 17, 2017 at 12:35 am, Steven l hammond said:

    I am applying for a place in hunter crossing and wondering if ill get aproved or not my credit isnt that good but i make decent money at my job could yall possibility help me out with some answers please i really want my own place with my fiancé. And our kids this is my very first time renting my own place


  15. February 03, 2017 at 8:36 am, Victoria said:

    Hi everyone. I was denied the apartment due to my past due phone bill like I said whoa have you ever experienced that before? I only know electric or gas must be paid in full but phone ?


  16. February 12, 2017 at 4:55 pm, Michele said:

    I APPLIED TO HUNT CLUB IN COCKEYSVILLE, MD on/or about 01/2016. Left a small deposit, my check stubs and of course paid the app fee. I called to see if I was accepted. She said NO YOU WERE NOT APPROVED BECAUSE OF A LIEN from a previous landlord AND EVEN IF IT WERE NOT YOU WE ARE NOT INTERESTED IN YOU NOW OR EVER!!!!!!!!!! I was shocked at her UNPROFESSIONAL BEHAVIOR. I stopped by to pick up my deposit and I said thank you, good day. I sent for the information once Hunt Club sent the denial letter to me. One half of that lien was paid by me MANY YEARS AGO. The other half was my roommates which was never paid. I am in a catch 22 situation since the landlord did not file a LIEN SATISFIED on my rental history. While I appreciate learning of the fact that lien showed outstanding in my name (IT ALLOWED ME TO TAKE ACTION) I MUST say Hunt Club is the PROFESSOR OF UNPROFESSIONAL when it comes to speaking with prospective tenants.


  17. May 25, 2018 at 1:35 pm, Tom said:

    It's time for citizens–the majority of us–to take back our government and our country. Linking credit to rental criteria effectively makes many US citizens homeless. There are many, many reasons for bad credit–such as failed businesses with business partners who defrauded the company but which a state attorney general refuse to prosecute because they decide not enough money is involved–meaning winning a civil judgment is largely unenforceable and can thereby ruin someone's credit. Or catastrophic medical expenses or divorce… People need a place to live, and if someone with bad credit has a long-standing, perfect rental history AND no criminal background AND no outstanding utility bills, (s)he shouldn't be denied housing, a requirement for survival.

    In the US, businesses have for too long influenced legislation that affects all of us. You should have to be a safe resident (no criminal or major misdemeanor offenses), have paid all your rent on time (no 72-hr notifications to vacate or other rental problems), and have left all your past residences in good order (no damage beyond normal wear and tear for which renters are increasingly being charged for up front anyway…), and be legally entitled to rent (residency… requirements). That's it. Beyond these, denying housing means people become homeless or die. Housing needs to be a human right, not a luxury. Otherwise, what is government for? To protect the profits of businesses at the expense of human beings?

    Take back your government!


  18. January 21, 2019 at 5:49 pm, Gerardo Ferrer said:

    I have live in florida for 12 yrs and i live in the apt for 10 yrs and never was late always on time, broke the lease to move back to michigan and was denied every apt i apply and i'm a low income person seems that no gov care how people live in the street. i mean chinese do better buissness then america they rent u apt if u willing to pay they work out with u.


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