Can a Landlord Refuse to Rent to Someone?

Can a Landlord Refuse to Rent to Someone?

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Last Updated on October 21, 2023 by Kelvin Nielsen

Landlords can be choosy when it comes to selecting tenants. That’s why a screening process is almost always necessary for prospective tenants.

And while a landlord can refuse to rent to someone, the screening process must be free from any form of discrimination.

What instances can make a landlord refuse to rent to someone?  

Yes, a landlord isn’t obligated to rent to any prospective tenant they come across. After all, it’s in their best interest to rent to someone who is going to be reliable. So, what instances can make your landlord refuse to rent to you?

1. Your income isn’t sufficient.

Landlords are wary of tenants who are going to be late on their rent payments. That’s why they will screen each prospective tenant to ensure they make enough income to meet their rent obligations.

Normally, landlords look for tenants who are able to make at least 3X the rental income every month. For instance, if the monthly rent is $1,500, then landlords will typically only consider tenants making at least $4,500 every month.

So, if your monthly income is less, your potential landlord can refuse to rent to you.

2. You have a pet in a “no-pets” rental.

Some landlords will not allow pets into their rental property. And others will allow them but put restrictions on the breed, number, and size of pet a tenant can keep. What’s more, other landlords will require tenants with pets to pay a fee or deposit.

Whatever rule a landlord may have, they can refuse to rent to anyone who doesn’t match those requirements.

Now, this is an exception to this. A potential landlord cannot refuse to rent to you if you have a service animal. Disability is a protected class under the Federal Fair Housing Act. Matter of fact, your landlord is bound by law to make any necessary changes to the rented unit to accommodate your needs.

3. You have a past criminal conviction.

Please note that there is a difference between an arrest and a conviction. Being arrested doesn’t make you guilty of anything. So, it’d be illegal for a landlord to deny renting to you because you have an arrest record. They can, however, deny renting to you based on a criminal conviction.

The following are a couple of things that a potential landlord can consider when reviewing your criminal record.

  • How serious was the offense?
  • When did it occur?
  • How many offences are there?
  • Would other tenants be at risk?
  • Would the offence put your property at risk?

Here’s how to rent with a criminal record.

4. You have a bad rental history.

No landlord will rent to you if you have a history of not paying rent and destroying property. When screening tenants, landlords will normally call prior landlords to learn a few things about a tenant.

A landlord will want to know a few things like whether:

  • You paid rent on time.
  • Was respectful.
  • Cared for the property.
  • Notified the landlord of maintenance issues.

If you were a difficult tenant, your potential landlord will most likely refuse to rent to you.

5. You provided false information.

Did you lie when filling your rental application? That is one sign you won’t get the apartment. You might have lied about how much money you make, provided a fake reference or falsely answered screening questions.

6. You failed to fill the rental application form.

This is another reason why your landlord can refuse to rent to you. Landlords use a rental application form to screen prospective tenants and decide their eligibility to rent their property.

If you leave some sections unfilled, your landlord won’t have the required information to vet your suitability.

7. You have a low credit rating.

A potential landlord can also refuse to rent to someone who isn’t creditworthy. A credit score indicates how financial responsible a tenant is. If you have a low credit score, it may indicate that you are unable to make timely payments, have significant debt, or have a history of bankruptcy or foreclosure.

8. You have an eviction history.

Have you been evicted before? If you have, potential landlords may give you a wide berth. And for good reason. No landlord would want to rent to a tenant who has a prior eviction for not honoring the terms of the lease agreement.

That said, some landlords may want to know about the specific circumstances leading to the eviction. It’s possible for someone, especially in the wake of the current global pandemic, to become unable to pay rent.

What instances can make rejection of a rental application illegal?

According to the Fair Housing Act, it’d be illegal to reject a tenant based on discrimination. Housing discrimination can come about if the rejection is based on:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Gender
  • National origin
  • Familial status

Some states also have additional protections, as well. So, be sure to know them in order to protect yourself against housing discrimination by potential landlords.

So, can a landlord refuse to rent to someone? Yes, a potential landlord can do so as long as the qualifying process is free from any form of discrimination. If you have reasons to believe you have been discriminated upon, seek legal help from a qualified attorney in your state.

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