How To Deny Tenant Application

14 Replies

Hello everyone,

My husband and I just bought our first rental house in Beloit Wisconsin, and are in the process of finalizing our Tenant Application.

I was wondering how to go about disqualifying applicants in a respectful, legal way (i.e one of our requirements is to have no evictions filed upon the prospective tenant).

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!  



Congrats on your first rental. I suggest you purchase the book below (in the BP store).

It walks you through everything you need to know about being a landlord.

I don't believe you have to tell them why you did not rent to them. If they contact about the property you can say we are still reviewing applications (if you don't have a good renter yet). You can also send out an email telling them thank you for applying but the property has been rented. You may add that you will keep the application on file for future consideration.

You should keep a copy of all applications anyway.  Good luck! 

Medium property managing


If you private message me, I am happy to share our rental application and resident selection criteria. Although, always important to check your States landlord tenant laws before proceeding 

Another great read - Mike Butler, Landlording on Autopilot. His advice: never turn an appliacant down, just ask them for more clarifications, more documents, more background checks etc. The fact that you declined someone is a risk by iteself, legidimatly or not - if you never formally decline anyone, you eliminate the risk.

I echo Marcus. Great book. I've been managing rentals for just over 5 years. The issue you are concerned with doesn't come up a lot. Typically, we get calls from people following up on the status of the app. If we are still looking for a tenant, we let them know we are still reviewing applications. If they have something in their background that is a sticking point, ask them them about it. Example, we had an application that looked good, except for one detail. They had a large, judgement against them. It was recent, within 6 months. We asked about it. They confirmed the details and had been set up on a payment plan. Important: they had proof AND had proof they were making payments. Turned out to be good tenants. Responsible, paid on time. Just had "life" happen. So, if something in the background is a problem put it back on them to do the work. If they are responsible, they will. Most will acknowledge the issue and move on to a landlord that isn't as thorough with background checks. Congratulations on your first rental!

@Hannah Kingslien Before sending any kind of rejection letter make sure you know the reasons for which  you can legally reject someone for in your state. I would contact a local attorney for this info and not go by what people from different states are saying on a message board. Every state and municipality is different in this respect. 

Not trying to be harsh at all, just from experience I see landlords get tripped up with this all the time and they are breaking the law and don't even know it. 

@Michael Noto

Great advice, thank you! I will definitely get in contact with an attorney. Will it cost me anything to get in contact with an attorney and get this information? 

Michael is correct, every state and even city can be a little different, but hiring am attorney may not be necessary. Here are a few things you can do first: you should download the WI State guide for landlords. It's called The Wisconsin Way and cover your question plus a lot more. If you google protected classes+your state+your city you can see who is in a protected class. Local law overrides state and federal law in this case.

Inform all applicants that you are still in the process of receiving applications and once you find the one you want all others are simply informed that the vacancy has been filled. Never give any applicant a reason unless required by law.

If you do not find a qualified applicant then you reject simply by stating that you are sorry but that their application has been rejected. Tell them when they ask that you do not release the reason for rejecting simply that they did not meet their screen criteria.

Many times applicants are rejected due to appearance, attitude, upkeep of personal vehicle etc. You do not ever give applicants this information or ever give them any evidence to use against you in court.

Your reason for rejection is none of their business (unless your state laws require otherwise).

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