I’m having a lot of problems with my application process. I’m not sure what the best way to do this is.
For example. Say I get someone who’s an argumentative jerk unexpectedly and fills out an application, money, etc. at 6PM. Then another more agreeable person who saw the house the day before and already called me earlier in the today to say they were coming by at 7PM with the app, brings their application and fees at 7PM. Does that mean the jerk has to get first dibs if the application gets approved with the screening service, because they came an hour before?
I’m trying to be fair with everyone but it’s turning out to be difficult to coordinate all this.
I tell applicants that once they are approved, it’s held on a first come, first serve system. If there are two applicants and both are approved, then it’s the first one who brings over last month’s rent deposit in cash, certified cheque or money order that gets it. If I don’t have last month’s rent in my hand, I’m not holding anything for anybody, not even for an hour. Just because they pass an application, doesn’t mean they’ve got the money or that they will ask to put last month’s rent on a payment plan and partially pay it (which I doubt you will ever see the rest of).
Unless it’s written in the application that they get the apartment if they pass the screening service and you made them a photocopy, you’re not obligated to give them anything. But then again, if the jerk has money, you know the old saying, a bird in the hand…
Put it into your written criteria that you can reject anyone who harrasses, degrades, belittles, strikes, attempts to frighten, dominates, racially or sexually harrasses, or abuses the landlord, any employee of the landlord, any person in the applying party, any member of a protected group, or anyone in the neighborhood.
Being an argumentative jerk is not a protected class. You can reject him for that if it is in your written criteria.
I consider the first to call to be the first in line and I also figure that all applications received on the same date have been received at the same time.
In this market, I am lucky to get one qualifying applicant and as soon as someone looks promising, I rush through the screening as fast as possible so I can grab them up before some other landlord gets them.
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO ACCEPT THE FIRST APPLICANT.
Design your written criteria so that you can reject people who are going to be trouble. Just do not reject for any reason that is protected by fair housing or ADA.
You left out some important facts. Did you explain to them the rules beforehand? How much was the application fee? What do you mean by “fuss”? How long did it take for the applicant to come back with cash after you told him he was approved?
You don’t reject any qualified applicant until you have a signed rental agreement and all your money from the applicant you chose.
When you receive application fees, the applicant should get a receipt that says the fee is non-refundable. Make them sign it. (a copy for them, a copy for you).
My state law says that the applicant must be given a chance to see my criteria if I am charging an application fee, so my receipt also states that the applicant was given an opportunity to read the criteria.
I never give a reason fopr rejecting unless it is the credit report. All you are doing is giving them a chance to argue with you. Apparently, tenants think that if they are sufficiently unpleasant, the LL will change his mind and accept them after all.
If they want to argue I just count my lucky stars that I dodged the bullet and didn’t get stuck with them as tenants.
I screened some people and they were approved and paid the holding deposit, so it’s over (for now). I certainly made some mistakes in my process this first time but I think I have a much better handle on how to do it in the future. Thanks for all the advice given here.