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.
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.