How to politely turn down a tenant

How to politely turn down a tenant

eye 4 mins read.

It’s not fun to be rejected. And honestly, the person giving the rejection doesn’t feel much better either. When you’re a landlord, finding the right tenant is imperative, even if it involves breaking a few hearts in the process. Every single application that you receive has been written by a hopeful person who has spent their time and effort in order to find your property, inspect it, and then apply for it. If you have to turn them down, do it politely and as humanely as possible. 

Communicate the rejection, do not ignore.

Oftentimes, landlords prefer not to communicate a rejection so as not to be accused of discrimination. But if you word it correctly and diplomatically, there is no grounds for that. (Read till the end of this article for some ideas.) It’s always better to communicate that a potential tenant has been turned down, rather than completely ignore the application. This acknowledges the effort they took, and is also the courteous thing to do. 

A friend of mine recalls an incident in which she commuted an hour for a rental showing, liked the property very much, and ended up applying to it. She was assured by the landlord that she was an ideal applicant, and would be accepted. After spending a whole week planning the anticipated move, she realized she still hadn’t received some details that the landlord had promised to send. She called them up, only to be told that another tenant‘s application had been accepted. The actual rejection didn’t bother her as much as the failure to inform her of the same. She felt offended by the lack of respect and disregard for her time.

It is indeed a daunting task to face someone and tell them that their application has been rejected. Here are a few ways to do it properly:

Modify title of listing to include ‘Under Application’

Once your property has one (or more) applications, you can make this change in the name of the listing. For eg., 2 Bedroom Condo in Chomeday, Quebec (UNDER APPLICATION)

This would convey to any present and future applicants that their application is one of many, and mentally prepare them for rejection. It would also keep the gate open for other tenants, if the one you’re seriously considering falls through. Another indirect benefit of this modification is making your property more desirable. More people will apply on seeing the demand for a certain listing. The more applications you get, the better your chances are of finding the right tenant. 

Be the first one to make the call

When you’ve decided that an applicant is not a good fit, be the one to call them first before they do. This gives you an advantage - you’re more prepared for the conversation than them. You can be polite and direct, and get off the phone before they have time to think it through and ask questions. Here’s a basic script you can use:

Landlord: Hi Joan, it’s Mark, how are you? 

Applicant: Hey Mark, I’m doing great and how are you?

Landlord: Not bad, it’s just been really crazy with all the applications. I just wanted to let you know that unfortunately, you haven’t been accepted for the property. We had a few applications, and all of them were very good. It was a tough decision to make. Would you mind if I get back to you in case the other application falls through?

Applicant: Ohh. Yes, of course. Thank you.

Landlord: Thanks for understanding, Joan. Bye!

If at all the applicant questions your decision before you get off the call, have a good answer ready. One would be “Honestly, there is no particular reason. We just had to pick one of the applications, and all were equally good. It was very close.” Or, “All the applications were so good and we had a tough time picking one. We simply chose to go with the first person who applied.”

An easier way out - Email

Calling someone cannot always be scripted; they often tend to go differently than expected. An email can be worded perfectly. Here’s an example you can use as a template:

Hi Raj,

Thank you for taking the time to apply to my property at 4 Privet Drive. 

After a careful review of all the applications, I am sorry to tell you that we have decided to go with another one. However, we really appreciated your application and hope you don’t mind if we contact you in case the approved application falls through.

Thanks again and good luck in your search.



Finally, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.

  1. Even if there is a specific reason to reject an application, do not reveal it. It may cause more trouble than what it’s worth. 
  2. Keep all communication short and simple. 
  3. Be polite, but firm. Do not allow them any space to argue or build their case. You are perfectly within your rights to reject an application, and are not required to reveal a reason. 

Happy renting!

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