These Are 11 Signs You Didn’t Get The Apartment

Article Summary

It’s hard enough to find a good apartment for a reasonable price, but then you have to get approved to rent it. If you submitted an application for an apartment but have not heard back, there are several likely reasons, both financial and personal. Whether it’s poor credit, a pet, or another aspect of your presentation, you want to avoid these common reasons for exclusion.

Let’s be honest, finding an apartment in a good location, a quick walk to the subway, or near a block with trendy restaurants and bars can feel like a daunting task. Whether you’re looking to score a chic renovation of industrial space or a reliable apartment close to your office, you better come prepared with a solid application. Cool (and affordable) apartments are as rare as the spoon-billed sandpiper, so if you come across a rare bird of an apartment, don’t give the landlord any reason to reject your application.

If you’re not getting a callback, there are some common reasons why you might not get the apartment of your dreams. Maybe someone else saw this gem of a living space and nabbed it first. Or perhaps your income is too low. In places like New York City, it’s common for landlords to reject tenants unless their salaries are greater than 40 times the monthly rent. If you have bad credit or a bankruptcy in your past, you may struggle to get an apartment. Here are some more signs that you may struggle to get the apartment.

1. You have a bad rental history

Your potential landlord will want to know about your rental history with your past landlord and any landlords before them. Obviously, if you didn’t pay your rent on time or lost all of your security deposit because of damage, this can look bad. A poor rental history is a strong sign that you won’t be signing on the dotted line for your dream apartment.

Pro Tip

Nowadays, there are all sorts of online portals where landlords can check your rental history. It might be smart to see what shows up on the report beforehand, so you will see the same record that the future landlord might see. and Smart Move are examples of tenant-screening background check portals.

2. You didn’t move quickly enough

Rental markets behave like any other market — they react based on supply and demand. In places with high demand and a tight rental market, there are literally people refreshing their browsers every minute to see if apartments or duplexes have become available.

If you’re looking for apartments in a hot market, be prepared to move at lightning speed. Expect that when you see the apartment, there will be a line of 20 other potential renters waiting at the door.

3. You have a poor credit score

Having a good credit score is paramount when dealing with any large transaction, and that includes renting an apartment. If you have a low credit score for some reason, or you’ve had past bankruptcies, this could be a problem. Getting a guarantor may help you get an apartment with a lower score, but otherwise you’ll want to have a minimum credit score in the 600s. You can still rent a place with a score below, but many landlords will be wary of you. If you paid your rent more than 30 days late with a previous landlord, this could go on your credit report and lower your credit score.

If your credit score is bad, you might want to seek help from a credit monitoring service. You can use our tool to compare various services.

4. You have a pet or lied about it

If you have a beloved pet but your potential landlord doesn’t allow them, that’s a 100% guaranteed sign you aren’t getting the apartment. If you try to keep your pet hidden and the landlord finds out, you almost certainly won’t get the apartment either. It’s a bummer, but a loose bit of kibble or a chew toy in the front seat of your car can cost you an apartment.

5. You lied on your rental application

Again, your landlord will think of this as a business relationship; therefore, lying about anything on your application isn’t good. It raises all kinds of red flags. If the landlord can’t trust you at the very beginning of your relationship, how will they trust you over the lease term?

6. You have a criminal conviction

Landlords don’t like to see criminal convictions, particularly if you were convicted of criminal activity that took place at a previous apartment. If you have a criminal conviction that’s explainable, it’s best to bring it out upfront. A criminal conviction discovered through a background check can be the ultimate nail-in-the-coffin sign of you not getting that apartment.

7. Your income is not high enough

Some markets have very expensive rents, and thus even if you can pay the first few months of rent upfront, the landlord might want to see proof of your income. Some markets will actually have a standard rent-to-income formula.

In New York City, the standard for an apartment or co-op is that your annual income should be at least 40 times your monthly rent. This means if your rent is $1,000 a month, you should be making at least $40,000 a year to afford the apartment. Here is a breakdown of some common rents in NYC and the corresponding minimum income you should have.

Rent Minimum salary
$1,000 $40,000
$1,500 $60,000
$2,000 $80,000
$2,500 $100,000
$3,000 $120,000
$3,500 $140,000
$4,000 $160,000
$4,500 $180,000

Related reading: If you worry your income isn’t high enough because you’re still in college, take a look at our guide on just that.

8. You didn’t act professionally

You might think of this transaction as just renting a cool flat, but your landlord looks at it as getting into business with a stranger. Therefore, you should treat correspondence and interaction with your landlord like you would a boss or client at work. If you arrived at the viewing 20 minutes late, or smell like the dog you’re about to hide, this could be a sign you won’t get the apartment.

9. You didn’t follow directions

You need to follow directions in both your meetings with the landlord and directions on your application. This establishes you as a reliable individual who follows the rules. This is particularly important if the apartment has quirks or elements that need to run a certain way.

For example, if the boiler needs to be turned on after a certain time, you need to be able to do that, in addition to paying your rent on time.

10. Your car was a disaster

If you have Taco Bell chalupa wrappers visible all over your car, the landlord may come to one conclusion. Their apartment will also showcase an assortment of fast food wrappers once you move in. Even if you are not the neatest person, you need to make sure that your car looks immaculate when you pull up.

11. The property manager or agent didn’t like you

If you’ve had previous apartments, you know you might have to deal with other people besides the landlord. The property manager or a real estate agent might actually be the one meeting you for your rental application. So that person needs to have a good impression of you. If they have a bad one, they might tell the landlord to pass on you, regardless of any potential commission.

When you finally get that apartment you’ve always wanted, you’ll need rental insurance. Here are some options to consider.


How do you know you didn’t get the apartment?

The way you know for sure you didn’t get the apartment is that the landlord or property manager rejects your application or they just ghost you and never call you back. However, there can be signs that you will never get it, such as a strict pet policy or a poor credit score.

How do landlords choose between applicants?

Landlords choose applicants based on the risk that they will miss or be late on their monthly payments. Landlords look for prospective tenants that have excellent credit and solid income as well as people who seem clean, professional, and generally put together.

How do you guarantee you’ll get the apartment?

Until the money is paid and the contract is signed, you can never guarantee that you’ll get the apartment. So your best bet is to sign the contract on the spot and pay the money right then. As long as the property managers or landlords want to give you the apartment, the rest is up to how fast you can sign and pay.

How long do lease applications take?

In general, lease applications take one to three days to process. However, the time can vary, depending on the landlord and the state of the market. If they want to run a background check or call your references, it could take a few days more.

What does it mean when your rental application is processing?

It simply means that your application is being reviewed and checked by your future landlord or the property manager. If you claimed income amounts or a certain credit score on your application, they may want to confirm it through other sources.

Key Takeaways

  • Renting an apartment can be difficult in a tight market. There are many issues that might prevent you from getting a place, so come prepared with proof of income and other details.
  • Landlords will check you out both financially and personally, so both of those areas must be in order for you to get the apartment.
  • If you have poor credit or a history of late rental payments, this could prevent you from getting the apartment.
  • Make sure to be honest and open about everything on your application, including pets and any past criminal history. Honesty can sometimes negate some of the blemishes on your record.
View Article Sources
  1. What is the 40x Rent Rule? — Property Club
  2. Find Affordable Rental Housing —
  3. Rental Assistance — U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
  4. How to Rent a Home with a Bad Credit Score — SuperMoney
  5. How to Get Approved for an Apartment — SuperMoney
  6. Rental Credit Checks: Everything You Need To Know — SuperMoney
  7. How To Afford An Apartment In College — SuperMoney
  8. How to Get Out of Your Apartment Lease in 5 Steps — SuperMoney
  9. What is a Co-Op Apartment? — SuperMoney
  10. What Is a Duplex Apartment? — SuperMoney
  11. Can You Buy an Apartment? — SuperMoney
  12. What Is a Loft Apartment? — SuperMoney
  13. Best Renters Insurance for Apartments — SuperMoney