What If My Apartment Application Was Denied?

One of the most disheartening things that a new renter can experience is having their application denied.  Especially if you have good credit and don’t think you have a good reason for your application being denied.  

An application for an apartment can be denied for multiple reasons, even if you don’t have red flags such as a criminal history or bad credit.  Something as simple as the apartment was already filled or you have other things in your history you may not be aware of can be cause for the complex to deny your application.

In this article, I am going to go through the primary reasons why a landlord would deny an application, and what you can do to improve your chances of getting the apartment you want. 

What Can Stop You From Getting Approved For An Apartment?

The most common reasons why an application would be denied are being evicted from another apartment in the past or having a poor background or credit history. 

Renting an apartment is just like getting approved for a car or bank loan.  The tenant is going to be responsible for committing payment of literally thousands of dollars a year for the apartment, and the landlord or apartment complex needs to make sure that the people they rent to have a good record, steady income, and are a good risk to take when renting.  

Remember that you are interviewing for a spot at the landlord’s property.  They have the right to know certain things about you as a person to make a well-informed decision.  

Try not to take the background checks and extensive application process personally.  It isn’t something that is out to get you.  It is something that not only protects the landlord, but the other tenants as well.  The better the landlord does their due diligence in who they rent to, the better the atmosphere is going to be at the apartment complex as a whole.  You WANT the application process to be hard, because that means that less bad apples are going to slip through the cracks.  

This all means a better renting experience for YOU. 

Reasons Landlords Can Deny Your Application

When I put people through the application process at my complex, these are the main things I am looking for as red flags: 

  1. Previous Evictions

Credit and background checks typically go back 7 years.  If I see that someone has been evicted from their prior apartment complex, that is the number 1 red flag in my book.  This means that something went so drastically wrong during the time they were at a previous complex that the landlord was forced to evict them.  That is why I always call and check the references given on the application. 

  1. Bad Credit Check

The next primary reason I would look for if I was going to deny an application is a bad credit score.  I don’t have a particular score I am looking for, but a credit check will not only give a credit score, but also show outstanding debts and delinquent payments and collection notices.  If a bad credit score is paired with a ton of debt and collections coming after them, I can be certain that at some point, the rent isn’t going to be paid.  

People know that there are laws that protect tenants as opposed to debts on a car or bank loan, so unfortunately, it is the landlords who get taken advantage of.  Also, if collections are coming after them, chances are they are having some of their wages taken directly from their paychecks, making it even more difficult for them to make a rent payment. 

The harsh reality is that the worse a credit score is, typically the higher risk the person is going to be over the course of renting.  I tend to be VERY lenient however, when the tenant comes right up front, lets me know about their credit score and debts, what they are doing about it, and how they are going to pay for the apartment on time each month.  

In cases like this, unless I see they are an ax murderer on their background check, I tend to be inclined to give them an apartment and take a chance on it.  So, having a bit of character and honesty really can go a long way. 

  1. Bad Background Check

I know I said that prior evictions were my Number 1 reason why I would deny someone an application, but something that will automatically rule out approving an application is any sort of violent crime on a background check.  

Again, the harsh reality is that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, and the absolute LAST thing I want at my apartment complex is a person with a violent criminal past.   

If I see that there are domestic violence charges or any other violent crimes that have been committed by the applicant, it is an automatic NO.  

If the background check has something like an arrest for weed or a DUI when they were 19, I am inclined to overlook it as a poor decision, not a pattern of behavior that I need to worry about.   

  1. Income

This is a big one as well.  Having enough income, and enough cushion in your income to plan for unexpected expenses is crucial to being able to afford an apartment.   Just being able to squeak by on your apartment rent with your income most times won’t fly with me.  

I know that unexpected expenses come up, that is a part of everyone’s life.  Having enough money to pay the rest of your bills when these occurrences happen is much easier done when the income is a certain multiple of what the apartment rent is.  Click here if you are wondering how much of an apartment you can afford. 

  1. Lied On Your Application

If I call a reference that a tenant provided me and it doesn’t check out, or they say they worked at such and such a place and they really don’t will be an automatic denial of the application, no further questions asked.  Again, this is a quick way to be assured your application will be denied.

And if you are wondering if landlord really DO check up on references, read this. 

Is It Hard To Get Approved For An Apartment?

If you have a decent credit score, good background check, and enough income to pay for the apartment, it shouldn’t be hard at all to rent the apartment you want. 

Remember, you want there to be several hoops to jump through when you apply for a complex.  It should be a warning sign to you as a renter if there isn’t. That means that the landlord doesn’t care who is living at their complex and more than likely, you aren’t going to have a very good experience renting with them. 

Find a place that DOES background and credit checks and makes you pay for them.  Doing this automatically weeds out those people who KNOW they aren’t going to pass the application process, and so they won’t even bother to apply at all. 

The harder the application is, the better renting experience you are going to have. 

Can You Get Approved For An Apartment With Bad Credit?

Yes, you can get approved for an apartment with bad credit.  Have good references, show your income and past renting history, and be honest with your landlord about your subpar rental score, and you should have no problem securing a lease for an apartment. 

When I see an applicant with a low credit score, I don’t automatically count them out as a potential tenant. I know there are many reasons for why a credit score can be low, and a little bit more digging into the actual state of affairs for the person usually clears up the issue one way or another. 

I put more weight on the credit score if the applicant has a ton of debt in relation to their income, and has collections coming after them.  If they are just someone with a low credit score and a good job, I am probably going to let them rent.  Many times a bad roommate or a separation or divorce can have a drastic impact of someone’s credit, which may not be indicative of their actual creditworthiness, especially when renting an apartment.  

The times where I have the most confidence renting to someone with low credit is when they talk to me about their credit score even before they put in their application.  They know their score is bad, and if they explain to me why it is bad and how they can pay for the apartment with little worry, I am usually more than happy to rent to them.  Just that honesty goes a long way for me overlooking something that many places will just deny out of hand. 

If you are denied on your apartment application, ask for what reason you were denied.  If there is something you can do to rectify the situation, do it.  Also, be honest with your landlord up front, you have no idea how much that means to them, even if something in your history or background is less than perfect. 

Go through the reasons I listed above.  They are the top reasons why I would deny someone on their application.  Improving on those things is going to go a long way to getting the apartment you want.

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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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