Renting Roadblocks: Reasons Apartment Applications Get Denied

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Sarah Wuenscher
Sep 27, 2022

When you’ve finally found an apartment that checks all of your boxes, a denied application is the LAST news you want hitting your inbox. Apartment applications are strictly business — properties use them as tools to assess risk by taking a closer look at things like the income, credit, rental, and criminal history of their potential tenants. In order to make sure you’re not wasting time and spending unnecessary cash on fees, read on for a guide to dealing with the most common reasons apartment applications get denied.

1 | Credit score

During the screening process, property management companies will almost always run a credit check. As a tenant, you’re expected to pay them rent every month — so by looking into your credit history, they’re assessing your likelihood of doing that by checking into past patterns.

What to do if this comes up

If your credit history comes up rocky, there are typically two outcomes: either your application comes back denied, or it comes back with conditions. Typically, these conditions include a higher deposit that can be up to an additional full month’s rent depending on what the property’s requirements are.

Letting your apartment locator know the reason behind a lower credit score upfront is key to saving you time and money in your apartment search. Some properties can be more lenient than others under certain circumstances, and locators can help guide you to apply for places that are more likely to work with you. And if you do end up finding a place you like at one of these properties, we recommend hopping on it ASAP — these units can be few and far between.

If your locator assesses the situation and discovers it is likely that most properties they work with will deny your application, they’ll typically recommend using a second chance apartment approval service company as a resource for finding your next place. These companies partner with specific properties that accommodate situations like credit, rental history, and other backgrounds.

2 | Rental history

Another common reason for application denials is rental history. Issues that raise red flags with properties include evictions, broken leases, and unpaid rental debt. Also, most apps require you to list contact info for former landlords — so if you left your last place on rocky terms, they may be inclined to give the next property you’re applying for a heads up.

What to do if this comes up

Leveraging a cosigner with a solid rental history could help you get approved depending on the specific issue and the property’s policy. Unfortunately, evictions typically mean denials across the board — but just like for credit issues, second chance leasing companies are usually the best resource for finding a place if you’ve got one on your record!

3 | Income

Next, let’s talk income. As a general rule of thumb, apartment properties require you to make 3x the amount of the monthly rent of the unit you’re applying for (but this number can range from 2.5x-3.5x depending on the complex). To prove you make the qualifying amount, they’ll ask you to provide bank statemenuts or pay stubs from your employer on your application.

What to do if this comes up

The leasing agent should give you the income qualifications prior to you submitting an application, but if for some reason it doesn’t come up, be sure to double-check the requirements with the staff. If the numbers on the pay stub documents don’t meet their requirements or don’t match up with the income you listed on your application, it’ll be an automatic denial — being honest and providing legit paperwork is a non-negotiable here. So when your locator asks for your income, don’t worry, they aren’t prying just because! They’re just making sure they’re doing right by you and only sending units that you’ll qualify for.

Renting with a roommate or leveraging a cosigner or guarantor are great ways to combat income-related apartment application denials. With a roommate, properties usually approve on the combined income of both tenants — so if you and your roommate each make $4k/mo, the property is approving you as a household that makes $8k/mo. Cosigners don’t necessarily live with you, but they take on equal responsibility for your lease — so if you’re looking to live in an apartment that your income alone doesn’t qualify for, you may ask another trusted person to provide additional support. Keep in mind that in most cases, cosigner income requirements will be higher than 3x (typically 5x the monthly rent).

4 | Document formatting

A super common (and very frustrating) issue when getting approved for an apartment is incorrect document formatting. In order to combat fraud, properties use advanced software to determine whether or not the pay stub or bank statement PDFs you’ve provided are legit.

What to do if this comes up

Attempted forged pay stubs are super common (thanks, Photoshop!), so properties have learned to smell it from a mile away. If you send in a screenshot of a PDF or try to submit un-approved documents in your application, the sensitive systems they run them through will automatically determine they’re fake and fast-track your application to a denial — so be sure to read all of the fine print before you hit submit!

If you’re self-employed or are otherwise unable to provide the standard documentation they’re asking for, your locator and the onsite staff can help walk you through the process.

5 | Background issues

Many apartment properties adhere to strict screening guidelines without much room for nuance, making options very limited for those who have criminal histories on their records.

What to do if this comes up

In some cases, a locator may be able to help you find an apartment that accommodates those with specific background issues (such as a Class C misdemeanor related to DWI or similar.)

For those with a felony or misdemeanor in the A or B class, your best resource for finding an apartment will be a second chance leasing company that works specifically with those who have criminal backgrounds. These companies partner with properties in order to place those who are having difficulty finding an apartment that will accommodate their circumstances.

Discrimination and Tenant Rights

While applications can legally be denied for other reasons including those listed above, under the Fair Housing Act, landlords and management companies cannot reject applications based on:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National Origin
  • Religion
  • Sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation)
  • Familial Status
  • Disability

If you live in the states we service, here’s where you can view tenant rights for Texas, Georgia, Colorado, and Illinois.

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