Need help with my tenant rejection letter

19 Replies

Good evening, BP.

I'm writing my Tenant Rejection Letter and found some reasons online as to why a tenant is denied their application. So far, I have:

  1. Application incomplete
  2. Application contains false information
  3. Delinquent rent
  4. Delinquent credit obligations
  5. Insufficient credit file
  6. Insufficient credit references
  7. Insufficient employment record
  8. Insufficient landlord details
  9. Insufficient references
  10. Temporary or irregular employment
  11. Insufficient rental history
  12. Insufficient income for amount of credit requested
  13. No credit file
  14. No employment record
  15. No rental history
  16. Record of evictions
  17. Record of bankruptcy, foreclosure, or repossession
  18. Record of excessive or overdue debts and obligations
  19. Temporary residence
  20. Low credit score
  21. Unable to verify credit references
  22. Unable to verify employment
  23. Unable to verify income
  24. Unable to verify rental history
  25. Negative report from previous landlord
  26. Negative report from employer
  27. Owner chose another applicant
  28. Other: _____________________

I feel that the more reasons I have, the better off I'll be; however, I could significantly cut this list down by combining two items into one. For example, instead of having

    1. Insufficient credit file
    2. Insufficient credit references

I could just say

  1. Insufficient credit file or references

But then again, I'd also like to be as specific as possible so as to leave no ambiguities. The tenant could question what "references" in the above statement means: credit references or people references?

Also, my tenant rejection letter is two pages long. Am I just thinking too much about this?

You are overthinking and over-explaining.  Keep it simple.  Be firm but kind.  No one wants a laundry list of why you didn't pick them. Sometimes it is as simple as saying the tenants we chose were better qualified.  

I'm not sure on your local regulations but I text them thanking them for their interest but let them know I went with a new applicant.  I feel this is a time where less is more.  I usually get either no response or thanks anyway but have not had anyone try to question it.  

You may be under an obligation to use a specific form if you reject for credit.  But, to be honest, I just never wrote any rejected applicant a letter.  If they called me, I'd just tell them I went with someone else.

I'd avoid doing anything other than what is required and use your state's form for that.  If you get too specific, you just open yourself up to be sued for this and that.  I think they'd be more likely to get ticked off.  Applicants usually know why they won't get an apartment.  They usually don't argue it.

@Nicholas Jose , I agree with Sue.  Less is more.  While you are trying to be nice/professional, you also open yourself up to liability.  A canned response, unless more is required in your jurisdiction is the most I would do.  And if they do call you trying to dig out info, stick with the canned response, as uncomfortable as it feels.

I used to be like this too Nicholas. You want to please everyone. 

Honestly, you don't need to put 10 seconds of work into rejecting someone. I just send them a message," thanks for your interest, we went with another candidate. Thank you. "

Don't give any reasons. Most won't care and will move on. If you get some pushback, then just say "they were more qualified. Again, thank you for your interest." 

If they pushback again, just ignore. 

The more you say, the worst it'll be.

Like others, I recommend to keep it simple; a lot of your list can be summed up as "incomplete application", "false information", and "did not meet criteria".

If any of that criteria came from the background/credit check, there is a special disclosure form you have to provide and check off the appropriate boxes.

It is far more important to be clear and unambiguous in your screening criteria, so they know what they're getting measured against before they pay you a nonrefundable application fee.

This is why we don't charge an application fee.  If someone asks, we just say, "Your file came back flagged."  If they keep asking, we just block them.

In my market, if someone is even remotely qualified (income, no evictions, no criminal background) they usually get the apartment.

@Karen F. even if you don't charge a fee, if you do run a credit/background check and use that information (credit, residential, or criminal) from that report in making your adverse decision, you are required to report it. This is per Fair Credit Reporting Act - FTC has all the information.

I don't.  We're in a poor area.  They all have bad credit.  We just look them up on the court website for evictions and lawsuits, look them up for criminal background, and google them.  That, combined with rental record, employment, often a look at their social media, and meeting them up front, is enough.

And if the social media is filled with gangbanger wannabe stuff, they're not a good match for us.  There's always something we can reject them for, if we don't want them. 

@Nicholas Jose

You should omit #2. Application contains false information.I dont think you want to accuse someone of lying. You are better off stating you are unable to verify .....

Also, I think less is more. Keep it vague and to the point.

@Ravi P. I hear you. But I disagree. I reject for that all the time, but the way I state it is more nuanced. It’s mostly an applicant stating in an application that they’ve never been evicted. I see on court records that they have. I reject by stating that their “application is inconsistent with public court records.”

Just a funny story.  I once had an applicant who came with his sister who was obviously running the show and was really pushy about me renting to her brother.  They were both probably in their late 30's, maybe even early 40's.  

I did my checks on him and it turned out he was just recently out of prison and was living with the sister.  She kept calling, or he'd call and she was loudly telling him what to say in the background.  I finally went ahead and picked up the phone and just told them he didn't meet my criteria and I'd chosen a different applicant.

She went ballistic.  She came to my apartment with him in tow (to be honest, he was pretty meek - no doubt didn't want to go back to prison and was probably on probation) banging on my apartment door (I was resident manager and didn't have a separate office) and yelling that I needed to rent to her brother or I'd be sorry.

I called the cops who let her know she could be arrested for harassment and she better knock it off.

Sheesh, I wouldn't be surprised if the brother actually took the fall for something she did.

I did have a couple of other applicants who I turned down who behaved the same way, coming onto the property or telling me over the phone that I needed to give them the owner's information, coming onto the property and basically stalking me demanding that I rent to them.  I just called the cops every time who explained to them that they better knock it off.  The owner chased one guy off the property one time and he didn't come back, so I didn't have to call the cops on him.

It was rare, though. And none of them had the money to go talk to a lawyer, or thought to actually try to file a discrimination complaint. And really, most of them don't have time to move, who are going to give you a hard time. They don't have time to hire an attorney, sue you, get a trial date, file a complaint with HUD, wait a year for a hearing..... It's just not something that's likely to happen.

Fortunately, we had a police department that took harassment seriously, and they'd either call the harasser on the phone and explain how they could get arrested, or they showed up.  But, this was just a few times over many years and hundreds of applicants, so it's rare for anyone to even protest your decision.  Only the dumb ones who have some reality TV notion that bullying a landlord will actually get them an apartment - doh.

You're definitely over-thinking it. A short notice that they did not meet your qualification standards should suffice. Or if someone else beat them to it, let them know another applicant was selected and wish them the best.

Screening software should provide an "Adverse Action" letter that you can use. If not, I would simply create a very short, objective letter that gives them the bare minimum and wishes them well in the future.

@Nicholas Jose I believe providing a letter response is the professional thing to do. Keep the reasons brief and high level. It should be just a couple sentences:

Dear John,

Thank you for your application to rent the property at 123 Oak Street. Unfortunately we are unable to approve your application at this time for one of the following reasons:

Insufficient credit 

You want to make it sound very non-emotional, similar to any form letter you would get when applying for a loan or credit card. If they call to discuss or ask for more details, just explain that is all your processor provided and that the decision is final. Just keep saying, "I am sorry we are unable to approve." Keep repeating that to whatever they say. Eventually they will just drop off the call. Whatever you do, make sure to not get into a discussion or leave them any hope you will change your mind. People will try to talk you into approving them.

The reason you want to send a letter is to provide closure. They applied - you denied. I know some landlords leave tenants hanging or don't respond, which is not only unprofessional but it is very rude. They are looking for a home. The sooner you tell them their home will not be your property, the better.

@Nicholas Jose

Unless your jurisdiction  requires it, A brief "Landlord has decided not to accept Prospective Tenants Application". Anything else ESPECIALLY a made of list of reasons could open you up to a lawsuit.

Less is More

Thanks for the feedback, everyone. They've been really insightful. I should've mentioned how I went to eforms and typed up the letter based on which state you're from (NJ in my case). I think @Anna Sagatelova really hit the nail on the head:

If any of that criteria came from the background/credit check, there is a special disclosure form you have to provide and check off the appropriate boxes.

Here's what I currently have on my letter:

"Thank you for submitting your rental application to us. We regret to inform you that your application as been rejected due to one or more of the following reasons:


Your application may have been denied on the basis of a report given by a consumer reporting Agency and/or on the bases of the information obtained from other sources.

If your application has been denied on the bases of information obtained from other sources, then you have a right under the Fair Credit Reporting Act to make a written request within 60 days from the receipt of this notice regarding the nature of this information. As per deferral law, we are prohibited from disclosing the source of this information.

If your application has been denied on the bases of information obtained from a consumer reporting Agency/Agencies, then you have the right under the Fair Credit Reporting Act to make a written request within 60 days from the receipt of this notice to obtain a free report from any of the following Agencies:


You also have the right to dispute your credit report on the basis of its inaccuracy or incompleteness. You may have other rights under Consumer protection Law or credit reporting for which you may contact your state Attorney General’s office or your local Consumer Protection Agency.

Important Note: The Fair Housing Act is a federal statute that prohibits discrimination in the sale or rental of housing, as well as in residential real estate-related transactions, such as advertising, mortgage lending, homeowner’s insurance, and zoning. The law make it unlawful to discriminate on the bases of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin, disability, and familial status."

So the above letter may be used for disqualifications related to credit. Other than that, I should just stick to writing a simple "Thanks for your application, but we've found someone else" (or some other reason), as many of you have suggested. Thanks for the help, everyone.