Denied Rental Application Letter (What To Fix)

The one letter that nobody wants to get is an “Application Denied” letter from an apartment complex you really wanted to move in at.  

Unfortunately, if you were denied, your landlord may have a rational reason why you were denied such as not enough income, bad credit, or they found information on the application misleading. 

There are a ton of reasons though why you might get a Denied Rental Application Letter, and there are some things you can do to improve your odds of getting approved the next time around.  Making the same mistakes over and over again is only going to make you frustrated with the entire experience of applying and people tend to settle down on a snap decision when they hit a wall with this.  

Don’t let a rental application that was denied stop you from getting a great place to live!  I am going to go over those things that I see tenants do on their application that would give me cause to choose someone else out of the applicant pool. 

Denied Rental Application

Remember that if the landlord COULD rent to you, they WOULD.  They don’t make money by turning every person away.  So, before you fire up the ol’ attorney and go after them for denying you a rental, first take a look at what you are putting on your application. 

Your rental application is much like a resume for work.  It is a quick summary that tells a little bit about you, where you have been, where you have stayed, and most times, what your credit score is and what your background check looks like.  

It is through this process that landlords make determinations on who to rent to or not.  They use the credit and background check as proof of the information people put down on their application because while I know this will come as a shock to some of you… people have been known to lie on their application. 

Thus, thorough application screening.  Or, at least, it SHOULD be thorough.  Remember, you WANT there to be some good hoops you have to jump through to be admitted because everyone else you are going to be living by will have had to jump through those same hoops too.  

Let’s go over the primary reasons people are denied on their application…….

Reasons For Being Denied On Your Application 

Not High Enough Income

This is easily the #1 reason why people are denied rent.  They don’t make enough money to be able to comfortably afford the place they want to stay.  

And unfortunately for the tenant, it is the landlord’s decision to whether or not the applicant makes enough money to afford the place or not.  Apartment turnover is the highest cost that a landlord can incur, so it is in their best interest to select the people that have the highest chances of paying their rent, in full, each month. 

If you are getting constantly denied and you don’t know why this could be the reason.  I have written an article JUST on this particular subject, and in it are a couple of rules of thumb that tenants and landlords alike use to determine suitability.   

It’s important that you only apply for those apartments that are in your price range and budget.  If you are constantly overreaching as far as price goes, you are going to continue to get rejected on your applications. 

Bad Credit Score

This is one of those issues that can go either way when a landlord is looking at your application to approve or deny you. 

On the one hand, your credit score doesn’t necessarily show the entire picture or state of affairs when looking at an individual.  There CAN be extenuating circumstances or bad decisions made well into the person’s past that can still be affecting the credit score.  On the other hand, your credit score is the perfect place for landlords to check an applicant’s risk-worthiness.   

A credit report doesn’t just report your credit.  It shows your debts, how much you earn, and if you have any accounts that are overdue or that have been taken to collections.  It also shows where you have debt taken out, and for what purpose.  ADDITIONALLY, and this is usually the thing that I am most concerned with as a landlord, is that it shows if you have had any evictions or not. 

To me, an eviction is MUCH worse than having a subpar credit score.   Your credit score may be lower for reasons such as school loans, or a house, or just a lack of credit being taken out, to begin with.  But an eviction tells me that this person not only didn’t pay their bills, more than likely they treated the last place they were at in an unfriendly manner.  And those are the people I try to avoid renting to for obvious reasons. 

There are tons of articles out there on how to improve your credit, but if you want a guide on How To Get An Apartment With Bad Credit, this article will show you how. 

Bad Background Check

This is something that I don’t mess around with.  If there is something negative on someone’s background check, there is almost nothing they can do or say to make me rent to them.  

Background checks are there for a reason.  Not just for the landlord, but for the safety of the other tenants that are paying their rent at the complex as well.  Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, and if the person has had run-ins with the law, I am not going to bring that willingly into my apartment complex.  

I know that may sound harsh, but the last thing a landlord wants, or multiple tenants to have to deal with are flashing lights outside their building in the middle of the night.  Not only is it not safe for them, but it also doesn’t inspire the feeling that the complex is a safe place to stay.  

It is the landlord’s responsibility to provide a safe place for their tenants to stay, and that includes doing a thorough background check on any and every person that comes to live at our place.  If that means turning a few people away, then so be it.  The current tenants I have are grateful for the environment I keep at my complex BECAUSE of these checks. 

You will be able to tell the difference between apartment complexes that check the backgrounds of their tenants and the ones that don’t.  And while it’s perfectly fine to stay at one of these places, more than likely it isn’t going to be nearly as peaceful as it would be otherwise. 

You Lied On Your Application

This is just a non-starter for me.  If a person does an application and I go to check up on any aspect of it and find out they’re lying, that’s the end of the road for them.  No callback, no follow up, nothing.  If they don’t have the respect to give me in being honest, I want nothing to do with them. 

What I HAVE done many times in the past is be gracious to people who have come to me upfront, said their application wasn’t going to look perfect, and then take responsibility for whatever black marks they had on the application or credit reports.  

If they got a DUI when they were 19 and just out of high school and are now 24 and looking for a place to stay and they have a steady job, I am more than likely going to chalk that up to a bad youthful decision.  The culmination of a credit report, background check, and how the person talks and presents themselves can overcome an application that doesn’t sparkle. 

No References

This is a much-overlooked aspect of an application.  Many places require several references, none of them being family.  This can be hard for some people.  Heck, this can be hard for people who are professionals.   Many people don’t want to have different places calling them, asking about what type of a person they are or if they are dependable or not.  

While I call references when I think that the situation warrants it, it is usually the LACK of any references provided whatsoever that causes me to stop and think.  

If you can’t find ANYONE who will vouch for you as a human being, then probably you are not going to rent an apartment from me.  This is one of those “social credit” things where other people really can make a difference in your life depending on how you treat them. 

Obviously, people lie on their references almost as much as the name and address of the last place they stayed at.  This happens.  More than you would think.  If you are one of the people who has done this, then you know what I’m talking about!   

As long as I can call someone else that has been in the applicant’s life and can tell me a little bit about them, and that information meshes with what they put down on the application, that’s as far as I am going to go with it.   It is the simple fact of having some people down AS references that are as much a hurdle to renting as not. 

Lack Of Professionalism

This is something that is a bit subjective but can have a big influence on you as a renter or future applicant.   

Many times the manager, or you yourself, will want to come down and see the place in person before you go any further with the application process.  This is the time to let your personality and professionalism shine. 

If I can’t tell whether you are homeless or showing up for your appointment to see the apartment, that’s a problem. 

If the applicant starts making excuses about being able to pay on a monthly basis during the walkthrough or any other point in the application process, that’s a problem.  They are essentially telling you upfront that they are not going to pay what the lease says to pay, or on time.  Huge warning sign. 

The things I am looking for when walking someone through an apartment is that they are honest, they know what questions to ask about an apartment and apartment life, and that they are giving me the same amount of respect that I am giving them.   Those little things can get someone into an apartment that day in some cases.  

In the end, just be presentable, look the person in the eyes when you are talking to them or listening to them, and be honest.  You have only a few minutes to show the character you have been building your entire life, make the most of those few minutes.  

Being denied on your application isn’t the end of the world.  Figure out why you are being rejected.  Call the complex and ask them.  Is it because you don’t make enough, something raised red flags with them, or they simply don’t have any vacancy at that time.   The answer will be a HUGE help with you in applications in the future.

Recommended for You:

How the Application Process Works for an Apartment

Will Apartments Rent To You With An Eviction?

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John Boettcher

Co-Founder of Apartment School and a previous renter turned owner of many multi-family properties across the United States, with many years of experience in all aspects of the apartment, real estate, and investing world.

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