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What Can Disqualify You from Renting an Apartment? 

It is an awful experience to be disqualified from renting an apartment. Not only do you lose out on your dream apartment, but you often lose your application fees as well. As a tenant, understanding what can disqualify you from renting an apartment is crucial. In this guide, whether you are wondering why your rental application was denied or you’re just preparing in advance, we’re going to list things that can help you gain more information and ideas to avoid this awful situation.

Things That Can Disqualify You From Renting An Apartment 

As a trusted local Philadelphia property management company, Bay Property Management Group is well-versed in all the requirements and qualifications a tenant must meet to avoid being denied. Let’s take some time to review each one in more detail below. 

  • Bad Credit / Poor Credit 
  • Criminal background 
  • Insufficient or Unverifiable Income 
  • Bad References 
  • Past Evictions
  • Pets 
  • Outstanding Debt 

Bad Credit / Poor Credit 

Credit scores are important – but not just when it comes to renting. Credit can have an impact on whether you can get a loan, a car, or in some cases, a job. When you apply for a rental home, your landlord will pull your credit score as part of the standard screening process. 

Credit scores generally range from 300 to 850; the higher your credit score, the better. A higher score indicates that you manage your finances and pay your bills on time. Your credit history shows how you’ve managed money in the past and can indicate whether you might be a responsible tenant in the future. 

That said, a lower credit score doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be denied rental housing. However, your landlord or property manager will likely dive further to determine why your score is low. That said, as a good general rule of thumb, most landlords look for a score of around 620 or higher.  

Criminal Background 

A criminal record can not only impact a property and its owner, but the larger surrounding community. Therefore, a criminal background check is a standard step for most rental applications.

But while landlords still consider criminal history, times have changed.

In the past, people who wanted to rent but had been in trouble with the law found it really difficult. Even small things or charges where the person wasn’t found guilty could stop them from getting a home. This was seen as unfair, so advocates and lawmakers took action. 

This is where the Fair Criminal Screening for Housing Act comes into play. It actually restricts when and how rental owners can ask about an applicant’s criminal history. Note that landlords may face significant financial penalties if they fail to comply or violate any terms. 

So, for what crimes can landlords deny a rental applicant? 

  • Malicious Activity 
  • Violent Crimes 
  • Fraud  
  • Sexual Crimes 
  • Drug Activity 

If you want to know specific details on the crimes mentioned above, you can read more about the Fair Criminal Screening for Housing Act here.

Insufficient or Unverifiable Income 

Landlords typically ask for proof of income to make sure tenants have a steady form of income and sufficient funds to pay rent on time. Proof of income can be in the form of bank statements, paystubs, tax returns, or a letter from your employer.

As a general rule of thumb, tenants should make at least three times the monthly rent in gross income. This helps ensure an applicant has enough money income to cover both rent and their other bills and obligations. 

Late payments or worse, non-payment of rent, can cause significant issues for both landlords and the tenant. The worst-case scenario can even lead to legal actions and eviction – which is something everyone wants to avoid. 

Bad References 

Having a bad reference can disqualify a tenant like you from renting a property for several reasons: 

  • Trustworthiness: Landlords tend to rely on personal references to assess a tenant’s trustworthiness. A bad tenant reference might indicate that the tenant either has a history of not paying rent on time, damaging property, or causing disturbances. 
  • Risk management: If a previous landlord or employer provides a negative reference, it could mean that the tenant carries a risk of defaulting on rent payments or causing property damage. 
  • Legal and financial liability: Landlords have legal and financial responsibilities to their property and other tenants. If they allow a tenant with a history of problematic behavior, it could actually increase their liability. 
  • Property protection: Owners want to protect their property from damage. Personal references may provide information about whether a tenant has a history of neglecting property maintenance or causing damage, which could be costly for the landlord to repair. 

However, as a tenant, it’s important to know your rights. In the 2010 Equality Act, “part 4” states landlords can’t reject an applicant solely because of things like disability, gender, race, sexual orientation, or religion. They have to treat everyone equally and fairly. 

To avoid using references that could harm more than help you – choose good personal references such as: 

  • Neighbors 
  • Coaches 
  • Friends or their parents 
  • Mentors 
  • Family Friends 
  • Teachers 
  • School Advisors 
  • Close Colleagues 
  • Current/Previous Employers 

Past Evictions 

Landlords see past evictions as a red flag because they indicate potential risks. After all, they want to make sure that their tenants will pay rent on time, will take care of the rental property, and will comply with the terms of the agreement. 

There are several reasons a tenant might be evicted from their previous rental property. However, the specific cause can vary depending on local laws and rental agreements, but here are some of the main reasons:   

  • Not Paying Rent 
  • Major Lease Violation 
  • Expiration of Lease 
  • Damage to the Property 
  • Illegal Activities 
  • Health and Safety Violations 


Not every rental will accept pets, and even if they do, there may be restrictions or additional fees. So, if you have a pet that’s not allowed, you might not be able to rent there. Even though it’s frustrating if you can’t find a place that allows your pet, make sure you don’t lie on your rental application. Moving forward with an unauthorized pet is a serious lease violation that could land you in court and even lead to eviction. Therefore, to avoid wasting time and money, make sure you know the pet rules before you apply to rent a place.

However, if you have a service animal, like one that helps with a disability, these animals are not subject to the same restrictions. While you must still make the landlord aware of the animal and present relevant documentation – property owners are not allowed to charge additional pet fees or deny an applicant based on them having a service animal. 

Outstanding Debt 

The truth is that landlords want to ensure that their tenants have a history of responsible financial behavior. If a tenant has a large amount of outstanding debt, it suggests that they may struggle to meet their rental obligations. 

From a landlord’s perspective, renting a property to someone with considerable outstanding debt actually increases the chances of missed or late rent payments. Additionally, if a tenant is already burdened with debt, they may prioritize paying off other creditors over paying rent. 

While debt does not automatically disqualify an applicant on its own, a large amount of outstanding debt or a history of late payments may be a difficult hurdle to overcome. 

How Bay Property Management Group Can Help 

As a tenant, being aware of the possible reasons we mentioned above can save you from losing out on application fees or being disqualified from renting an apartment. If you’ve already been disqualified, taking time to assess your circumstances and communicate with your landlord may be the best option to determining the next steps.

It’s vital for both landlords and tenants to be aware of applicable laws regarding rental screening. If you’re a landlord, screening potential tenants is of great importance to your business – both in avoiding costly liability and ensuring quality occupants. If you need help finding the ideal tenant for your rental, Bay Property Management Group is here to help! 

Our local experts can handle all your property needs to make sure everything runs smoothly in your rental property. From tenant screening to managing maintenance needs, we are here to help. With our local knowledge and resources, we can assist you in streamlining all rental operations. Contact us to learn more about how our services can help you reduce the stress of managing your rental properties.