Rejecting the pain in the butt applicant without getting sued

56 Replies

So we all agree obvious PITA applicants are to be avoided. To those more experienced out there, how do you reject them without them claiming discrimination and suing you? I'd like to tell this applicant that "I'm renting to someone else" but what if I don't get that someone else for a while?

Pita the bread or PETA the animal people? lol

Being in PETA is not a protected class so you don't have to rent to them if you don't want to but I'm sure that's not the best answer.  I am interested to see what others write about this subject.

I have had a pain in the a** applicant before.  He had a good FICO score, but started to give me a hard time about needing a copy of his paystub and documents.  

We debated on the phone for a while, then I just basically told him that this is not going to work, because he was arguing with me over my policies.  I told him that I will return his check for the security deposit and he can find another rental.  

I want to make sure that my tenants start off on the right foot with a positive experience. The experience had turned negative before he even moved in, and would probably just get worst.

It probably was not a "legal" reason to deny him, but I would have been more than willing to stand before a judge to defend myself.  

@Glenn McCrorey  She means PITA: "Pain In The ***".

If they call and ask about their application, tell them that you are still taking applications. Then as soon as someone qualifies, tell them you have accepted another applicant and wish them good luck in their search.

Exactly as @Michelle L said. On my application, it says:

The application may be denied for any of the following reasons: charge offs or bankruptcy, judgments, eviction/eviction filing, foreclosure, insufficient income, lack of full security deposit, unfavorable references, incomplete, false, or unverifiable application information, or dangerous/intimidating behavior.

You're not legally obligated to rent to anyone, as long as you don't reject them for discriminatory reasons. And denying an argumentive PITA is not discrimination.

I like the wording "dangerous/intimidating behavior". That would definitely cover a lot of people. I'll add it to my forms.

Thanks Michell, I was trying to be funny but I honestly didn't know that is what PITA stood for.  Now I realize I am very familiar with PITA tenants but they are the exception not the rule thank goodness.

Never feel obligated to rent to someone you don't feel is a good fit. 

I had someone apply recently and she seemed very serious...actually, desperate...to move in. It seemed like the biggest hurdle in the world for her and her roommate to provide their proof of income (pay stubs and such). After a day or two of her having so much trouble with this, I simply said that I was sorry we could not accept their application. They almost seemed to expect it because they disappeared quickly.

I've rejected another due to insufficient income. He, too, didn't seem surprised based on his response.

From the HUD website:

"In the Sale and Rental of Housing: No one may take any of the following actions based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap:

  • Refuse to rent or sell housing
  • Refuse to negotiate for housing
  • Make housing unavailable
  • Deny a dwelling
  • Set different terms, conditions or privileges for sale or rental of a dwelling
  • Provide different housing services or facilities
  • Falsely deny that housing is available for inspection, sale, or rental
  • For profit, persuade owners to sell or rent (blockbusting) or
  • Deny anyone access to or membership in a facility or service (such as a multiple listing service) related to the sale or rental of housing."

A "pain in the ***" is not a protected class; pretty sure you can legally discriminate against them at will. Of course I'm assuming some scummy lawyer hasn't succesfully argued that a PITA is a mental handicap ;)

@Kimberly H. I don't want to assume your situation.  Can you define what actions the applicant is doing that make them PITA?  That will show the best way to proceed.  

Require that the application be completely filled out.  I've found that in most cases an applicant is going to leave off some item.  Interestingly, it is often the accurate name of their current landlord.  You will, by the way, find this when someone has actually been evicted and has put down a friend as their landlord. 

One of the first things I do with someone I believe will be a PITA tenant is confirm their landlord/property owner through our online property records.

The second thing I do is confirm criminal history (i.e., eviction history) through our local online local law Marshal's office (they are the ones who handle "tack and mail" notices for a variety of civil actions).

Our applications state (and the applicant must sign) that what they have provided is truthful.  If these searches show otherwise, I do not continue but simply return the application and fee via snail mail and no longer respond with the applicant.   I do not have a cellphone (perhaps one benefit of not having one) and no longer respond if they call and leave a message on my answering machine as the form letter I include with the returned application explains why the rejection.

You can, of course, reject simply because the application is not complete as required.


Gail

Good point @Michael Nemeth This relates to another thread I just posted yesterday; a couple where the husband is here and wife is still out of state packing up the house that will be sold tomorrow. I only show my property twice a week. They wanted to rent the property sight unseen yesterday because they keep "losing" properties (it is a hot rental market) and didn't want to wait and lose it (also listed in MLS and shown by realtors which they know since they found it on Realtor.com), and offered to pay the rent upfront so she could get a $100/month discount, which I said we would have to think about (we are not doing that). The PITA behavior started when I started to go through my normal qualification spiel, she interrupted me twice confronationally, "I shouldn't need to provide that because I am paying rent upfront". Both times I was like, this is my normal spiel, just listen. She called 5 times that day, 2 times after that to let me know her phone line was back up in case I had called, another time giving me her cell for me to call instead since I said I would get back to her that night. I emailed back and said we would not rent to someone sight unseen and that her husband would need to attend the rental open house to which she replied her husband would contact me asap. He called 3 times the next day; when I finally called back and told him he needed to go to the rental open house, he was like my wife said I needed to call you to set up an appt. Went around on that 3 times, then he was like well my wife is going to call you, to which I replied I told her the same thing. Then he was all fussy about the application, the fee, how to fill it in, where do I put what, etc., that he would need to talk to his wife to fill out the form, finally I said I needed to get of the phone. Exhausting dealing with them already. They are retired. They also told me they have never rented, and sold their house at the garage sale they had before listing the house (so not a SS or foreclosure) so I would guess they will buy something after living in my rental for a year so I don't need that either.

I give you a huge amount of credit for your patience @Kimberly H. :) I would have cut them short in about 3 minutes, saying "excuse me, I have another call coming in, I'll get back to you". 

Click

I remember a wholesaler telling me a few years ago about how he handles homeowners or realtors that argue with him. He simply tells them he's not in the arguing business and hangs up. I'm not that abrupt, but when applicants do that to me, I realize I don't get paid for arguing, and cut it short.

Establish good minimum criteria to rent and stand by it.  Use it consistently in screening all those who inquire or apply.  Many of the least desirable prospective tenants will not meet the mark in one or more categories and you can let them know they do not meet your minimum criteria to rent.

In addition, if allowed by your jurisdiction, you can pool applications and accept the one most qualified.  I used to think I needed to accept the first applicant that met my minimum criteria to rent, but have since learned I have more flexibility.  

Of course, my screening process has become more comprehensive too, so many people disqualify themselves after seeing our minimum criteria to rent (Washington state law requires us to show this upfront) or decide they don't want to to through our application process.  Our screening process is three fold:  Telephone screening & interview; On site showing & conversation; Written application & background checks. 

I particularly like Michelle Na  's approach.  I have used that and it works well.

Updated almost 3 years ago

I meant to say Michelle L's approach.

@Kimberly H.  

 Oh my, I read these posts and cringe. Can I be honest ? You are making your own problems. Case in point all these phone calls. Why do they have your phone number? Did you want to get together with these strangers for dinner? Really do everything by email  The phone is for the warm fuzzy contact that some crave. The email is for buisness and its as cold as can be. Its to the point and when you want to ignore you can. These people you speak of can then be just another tennent in the cue and its a first come first serve.....or beter put..you put in who you want.  I wish you the best of luck but you better get a handle on how you screen and reply to your tennants.

I don't have any problem simply saying, "Thank you for your application, but I don't think this is going to be a good fit.  Have a great day, and best of luck in your search."  End of story.

@Jay C.  I am a realtor and it's required that my listings have my phone number, and it's got to be the one I gave my realtor board so I can't change it on the fly.  Industry standard here is a contact phone #. With the websites I can control I use a google voice #, I have a one minute recording to answer the most common of questions I can legally leave on the recording, and then I give my cell to call if they have any further questions.

@Kimberly H.   From what you stated, you don't have a completed application so you don't really have an applicant to consider.

If they balk at providing any of the information you require, then it's usually better to say as little as possible, "Until I have a complete application, I'm not able to consider you as a tenant."  If she starts on a tangent, just keep repeating it.  She's probing for weaknesses she can leverage so don't provide any.

You may also want to consider not taking any application until the apartment's been seen by ALL tenants who will live there.  Not just in this case, but because often a husband/BF/GF/roommate will like the place and the other will HATE it and ask to be let out of the lease which costs you time and money. 

Finally, any qualification you have needs to apply to all.  If this couple gets the place (I'm hoping not from info to this point) and the next couple applies and is then required to provide pay stubs or employment information, you now have a potential discrimination case from the NEW tenants.  And since this conversation is now documented on a public forum (Better Pockets) you would be on the wrong side of having to prove otherwise.

Set the qualifications, it's their job to jump through, if they don't it's THEIR fault/falling/short-coming.  You can't be accused of discrimination because there was no application in the first place.  And don't bend for any reason, no matter the sob story, because it could hurt YOU in the long run, if not now then sometime in the future.

Good luck.

@Kimberly H.  

Kim, you seem hung up on using your phone..FYI you are at a disadvantage if you do.  There is no law in any state I am aware of that requires a phone number but if so drop your adds on Craigslist ect. .  That said you may be compelled to list a number, if so...include information within the add to contact the email address and drop the phone to a machine that directs to a email. ...simple stuff here.. If they call you and you answer just direct them to the email as you screen tennents on a first come first serve basis like you posted in your add. If they persist again defer to the email. ... Now I was under the assumption this was your property. If it is your property you are free to advertise it where you like. . If it is not your property who cares what a pain it is...your getting paid in the end right? 

From a Wisconsin tenant-landlord lawyer website,"Rejecting an applicant because they give you a “bad feeling” or because you did not “connect” with them will only run you afoul of Fair Housing laws."

An objective reason to deny an applicant is something that is quatifiable and verifiable. Examples would include whether or not the applicant has ever been evicted before, whether their prior landlord would rent to them again, whether their gross monthly wages are at least 3 times the amount of your monthly rent. Subjective reasons cannot be verified and as such can lead to allegations of or actual instances of discrimination.

A subjective reasonson the other hand, cannot be quantified or verified. Examples of subjective reason for denying an applicant would be because you got a “bad feeling” when talking to them or you didn’t feel like you “connected” with them. You should not be making a decision to rent to someone based on a subjective feeling; by doing so you may inadvertantly and unconsciously be discriminating against them.

http://petriestocking.com/blog/2009/04/17/screenin...

@Jay C.  Telephone screening and telephone interviewing is one of our most powerful tools/methods.  It is the first part of our application process and works very well for us.  I understand different methods work for different people and different markets, but I wouldn't minimize the value of using the telephone.  I use it in a professional manner and have great success with it.

@Marcia Maynard  

 You sound very capable of handling yourself . That said not all have the same abilities on the phone or face to face interaction. The email can give a person time to collect ones thoughts and prepare a answer and is a very effective screening tool.  The author of this thread is having trouble screening a tennent via phone.  I suggest they setup future contact via email. Each person has to do whats best for their own needs and situation.

Actually, the author of this thread is trying to find the best way to avoid a discrimination lawsuit when rejecting a PITA. I would like to find an objective and quantifiable way to do so per the landlord-tenant attorneys guidance below.  Suggesting that I don't take phone calls in an area where all landlords provide contact phone numbers would make my rental listing appear to be a scam. Just like tiling the entire house like I could get away with in Arizona or Texas wouldn't be acceptable here either.

From a Wisconsin tenant-landlord lawyer website,"Rejecting an applicant because they give you a “bad feeling” or because you did not “connect” with them will only run you afoul of Fair Housing laws."

"An objective reason to deny an applicant is something that is quatifiable and verifiable. Examples would include whether or not the applicant has ever been evicted before, whether their prior landlord would rent to them again, whether their gross monthly wages are at least 3 times the amount of your monthly rent. Subjective reasons cannot be verified and as such can lead to allegations of or actual instances of discrimination. "

"A subjective reasonson the other hand, cannot be quantified or verified. Examples of subjective reason for denying an applicant would be because you got a “bad feeling” when talking to them or you didn’t feel like you “connected” with them. You should not be making a decision to rent to someone based on a subjective feeling; by doing so you may inadvertantly and unconsciously be discriminating against them."

We use ntnonline for tenant screening and they automatically generate a denial letter to send to tenants.

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