Podcast 322: How to Deny Tenant Applications Professionally

Often as a landlord, you’re put in a situation where you need to notify potential tenants that their renter’s application has been denied. But, how do you do so in a professional manner? Learn more about denying a tenant’s application in this latest episode.

Plus, we’ll go over how to manage unnecessary requests from tenants. For example, maybe they’re asking for a new stove, but the old one still works.

Last, but not least, we’ll tell you one story about a tenant who was so upset about an eviction that they left pounds of raw meat in the vents upon leaving.

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Check out this episode of the RentPrep For Landlords podcast

Show Transcription:

Voice Over: (00:04)
Welcome to the Rent Prep for Landlords podcast. Now your host Andrew Schultz.

Andrew Schultz: (00:09)
Hi everyone. Welcome back to another episode of the Rent Prep for Landlords podcast. This is episode three 22, and I’m your host Andrew Schultz. On today’s episode, we’re going to be talking about tenants wanting unnecessary upgrades, the best way to professionally deny a potential tenant and air vents packed with raw meat from disgruntled tenants. We’ll get to that right after this

Voice Over: (00:30)
Water cooler wisdom expert advice from real estate pros,

Andrew Schultz: (00:39)
Let’s jump right in with our first water-cooler wisdom of the day. This post comes via the comments on rent-prep. If a tenant buys a new stove and the gas company says the connection needs upgrading, who is responsible, the tenant or the landlord. So I’m going to make a couple of assumptions on this one. I’m going to assume that the tenant is responsible for their own appliances, which it sounds like they are because they bought a new stove. And I’m also going to assume that the tenant is responsible for the hookup of the new stove. So generally speaking, when we rent an apartment that does not include appliances, we take care of anything up to the point where the tenants stove would connect to our line. And what I mean by that is on a gas line for a stove. I’m going to cover everything right up to the point where their flex line attaches to our house line.

Andrew Schultz: (01:30)
And the reason I say that is because I don’t want tenants swapping out the shut-off valves and things like that. It could present a real safety issue down the line if they don’t know what they’re doing. So generally speaking, we’ll take care of everything up to the point of like the shutoff valve, where your flexible line is going to connect from the house line onto the stove. So flex line on should be tenant responsibility and then shut off valve back should be the landlord’s responsibility. I guess the one question I really would have here would be, what exactly is it that they’re saying needs upgrading? Are they saying something like, Oh, you need a new shutoff valve because your existing one’s no good. Or are they saying, Oh, your line is completely the wrong size. You need to take this all the way back to the meter and run an all-new gas line because those are very different sets of circumstances.

Andrew Schultz: (02:19)
And I don’t think that it would be a reasonable accommodation for you to have to run a brand new gas line from the gas meter all the way to the kitchen. I mean, unless there’s like a leak in the gas line or something like that, obviously that’s a different set of circumstances. But if you basically have to do this upgrade because the tenant is in need of the upgrade, then that might be something you would talk to your tenant about pitching in some of the cost on another thing that I think is worth mentioning since we’re on the topic is the flexible gas lines do not reuse a flexible gas line. Those are a onetime use product. I see it all the time where a tenant will buy a used stove and it comes with the used gas line. They used line still attached to it, and they want to try to reuse that line.

Andrew Schultz: (03:03)
Don’t do it, just get a fresh line, spend the $20, get a fresh line, and hook it up. The proper way those gas lines are really only meant to be hooked up and unhooked. One time, I would definitely not recommend reusing one of those gas lines, the flexible ones, because you don’t know, you might actually be creating a leak situation just by reusing one of those lines. If it gets twisted around or something, you might wind up with a much bigger issue on your hands than if you had just gone out, spent the $20 and picked up a new one of those flexible gas lines. So definitely don’t reuse the flexible gas line, make sure that there’s a fresh line on there for every time you hook that stove up and go from there. But that’s what I would do. Like I’d said at the beginning, anything from the flex line to the stove as tenant, anything from essentially the shutoff valve back to the meter is landlord.

Andrew Schultz: (03:52)
All right, let’s move along to our second water-cooler wisdom for the day. This one comes to us, courtesy of the landlord, subreddit over at reddit.com/r/landlord. It reads as follows. I’m renting my first apartment out. It’s a second-floor unit above a pie shop that I’m opening the first folks to look at. It did so over duo video, as they were across the country, the second person to see it in person had better credit and a grad stipend secured. I kind of kept the first folks hanging on until the lease was signed with the tenant I chose just in case it fell through. What’s the best way to word an email saying that they didn’t get it. So this one is actually pretty straight forward. What you need to do is send what’s called an adverse action letter, and you can actually find a free copy of this over at rentprep.com/resources it’s in the free landlords’ starter kit forms over there.

Andrew Schultz: (04:42)
And essentially what an adverse action letter is, is a letter to the applicant, letting them know that their application has not been selected. And the reason why it hasn’t been selected. So depending on your state, you may have to disclose a full reason for the denial, or you may be able to just say your application was not chosen. So for instance, here in New York, my form says, thank you for your recent rental application. After a review of the provided information, we find that we’re unable to accept your rental application at this time period, that meets the requirements here in the state of New York. So I don’t overstate any more than I absolutely have to. The next part of our adverse action letter says if checked there’s a little checkbox. Obviously this decision was based in whole or in part on the information provided to us in a consumer report or investigative consumer report prepared for us by a consumer reporting agency.

Andrew Schultz: (05:36)
Their mailing address and phone number are listed below blah, blah, blah. The consumer reporting agency plays no part in the decision to take any action on your rental application and is unable to provide you with specific reasons for not accepting your application. You have the right to a free copy of your report within 60 days. Ah, see I was wrong earlier of receipt of this notice and to dispute the completeness or accuracy of any information in the consumer report issued by the agency sincerely Own Buffalo inc, pretty straight forward. It doesn’t go into a lot of detail as to why the application was denied. It does indicate if we pulled their credit and background check, which we’re legally required to do by law. And this meets the requirements here in the state of New York. I’ve also seen other copies of this letter. As a matter of fact, we used to use a copy of this letter that had different checkboxes for different reasons, for the denial.

Andrew Schultz: (06:24)
That might be something that you have to use depending on your locality. So you’re going to want to check your state’s laws and regulations and see where you fall on that scale. If you’re in a state that doesn’t require you to disclose a full reason for the denial, you may want to consider just using the generic adverse action letter that doesn’t have a specific reason stated. The reason I tend to do that is because it limits the amount of exposure that you’re putting yourself through. When somebody gets one of these denial letters, sometimes they may be a little bit upset that they didn’t get the apartment for whatever reason. And they may be looking for, you know, a reason why so exposing yourself more than you have to in this instance is probably not the best decision. Double-Check see what you need to do as far as disclosure in your state, and then follow those laws as appropriate

Voice Over: (07:17)
Forum quorum, where we scour the internet for ridiculous posts from landlords and tenants.

Andrew Schultz: (07:25)
This week’s forum quorum is a real doozy. This one comes to us via Reddit. This was in the landlord subreddit. And I just have to read through this one. This came out of Canada. I will note before we jump into it. So this was in Ontario, Canada, and my understanding of the landlord-tenant laws in Ontario is that they are very, very pro-tenant. I don’t have a ton of experience with the Canadian law. I’ve never managed property in Canada. I don’t really have a good basis of how the laws work in Canada. But what I will do is read through this and apply what we would be doing here in the States, at least here in the state of New York in this set of circumstances. So here we go. I have a tenant that lived through their rent deposit in January but never replenished it.

Andrew Schultz: (08:10)
Then he was not paying rent from April through June. I’ve issued N for a, I assume that some kind of a form requiring him to pay the balance or vacate. So that sounds like it’s kind of like our three or five-day notice June 30th. He sends me a message asking for his security deposit. I replied that you lived through it and then never replenished it. Please leave your keys in the safe on July 2nd. I still have not heard back. So I took another tenant as a witness when we opened his room all of the furniture was clearly damaged chair, table, lamp cabinet, and the whole house reeked. The tenant shoved raw meat and shrimp into the air vents. And clearly a few days had passed. I came back the day after and it still smelled. I dismantled the cabinet and underneath there was more raw meat with juices, as well as maggots on the floor.

Andrew Schultz: (08:59)
How can I pursue collection or additional charges for damages if he is not a tenant? First of all, I just got to say, I could literally smell this as I was reading this. Like I could visualize this. I’ve seen similar, but probably not quite this bad in the past. I could just feel for this landlord as I read through this. So gross. So gross. So the only way to handle this here in the United States, if you were dealing with someone who is no longer a tenant would be to take them to court, whether it would be small claims court or whether you would need to file in a higher court would be determined by basically the amount of the claim and that’s going to be state-dependent. So you’re going to have to check your state statute to see what the amount is that you can take someone to small claims for, and based on what it’s going to cost you to restore all the damages.

Andrew Schultz: (09:51)
At that point, you’re going to be able to decide, do I need to go to small claims court, or do I need to take this to a higher court and, and deal with a larger amount? So there’s different sets of circumstances for how small claims work versus how a larger court works, whether or not you need an attorney or, and things like that. And those are all state-specific. So I’m not going to delve into all of those details here, but a lot of times in a small court situation, you won’t need to have an attorney present, and you’ll just be able to present your evidence, you know, in front of the judge and in front of the other party. And hopefully, you win the case and you get your judgment. Now you have to try to collect on your judgment, which is a whole nother set of circumstances.

Andrew Schultz: (10:31)
And again, this is going to be state-specific as to how you go about doing things like getting a wage garnishment or, you know, putting a tax levy against someone, putting a levy against a piece of property that they own if that’s an option for you, something like that. So you do have some options. I’ve found that getting paid on money judgments tends to be one of the more difficult things out there. But if you live in a state that will allow you to do either a, a wage garnishment or a tax levy, or allow you to put a lien against a piece of property, whether it’s a, you know, real estate or a vehicle or something like that, such that if they want to sell that vehicle or that piece of real estate, that they have to settle the debt with you, that would ultimately be the best way to handle a situation like this.

Andrew Schultz: (11:14)
The chances of getting paid are probably not the greatest depending on the tenant. And it sounds to me like this tenant is probably going to be one of those tenants that would be difficult to collect from, but you never know, at the end of the day, you may wind up getting paid two years, three years down the road. It’s better to have that judgment in place and maybe get paid a than have no judgment in place and not get paid at all. So there you have it. That’s my thoughts on that. It really boils down to simple dollars and cents and a lot of instances, is it worth the time to pursue it in court? Do you think you’re going to get paid if you do win the case? There’s a lot that goes into it. Sometimes it’s not even worth it to pursue it in a situation like this.

Andrew Schultz: (11:56)
It sounds like you’re going to have a few grand worth of damages in cleaning and repairs and stuff like that. So in a circumstance like this, I would probably be looking at it and saying, okay, this one makes sense to pursue in small claims court. One thing that I will mention is to make sure that you take a really, really good set of move in and move out photos every single time you do a tenant turnover because obviously this is a situation where any judge is going to look at it and say, yeah, the tenant probably left rotting food. I don’t think the landlord, you know, stuff, the vents with rotting shrimp, pretty clear cut case in a circumstance like this, but having a good before and after photo set really does let you show the condition of what it was when the tenant moved in and what it was when the tenant moved out and really removes a lot of doubt.

Andrew Schultz: (12:42)
When you get into this security deposit, dispute cases, such as this, so best of luck in cleaning up your place, hopefully, you can get the smell out, consider an ozone generator at some point, if you’re still getting that fishy stink smell, even after a good, deep cleaning, sometimes an ozone generator will be able to take out a smell before a cleaning chemical can. So that’s something to consider as well, best of luck to you. And hopefully, you do take that tenant to court and you do get a small claim settlement, and you do get paid back on that. So that pretty much wraps things up for this week, but there’s always more to check out if you’re looking to find me head on over to ownbuffalo.com for links to all of our social media, our YouTube and Facebook pages are where we post the most of our content. If you’re looking for tenant screening services, head on over to rent-prep, and don’t forget, you can check out the best free landlording resource on the internet. The Rent Prep for Landlords Facebook group, which is a private group for landlords and property managers, we’re at almost 12,000 members strong. At this point, you could find that group over at facebook.com/groups/rentprep. Thanks so much for listening. We really do appreciate it until next week. I’m Andrew Schultz with Own Buffalo for rent-prep, and we’ll see you next week.