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Landlords can legally reject tenants, but only for these reasons

Looking for an apartment in any of New York City's boroughs can be a challenge. When you finally find one that you like, you put in your application and start thinking about how you will decorate. Then, you get the call from the landlord that you didn't expect -- he or she denied your application.

As your next step, you ask what it was that caused the landlord to reject you as a tenant. What the landlord says next will either cause you to file a complaint or to move on to another apartment.

Legal reasons why a landlord may reject a tenant

You may already be aware of the reasons why a landlord can't lawfully reject a prospective tenant. Fair housing laws prohibit landlords from discriminating against you if you belong to a protected class. However, there are legal reasons why a landlord can deny your rental application. Those reasons include the following:

  • If you have been evicted before
  • If you smoke
  • If you own a pet
  • If your income fails to meet the minimum requirements
  • If your prospective landlord can't verify your income
  • If you haven't rented an apartment before
  • If the landlord believes you lied on your application
  • If you don't give the landlord permission to run a background or credit check
  • If your credit score falls below the minimum requirements
  • If you filed bankruptcy in the past
  • If you failed to fill out the application completely
  • If you caused damage to another apartment in which you lived
  • If you failed to pay the rent at a prior apartment
  • If you have an arrest or conviction on your record
  • If your employer gives you a less than glowing review
  • If you don't agree with the terms of the lease

If you believe the landlord judged you too harshly, you may be able to clear things up and move forward with the rental.

Illegal reasons why may landlord may reject a tenant

As mentioned above, fair housing laws prohibit a landlord from rejecting you as a tenant based on race, gender, religion or other factors, such as your family or marital status, sexual orientation or country of origin. In addition, a prospective landlord cannot deny your application if you suffer from a disability or are of a certain age.

If you want to attempt to renegotiate with the landlord or file a complaint for violations of fair housing laws, you may be able to do so. However, you may want to clarify your rights as a tenant and the laws that apply before taking any further steps.

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