Rejecting A Rental Application – Dos and Don’ts

Rejections. They’re not the most fun thing to deal with, no matter if you’re on the giving or receiving end.

As a landlord, sending out rejections to rental applications is probably one of the worse jobs you’ll do, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be the task you dread most.

noHaving already established that the tenant isn’t the right fit for your property, here are some simple ‘Dos and Don’ts’ of managing your rejections.

DO actually send out a rejection letter.

Anyone who has ever tried renting before knows how frustrating it is to apply for several properties, and then never hear anything further.

It’s inconsiderate and rude to leave your tenant applicants hanging on a response, and you come across as quite unprofessional. Trust us, those 5 minutes you spend emailing (or mailing) a rejection letter will mean a lot to the applicants.

DO send out your letter as soon as your decision is made.

We all know that once you decide on a tenant, you won’t change your mind easily. Don’t waste time waiting for another applicant or deliberating between several applicants. Go with your gut, your first choice or your best fit, and ensure you let the unsuccessful ones know as soon as possible afterwards. Additionally, this is why we suggest using email to communicate with your tenant applicants. Snail mail will take longer to arrive, and the applicant will appreciate knowing they have been unsuccessful as soon as possible.  

DON’T give the applicant false hope.

Honesty is key with these types of things. Be upfront about why you’ve chosen another applicant (without being horrible, of course), and let the applicant know if you want to keep them on file for future availabilities, but don’t say you’ll keep their application around if you know you won’t.

DO give a uniform response to all applicants. email applicants

Not only does it look professional when you ensure uniformity across most of your actions as a landlord, but it also protects you against allegations that you are treating some applications differently than others.

You never know who might be comparing their letters to others, and so even if there was no bias in your decision-making, it makes sense to give everyone the same response.

DON’T harp on about how difficult your job was.

Letter openers such as “Choosing the right applicant was an extremely challenging job” or “Writing rejection letters is always tough, but…” may be tempting, especially if your job was difficult, keep the applicant’s feelings in mind here.

They’ve just been rejected from a property they were probably really hoping to get, and they wouldn’t care less about how tough you’ve had it choosing a tenant.

DO personally address your letter.  

It’s okay to copy a template, or paste a suggested response into your email, but do make sure you (at the very least) put the applicant’s name on the letter. If appropriate, it’s also worth referencing when you last met, or when the applicant came to inspect the property. For example, a simple line such as “Dear Bill & Amy, it was a pleasure to meet you last Monday at the open house…” will go down a lot nicer than “Dear Applicant…”.

It’s also nice to thank the applicant for their time. But…

DON’T write another War and Peace-length letter detailing all the applicant’s shortcomings.

letterKeep it simple, short and polite. There’s no need to detail all the reasons behind your rejection, or lay out all of your applicants’ errors. It may even get you in a bit of legal trouble to provide heavily detailed critiques of your applicants. If you feel it’s appropriate, a little honest and factual feedback is probably appreciated by the applicant, but otherwise, a simple note saying ‘You’re not what we’re looking for’ will suffice.

DON’T make spelling or grammatical errors.

Poorly written letters with spelling and grammatical errors dotted through it are unprofessional, unnecessary and just plain tacky. At the very least, run your letter by someone else, or (even easier) through Microsoft’s spell checker.

DO stick to your screening criteria, and reference it if you need.

You’ve set yourself guidelines on whether or not an applicant will be ‘The One’, so there’s no reason to disregard these guidelines for the sake of the applicant’s feelings. Again, just be honest. If you don’t want pets, let the applicant know that’s why they were rejected. If you absolutely wouldn’t take an applicant who has previously been evicted, tell them that. It all comes down to honest and factual feedback.


Writing rejection letters is never going to be easy, or particularly enjoyable, but hopefully following our little ‘Dos and Don’ts’ guide here, the job will be a bit easier. If you have any doubts, feel free to seek professional advice.

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