How to Turn Down a Tenant Application

How to Turn Down a Tenant Application

How to Turn Down a Tenant Application

Rejection stinks. It is no fun to be rejected, and it’s not much better to give a rejection. Unfortunately, if you have more than one application for your rental property (and hopefully there are several), someone will have to miss out.

We tend to focus on selecting the right tenants, so we forget the effort that a tenant puts into making a good application. As the owner, it is up to you to get the best tenants you can, even if you have to break someone’s heart.

Ignoring a Rejected Tenant Application can Lead to Trouble

Rather than facing those you don’t want living in your property, some agents choose to ignore the tenants which they cannot accept. That is not good enough. Especially when you consider that coming out for an inspection and completing a tenant application requires a good deal of effort. Some prospective tenants take it as a personal insult when their application is not accepted.

Personally informing the tenants that you are forced to turn them down shows a lot of class and its actually very simple if you know how. The trick is to get it done quickly with little fuss. Let me show you how…

Change the Heading in your Ad to UNDER APPLICATION

The most important reason for this step is to save you from getting calls for a house that is essentially off the market. Yes, removing your ad does the same thing, but UNDER APPLICATION keeps the ad active in case your tenant falls through at the last minute.

However, it does not save you from those disturbing calls from applicants who have not seen the updated ad. The best way to avoid that is to beat them to it!

Get in First and Make the Call

Contacting applicants before they contact you is a magical tactic. The magic is that they are not prepared for the encounter, but you are. This gives you the opportunity to be direct and to the point (but not short or rude, obviously). Then you can get off the phone before they have time to think it through enough to ask questions.

Here’s a basic script I’ve used to get in and get out quick. Let’s pretend the tenants name is Hannah.

“Michael: Hi Hannah, its Michael, how are you?

Hannah: Hey Michael, great how are you?

Michael: Not to bad thank you, I’ve been really busy with all the applications.

I just wanted to let you know that unfortunately you have not been accepted for the property.

We had quite a few applications and they were all really good. However, do you mind if I call you back if the application falls through?

Hannah: Yes please thank you.

Michael: Thanks for your understanding Hannah. Good luck. Bye.”

Sometimes the unsuccessful applicant will be on their toes enough to question why you did not accept them before you say “Thanks for your understanding”. Have a good answer ready: “To be honest there was no particular reason, it was very close even after we went through all the applications”.

My friend Rhonda has a slick solution when she has someone asking why their tenant application was not accepted. She says that there were a lot of great applicants, but in the end her husband had to make a decision!

The Easy Way Out

The problem with calling is that you cannot really script the call; they always go differently than expected. However, an email always goes according to the script. If you send the email out in bulk to all your applicants, be sure to use the “bcc” (email sender option) so the applicants do not see each other’s email addresses.

Here is a sample format for your email:


Thank you for taking the time to apply for my property at 123 StreetName Drive.

After carefully reviewing all the applications, I am sorry to inform you that we have decided to go with another application. Your application was very much appreciated, and if the approved application falls through I hope you don’t mind if I get in contact with you.

Thanks again for your application and good luck in your search.

All the best,

Rules to Remember

  • Even if you have a specific reason to reject an application, do not reveal it. You will just open a can of worms.

  • Keep your contact short and sweet.

  • Get in first and don’t give them an opportunity to come back asking questions.

The more applications you have, the better chance you have of selecting the best tenant.

About Michael Gilbert

Co-founder & Joint CEO of Cubbi. Common Ground.

I started real estate in 2006 on the NSW Central Coast. Loved it but noticed too many owners and tenants were unhappy with the value most agents were giving or simply wanted another option that didn't involve doing it all themselves. That's how Cubbi came about.

  • Greg Buys Houses

    Hi Michael, Thanks for the tips. It can be a difficult converstaion when your applicant are excited about moving into a home

  • michaelgilber1

    Hey Greg, thanks for your comment. Not a problem at all.

  • Anne Driscoll

    To be frank, this post does a good job of highlighting the cheshire cat smiling disingenuousness for which real estate is known and despised. Talk of the “magic” that the other party are “not prepared” and cutting off contact “before they have time to think,” “don’t give them an opportunity… to ask questions,” and choosing an “easy way out” or going the way of a plain lie (attributing a decision to an unavailable individual, and one who is, or for all intensive purposes may as well be, fictitious), with a caveat to keep the mostly discarded applicant somewhat hanging, should it suit one party. Moreso, this article is publicly available on the web. These behaviours are broadly regarded as improper, if not defective and abusive.

  • tara

    Will the realestate turn down my next application if i turned down a approved one

  • michaelgilber1

    Hi Tara. I assume you’re a tenant. Non 1form (the application) will not automatically turn down your application if you have decided to not go ahead with a previous application that was approved. (If that’s what you are referring too).

  • Damian

    The word “create” and its derivatives sure do get tossed around a lot lately.
    One might assume certain professionals felt insecurity regarding the integrity of their trade.

    About what one could expect from someone “passionate” about real estate…

  • Mike

    The title of this article should be changed to “How To Be An Utter Coward”

  • Mike Burke

    You are assuming that they have integrity to begin with. How many times does a property look nothing like its photos? The bricks filtered orange? The weeds photshopped with perfect grass? The interior walls gleaming white but what you see is faded, grubby, stained and greyed from years of dirt?

    The person showing the property says, they don’t know any details, when you ask abou the property whlie you view it and that ‘you either like it or you don’t’ and that you need to ask the property manager. When you ask the property manager, they say, “Did the ad say it had recently been painted? You either like it or you don’t.”

    You may have wanted to ask, is NBN available? Would the owner mind if I painted in inside again to bring it back to white at my expense? Or if I put in an airconditioner?

    But you don’t get to ask, because these people are not ‘passionate’ about real estate. They are passionate about lying to the owners and to hold onto a property until they get the best commissionable rate on it.

    If they show so much contempt for you as a prospective tenant, just imagine what charmers they will be when you need necessary repairs of maintenance done under the Residential Tenancies Act in your state?

  • Mike Burke

    Actually, these are not just improper behaviours, they are unethical ones. The writer is openly advising highly unethical actions. It makes you hope that they fail in their careers and have to see the looks on prospective employers faces when the look up from their CV as they
    read ‘Property manager’ as a former occupation.

    Then just watch them try and convince their interviewer that they were in real estate because they are a ‘people person.’

    Now, that would be karma.

  • Trevor Mc Dougall

    These days landlords and real estate agents just want as many applicants as possible so they can take the picking. They have multiple inspections even when decent renters are applying, make them wait and by the time they get back to you, you have chosen another property hopefully and been accepted. If you are a decent renter watch out for multiple times and days for a property, these real estate agents and landlords are just greedy and self indulgent and don’t care at all. All they do is collect applications until there are many of them so the landlord can pcik for the cherry tree. If you are made to wait for more than 48 hours, withdraw your application and move on and just say ‘I’m sorry but I am looking at other properties”. A tip I have always found works well is to go to the privately arranged inspection 1 on 1, the real estate agent and landlord just want 1 good tenant and will find you if you arrange a private inspection. There are many estate agents who do this that show I get the property I want by doing it the old traditional way by going into the office and asking what is available and can I arrange a time to see it. The real estate agent will focus on you and not 20 others and not shred your application. Landlords and agents miss out on the good tenants as good tenants do not put up with waiting, lies and people like this who wrote the article. :0 Good Luck think outside the box