RENT Magazine Q1 '22

I screened a rental applicant and their credit score and income were good. But when I called their previous landlord, they said they would not rent to them again even though they paid their rent. Can I reject the applicant based on a character reference?

Yes, you can reject a rental application based on a character reference from the previous landlord. But it would be best to ask the previous landlord why they

don’t want to rent to them again. Is there any personal reason? Or are there some valid reasons behind their decision?

A few valid reasons to reject a rental application based on a character reference may include:

You can even reject a rental application if the person is a smoker. However, if the previous landlord has given a bad character reference due to race, color, religion, family status, gender, nationality, age, mental or physical disability, the Federal Fair Housing Acts (42 U.S. Code § § 3601-3619) prohibits you from rejecting the rental application. Though the applicant’s income and credit score are good, I would still advise you to check if they have debts. As an attorney, I have come across several • Reports of frequently destroying a neighbor’s peaceful environment. • Reports of drug abuse and/or manufacturing. Remember, you can reject only those people who are current drug users. If they don’t take drugs anymore or are in a drug treatment program, you can’t reject them. • Reports of gambling on the premises. • Reports of violating the rental agreement.

people who are in credit card debt, payday loan debt, medical debt, etc. If that is the case, check if they have enrolled in a credit card or a payday loan consolidation program. It would mean that the applicant has taken steps to pay off debt. Too many unresolved debts are a signal that you should reject the application. • Reports of damaging various parts of the property. If the rental history shows that the person doesn’t take care of the property, it’s perfectly legal to reject the application. • Reports of criminal activities or violence. This may include drunk driving, robbery, and burglary. • Not giving prior notice at the time of vacating the property. • Reports of allowing people who are not listed in the rental agreement to live on the premises

Lyle Solomon Principal Attorney Oak View Law Group

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