What Can Disqualify You From Renting an Apartment?

Applying for an apartment can often be a challenging and tedious process. It’s crucial to have a thorough understanding of what landlords typically search for in potential tenants. Knowledge of the qualifications and factors that might negatively impact your application can give you a considerable advantage. Therefore, let’s examine several key aspects that might impact your ability to rent an apartment.

Insufficient income

The aspect of insufficient income is often a red flag for landlords. They generally want a prospective tenant to have an income that is roughly 35-40 times the annual rent (i.e. 40x income is the norm in NYC for example). This is to ensure that the tenant can comfortably afford the apartment and maintain a stable lifestyle. If your income is deemed insufficient or if it displays a pattern of inconsistency, this could unfortunately lead to immediate disqualification. Therefore, when applying, it is important to provide accurate and verifiable income information to meet the landlord’s requirements.

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Bad credit

The issue of poor credit is another important aspect. When you apply for an apartment, landlords will usually conduct a credit check (i.e. through a service like TransUnion SmartMove where you don’t even need to reveal your SSN). A credit score in the mid to high 600s or better is often preferred. However, if you have a history of bankruptcy, foreclosure, collections, or other negative financial marks on your credit report, this could lead to immediate disqualification. So, before applying, it might be beneficial to review your credit history and rectify any discrepancies. Often times, landlords can order a criminal & other background checks along with the credit check. You will need to give the landlord permission to run the check.

Lack of credit history

Another potential hurdle is the lack of credit history. This can be especially applicable if you’ve recently graduated, moved from a different country, or simply haven’t established a US credit score yet. In such cases, the landlord may require a guarantor to co-sign the lease or may choose to deny your application altogether. It is recommended to discuss such issues upfront with the landlord or property management. This can be a real bummer of a situation as many hardworking new immigrants who have not built a credit history yet can find it difficult to start building credit history (i.e. how can you get approved for a loan if you don’t have any credit history, it’s circular!).

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Prior criminal record

Landlords also typically consider a tenant’s criminal record. They will often conduct a background check to review any criminal activity. If you have a past conviction for a serious crime, particularly a violent one, this could lead to immediate disqualification. However, minor misdemeanors and petty crimes may be overlooked, depending on the landlord’s policy. Landlords will often use a credit check service that concurrently also runs a criminal history and background check.

Negative or no references

The factor of negative references from previous landlords could also be problematic. Landlords may require references from prior landlords to verify your ability to pay rent on time and respect other tenants’ rights and privacy. If your previous landlords provide negative feedback or refuse to provide a reference, this could lead to disqualification. Therefore, maintaining a positive relationship with your past landlords is crucial.

This is why it makes no sense for you to behave poorly as a tenant and make your landlord’s life difficult. Because even if you technically paid rent on time, but were otherwise extremely difficult and demanding as a tenant, that landlord may refuse to write a reference for you. This can be problematic when it comes time for you to find a new apartment!

Pro Tip: Smart landlords will always ask for 2 reference letters, one from your current/most recent landlord and one from the landlord before that. That’s because in certain hyper tenant-friendly states like New York, your most recent landlord may say anything (including a glowing reference letter) to get you out of their property.

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Eviction history

Moreover, a history of evictions will most likely result in denial. While evictions typically don’t appear on your credit report, they are part of the public record, which landlords can access. They could also run an eviction report along with your credit check or contact your previous landlord for a reference.

Keep in mind that in certain states like New York, tenant-friendly regulations such as the new 2019 rent laws in NYC, prohibit landlords from checking housing court records to see whether you’ve been evicted or not. So technically, your eviction history could be hidden. However, if you’ve been evicted before, then you certainly won’t be able to get a good reference letter from your landlord right?

Gaps in rental history

Unexplained gaps in your rental history could raise red flags for potential landlords. While this may not lead to automatic disqualification, especially if there’s a valid reason for the gaps, it’s important to address this issue proactively (i.e. you lived with parents during the gap year, etc). If the reason for the gap is related to an eviction or financial problem, your application could be denied.

If you can’t convincingly explain the reason for the gap in your rental history, prospective landlords may become suspicious and wonder whether you’re trying to hide a bad experience with a prior landlord, such as an eviction. This may lead the landlord to further verify your address history and more.

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Errors with rental application

Errors in your application or paperwork are a surefire way to jeopardize your chances. Any form of dishonesty or misrepresentation could lead to disqualification. This includes discrepancies between the income stated on your application and your actual income as shown on your tax returns or pay stubs. While unintentional errors might be forgiven if promptly addressed, deliberate attempts to falsify records or manipulate the application process can lead to serious consequences.

Too many occupants

Overcrowding is another issue that landlords often consider. Some buildings have strict rules about the number of occupants per apartment, typically two per bedroom. If you’re planning to have more occupants than allowed, your application could be denied unless the landlord is open to the arrangement.

Keep in mind that the more occupants there are, the more potential wear and tear there will be on the property. Hence, landlords will generally prefer fewer occupants vs more occupants in rental properties.

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Your pets

The last potential issue relates to pets. Not all buildings allow pets, especially large dogs and other animals that may cause damage to the unit. If you have a pet, it’s important to check with the landlord or property manager beforehand to find out what is allowed. If pets are not allowed, this could disqualify you from renting an apartment in the building. The exception is service animals, but you must have approval from a certified medical professional.

Pro Tip: Keep in mind that landlords may simply prohibit pets even if the condo building allows pets, simply because they don’t want the additional wear and tear that comes from having pets in the unit (i.e. scratch marks from claws etc.). This is something landlords are free to do (it’s their property after all) in most states with reasonable property rights like Florida. However, tenants will have more leeway in certain states like New York where landlords may not discriminate based on a multitude of factors, including disability for example if the pet is a service animal of some sort.

Disclosure: Hauseit® and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal, financial or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, financial or accounting advice. No representation, guarantee or warranty of any kind is made regarding the completeness or accuracy of information provided.

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