Have more than one property? Our Ultimate Landlord Collection is worth purchasing/upgrading to. More Details.

Rejecting a Tenant

Although the specifics of the Fair Housing Act can differ from state to state, the general theme of the act is the same. You can not reject a tenant based on any discriminating reasons.

This means that you can’t reject a tenant based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, religion, nationality etc. The Fair Housing Act generally dates back to the late 1960s when it was passed in Congress in 1968, although the Civil Rights Act also made references to it.

In this article, I wanted to talk about rejecting a tenant, reasons to reject them, reasons you can’t reject them, how to proceed in certain situations, and what to do when rejecting a tenant.

The Interview Process:

There are many things you can’t ask a tenant during the interview process, because even if you reject them for a completely different reason, they can still use the interview process against you.

I’ve written an article on What You Can’t Ask During Interviews that you may find helpful. If you are unsure, always err on the side of caution because you don’t want any legal issues to occur simply from rejecting a tenant.

No Social Security Number:

You are allowed to reject a tenant if they do not have a social security number or card. However this is something that you have to tread carefully on, because the majority of prospective tenants that do not have a social security number are immigrants or foreign students.

Therefore, if you are going to reject someone because they don’t have a social security number – it is recommended that you reject EVERYONE for the same reason. You can’t accept a tenant even if they don’t have a social security card, but reject another tenant for the same reason.

False Information:

You can reject a tenant if they provide ANY false information on their application. Therefore for every application you receive, you need to put your “detective” hat on and look through the information thoroughly. Verify all the information that they provide. Check everything in their application, and also be sure to look for things that aren’t there.

Credit Reports:

When you request a credit check on a prospective tenant, you can reject them based on their credit report. However please bear in mind that by federal law, you reject a tenant based on their credit report you must provide them with the name and address of the credit bureau that provided the information to you.

Insufficient Income:

If the tenant can’t provide to you enough information to convince you that they will be able to pay rent, then you have the right to reject them. You need to confirm that the applicant isn’t getting any rent subsided however, before deciding to reject them based on their income.

Poor References:

You can reject a possible tenant based on a bad reference from a prior landlord.

Criminal Record:

You can refuse to rent to a person if they have been convicted of a criminal offense and have a criminal record. Key word: convicted. This also does not cover drug use criminal offenses, as under the Fair Housing Act the prospective tenant is protected.

Rental Application Information:

If the applicant did not fill in the whole rental application, or provided incorrect information, you can reject them based on that.

Can’t Meet Terms of Contract:

That’s what your residential lease is – a contract. Therefore the tenant must be able to meet the terms that you outline in the lease. For example if it is a 12-month lease but the tenant is only wanting to stay for six months, you have the right to turn them down.

Pets & Smoking:

Within your rental agreement form, you can outline whether or not your property accepts pets or smokers. If the answer to either of these is no, you can reject any tenant who would violate this. Please note that this does not apply to disabled people who have an animal assistant.


Put everything in writing. If you are rejecting an applicant, write it down. If they file a discrimination complaint, you can use that against them at a later date.


Origins of the Fair Housing Act (Wikipedia)