Does law require landlord accept the first qualified applicant?

7 Replies

I am in the process of transitioning tenants for my single family home rental property.  I've been lucky with a strong response from my listing but it has raised a question in my mind.  Let's assume 2 or more prospective tenants submit applications, pass the credit and background screening, and meet my other minimum criteria.

Must I accept the the tenants on a first-come first-served basis?  Or can I pick the best applicant.  For example, if they all pass the minimum criteria but one has a credit score of 800 or one applicant rented their last place for 8 years and are only moving now because that house is for sale.  Can I pick the one with the best rental resume?

1st SET your criteria,

2nd Download your state landlord tenant laws / Fair Housing Laws also..

3. I would suggest you mention to all that want to see the house what your criteria is before meeting and showing it. Then if you have a open house type of showing you can feel more free saying I'm accepting applications today and once I know the results I'll be able to let you know, if you have multiple applications. 

I say to multiple applicants, I've got several others also pending, I do require if approved full deposit and lease signed within 36 hours. so if that doesn't get completed I take the next person qualified in line. 

Thanks Deanna.  If it helps the thread, I am particularly interested in Massachusetts regulations.  I have looked at the laws but, as you might imagine, there is not a clear black and white statement on this.  Rather more along the lines of "you must be fair and you cannot discriminate."  I'm fine with that but within those bounds, I would like to select the most personable, financially stable, and longest-term tenant interested in my property.

If you have a set of specific criteria and you don't take the first person that meets those criteria, you open yourself up to being accused of discrimination.  You can make your criteria as strict and specific as you like, as long as you don't violate any fair housing protected groups.  But once you get an applicant that meets those criteria, I would (and do) accept them.

Just remember at the end of the day you own this property and you pick the person who is a best fit. Pre screen, screen some more and do a credit/ eviction check.

Not necessarily. here is how I do it.  Lets say I set up showing times between 1-2 on thursday and 3-4 on Friday.  From those I receive 3 applications.  Once person applied prior to seeing it, one thursday, and one friday.   I have told each person that I will be reviewing all applications received that Saturday and will be chosen based on qualifications. 

There are factors other than income and credit that could play into a decision.  (Make sure none are illegal reasons)  Lets say one person does not want to rent until Dec 1, when the property is available 11/15, or another didn't complete the application completely or you are having trouble verifying the information on the application. 

As long as you never make decisions based against fair housing laws , That is the main thing!!!

If your state regulations does not specifically state that you "must " choose the first qualified you always choose the "most" qualified.

It is your property, you have invested a great deal of money, why would anyone risk it all by not choosing the best.

It's your business. Do not choose your tenants out of fear.

@John Wright Why not ask the Housing Court Judge yourself (on a non adversarial basis), he's speaking to us 11/28 MassRealEstate dot net

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