First come, first qualified?

7 Replies

Hi fellow landlords!

I currently use a policy for accepting tenants where I say that the first applicant who turns in their complete application and is qualified will get the unit. This works out well most of the time as it gets serious applicants to turn in their applications quickly. Largely I prefer this policy as it limits discrimination charges.

One downside I see to doing it this way is that it limits my ability to choose a tenant I feel may be equally qualified, but for personal reasons I think they may be a better fit to my apartment community. If they were the second qualified applicant in, I wouldn't run their credit or background until I denied the first applicant. The choice is hard some times as you never know what you'll get until you do those two things.

What do you do and why?

Hi Taylor.

We used to process applications on a first come basis end to end.  We changed our process to give us more flexibility. We tell applicants that getting their app in early improves their chances, which is true, but at any point we might tell them there is an applicant ahead of them, but that may mean stronger, not first.

We use a point system.  It has some preliminary questions we can rate just by reading through the application to get to a subtotal.  If their score is below our minimum criteria they are disqualified.  Otherwise we move forward on the highest score in the order of score.  It is defendable and gives us the ability to spend the most time on and choose the most qualified tenant.

We continue to verify the info and score more attributes, leading to a final score that forces out a "disqualify, offer unit, or holding pattern" decision for each application.

We batch applications and pick the best. This is how we do it.... We do phone screenings, show only to those who pass our phone screenings, accept applications over a period of a few days, review the applications and prioritize them best to worst. We process the application of the most promising applicant first. We only run one application at a time through the entire process of checking references and running background checks. If we don't process an application because we have chosen another candidate or because we see from reviewing the application that they won't meet our minimum criteria to rent, then we return their application fee. 

Batching works for us and we are upfront that it is not first come first served. We want to give everyone who is interested and has passed our screening interview, a chance to view the property and complete the application. Some strong candidates can't get out to see the property as quickly or get their application delivered as quickly compared to some of the weaker candidates. So doing it this way works in our favor.

We follow all fair housing laws and do not discriminate against protected classes, so discrimination charges do not become an issue.

wouldn't it be nice if we can keep accepting applications, and at the end fire off a group email saying "highest and best rent by tomorrow 5pm EST DST"?

The best way to prevent discrimination accusations is to not discriminate.  If I had my way all my of tenants would be either Asian or gay (I'm not either).  Simply because they (huge generalization here) tend to keep their places much nicer.   However, that is just not possible.  So I rent to people who are green, in other words those that have the money to rent from me.  I don't care if they are black white, asian, hispanic, or Martian.  I don't care if they are atheist, Baptist, Catholic, Muslim, or animist.  Although, that last one does give me pause you know that whole animal sacrifice in the bathtub.  :)

I basically rent to the first qualified candidate, acceptable credit, appropriate security deposit, steady job, three times the rent in income, verifiable present and past tenancy, no evictions, and no criminal history, who can bring me the money.  

Thank you all for the great and varied responses so far. @Michele Fischer I like how you say that other applicants may be "ahead" but not necessarily mean that they are stronger, not first application in. I am wanting to have more flexibility as most of you seem to want that also.

@Marcia Maynard , I also use your process of one application at a time, end to end, and then if I accept someone, returning the fees to those who I have not gotten to yet.

What is interesting and different in my market is the demand. I have high demand and many tenants who are willing to move in within a couple days of the lease signing. Batching, at this point, prolongs my vacancy. I have had it happen a couple times where an applicant looked great, we called to say they were accepted, and they had already found another place. To us, time is of the essence. I may get to a point where we can float a longer vacancy at the cost of a few more days in order to get the most ideal tenant. Right now, the ones we accept generally work out great! I have one tenant who wanted the place so much that she paid rent at her old place for 30 days in order to give proper notice, and my place so she could get it before it was snatched up by someone else.

Taylor, we core the application and make phone calls to verify the information, but before we spend money we call to verify interest and that they actually have move in money so that we aren't spinning our wheels.  We clearly say on our application that we use e-mail for follow-up questions and communication, which is super easy and impersonal.  A check with them midway through might help you as well.

I've had similar situations where someone who barely qualifies gets their application in a few hours before a fantastic prospect submits their application. For me, I really had to decide if my criteria was stringent enough. If you find yourself saying, "technically they qualify, but I don't really want to rent to them." You need to re-evaluate your criteria (avoiding discrimination of course).

That's what I did. I decided my income requirement was too low for my comfort, and I raised it. Now someone who barely qualifies *should* be able to easily afford the rent and I can process the first app submitted instead of waiting.

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