Activity 4: Application Problems

(Objective 1: Understand why and how landlords screen applications and how to prepare.)

Suggested Introduction: Some answers on an application form or some of the information landlords obtain from other sources may lead to rejection of the application. Four of the primary reasons for rejecting an applicant include omitted or inaccurate information, credit problems, bad landlord references, or inadequate income.


Discuss these four things as written or in your own words with the participants.

  • Omitted or inaccurate information

It is best to be honest with the landlord. Fill out the application as completely and accurately as possible. Inaccurate and missing information may raise concerns and affect a landlord’s ability to trust you.

  • Credit problems

Check your credit report before you make any rental applications. It may contain wrong or out-of-date information. You can contact the credit bureau to have this corrected. You should have a plan in place for explaining to the landlord any problems he/she will see on the credit report. For example, if you have been behind on your electric bill, contact the company and arrange a payment plan. Get the company’s acceptance of the plan in writing and see if they will add a note to your credit file about the plan. You may be able to do the same for other overdue payments, such as medical bills.

  • Bad landlord references

If you had problems with a previous landlord, explain this to the landlord. Be sure the landlord hears your side of the story first, what happened from your perspective and back it up with witnesses or documents if possible. If you were at fault, explain what you have done to correct the situation so the new landlord need not worry. For example, you may have had a roommate that had loud parties. You can explain that the roommate will not be living with you and already has made other living arrangements. If you weren’t paying your rent on time, explain that you have taken a second job or that you will have your rent paid directly by your bank.

  • Inadequate income

Landlords want to be sure that an applicant will have enough income to pay the rent. They will want to know that you have a steady income and one large enough to pay the rent. If you have changed jobs frequently or only recently started to work, you need to explain this and show that you will have a steady income in the future. If the landlord thinks you don’t have enough income, you should be prepared to document that you have been paying an equal or greater rent for an extended time with the same or less income.

Provide Handout 3: Explaining Negative Information and explain that this sheet provides the framework for providing a response to clarify any negative information about the applicant that a potential landlord may have discovered.

Use a whiteboard or flip chart to use the formula as a class to write out a similar explanation from an example volunteered by a participant. If time allows, let participants work individually to write out a note or explanation for themselves.