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10 Signs You Didn't Get the Apartment

April 18, 2024
It’s never a good feeling to be rejected from an apartment, but here’s ten signs you didn’t get the apartment so you can be more prepared.

Apartment hunting can feel like a rollercoaster ride. You find the perfect place, meticulously craft your application, and then...silence. Weeks go by, and you're left wondering what went wrong. Did your application get lost in the shuffle? Did someone else swoop in with a higher offer?

If you’re feeling in the dark, this blog post will equip you with the knowledge to decipher the cryptic world of apartment rentals. We'll explore the telltale signs your application might not have been chosen, and offer tips for navigating the post-rejection phase. By the end, you'll be a rejection-reading pro, able to identify the red flags and bounce back even stronger in your search for the perfect apartment.

Signs of a Rejected Apartment Application

1. Radio Silence

Ghosting isn’t just an issue in the dating world. It happens on the rental market as well. Most applications are approved within the first 48 hours. If you haven't heard back from the landlord or agent more than 48 hours after your application, and you sent a follow-up email with no response, there’s a good chance you weren’t approved.

In most cases, if you don’t receive a direct rejection, then you are likely to hear radio silence. But there are definitely some other signs you might run into:

2. The Second Look Shuffle

Once you’ve had a viewing and submitted an application, the normal next step is approval or rejection. If a landlord asks you to come back for another showing, even though you submitted your application first, that’s not a good indication of your favorability. It may be that the landlord is trying to extend the time to approve you in order to continue looking for other tenants.

Angry deceived couple customers disputing about mortgage loan or real estate problem with realtor - rental scam - rent an apartment out of state

3. The Price Hike

Most people only apply for apartments when they can afford the rent, and landlords know this. So if the rent mysteriously increases shortly after your application, that may be a sign that your landlord is trying to get you to rescind your interest in the unit.

4. The New Listing

Imagine as you’re waiting for your application to process, you get a notification about a recent apartment match. You open it to find that it’s the apartment you just applied for, but under a new listing (perhaps with a different available date or rent price). That’s a sign that the landlord has already closed your application and is seeking revised terms of agreement from a new tenant.

5. The "We Need More Information" Stall Tactic

Once your application is submitted alongside all of the initially requested documents, landlords do not normally ask prospective tenants for another round of documents. If they do, it could be a sign that they are stalling or uninterested in offering you a unit.

landlord holding documents looking at laptop computer screen

6. The Indirect Rejection

Landlords understand that when tenants apply for a unit with a specific number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and other amenities, those terms should be honored. If, after applying for an apartment, your prospective landlord suggests you might be a better fit for a different (often less desirable) unit, that’s a sign they have reservations about your application. They may question your ability to afford the unit you want, or they may simply wish to rent it out to a different tenant.

7. The "Background Check Delays" Excuse

If you haven’t heard back about your application, but after 48 hours your landlord replies saying they are still doing a background check, that could be a sign you are getting a passive rejection. Background checks can usually be completed in under 48 hours, and if a landlord is asking for more time, they may be trying to gather other applications.

8. The "We Have Multiple Applications" Reminder

Landlords will try to let you know when they have multiple applicants, but if this kind of reminder catches you by surprise, it could be a sign of a problem. Sometimes landlords will let you think they have availability, but then mention other applicants later in the process to pressure you to increase your offer (which we do not recommend).

9. The "Can You Be Flexible with the Move-In Date?" Inquiry

While there might be times when you apply for an apartment without having a specific move-in date (for example, if you’re applying for a wait list), you should at least establish a range with your landlord before applying. If they select a clear date, or if they agree to a range, but then change their minds, that could be a sign they want to go with a different applicant. This is more likely in cases where they want to move in sooner than your proposed date.

10. The Intuition Whisper

Your gut can be your most valuable indicator. If you have a nagging feeling something's off, despite a lack of concrete rejection, keep apartment hunting. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Why do people get rejected from apartments?

The apartment hunt can be exciting, but it can also get discouraging if your applications seem to go into a black hole. Landlords have their pick of tenants, so competition can be fierce. Here are some common reasons applications get rejected:

  • Competition: In areas with high occupancy rates, you may have to compete with multiple applicants submitting apartments simultaneously, which allows landlords to be highly selective.
  • Financial Concerns: Landlords want assurance you can afford the rent. This means having a good credit score, sufficient income (usually 2-3 times the monthly rent), and a steady employment history.
  • Rental History Hiccups: Evictions, late payments, or property damage in the past can raise red flags.
  • Incomplete Applications: Missing information or errors can delay processing or lead to rejection. Be thorough and double-check everything before submitting.
  • Background Check Issues: Criminal history or negative references can impact your chances.

It's important to remember that rejection doesn't necessarily mean you're a bad tenant. By understanding these common reasons, you can strengthen your application and increase your chances of finding the perfect apartment.

To learn more about this topic, check out our guide on apartment disqualification.

Tips for Reviewing Your Rental History Report

Can you ask why you were denied an apartment?

While there's no guarantee you'll get a detailed explanation, it usually doesn't hurt to inquire about a rejection, especially if the process feels unclear. In some areas, there may even be legal requirements for landlords to disclose reasons for denial (though these reasons typically can't involve discriminatory factors).

Maintain a courteous tone, even if you're disappointed. Instead of demanding an explanation, politely ask if there's any feedback you can learn from for future applications. You’re more likely to prevail if you frame your inquiry as a way to strengthen your application for future rentals.

Landlords may not give specifics, but the inquiry might reveal any missing information or areas for improvement. Even if they don't share details, the act of following up shows your professionalism and initiative.

What Should I Do if I Was Rejected for an Apartment?

Rejection stings, but don't let it derail your apartment hunt! Here's how to turn a setback into a new opportunity:

  • Follow Up (Respectfully): As discussed earlier, a polite inquiry about the rejection can be insightful. It might reveal areas for improvement or simply confirm the competition was fierce.
  • Review and Refine: Take a close look at your application materials. Update your credit report if necessary, and gather strong references. Consider offering a cosigner if your income is lower.
  • Expand Your Search: Don't get discouraged by one rejection. Broaden your search criteria (location, size, amenities) while staying true to your needs.
  • Stay Positive: The right apartment is out there! Rejection is a normal part of the process. Learn from it, and keep your spirits high as you continue your search.

Remember, a rejection for one apartment doesn't define your chances of finding a great place to live. By staying positive and proactive, you'll be well on your way to securing your dream apartment.

If you’re trying to rent in a difficult situation, we have several guides that might help you:

Need Help Finding Another Apartment?

Still in need of a place to live? First of all, pat yourself on the back for all the hard work and planning. Applying for an apartment is a significant accomplishment, and you should be proud of yourself for taking this exciting step towards a new life for yourself.

Finding the perfect apartment is definitely possible. If you're still on the hunt for your dream place, Apartment List can help! Take our simple and easy quiz to get matched with apartments that align with your lifestyle and needs.

FAQs about Apartment Application Rejection

Can You Change Your Mind After Applying for an Apartment?

Absolutely! As long as you haven't signed a lease, you can inform the landlord or agent you're no longer interested. You might lose your application fee, but there's no further obligation.

What Credit Score Will Get You Denied for an Apartment?

There's no one-size-fits-all answer. However, in general, a score below 620 can raise red flags. We have also found that many apartments ask for a minimum credit of 650, though that can vary widely depending on the area.

Do Landlords Have to Tell You Why They Rejected You?

In most areas, landlords aren't legally required to disclose reasons for rejection, and they are allowed to reject you for any reason unless it violates fair housing laws (e.g., denying based on race or disability). However, it never hurts to politely inquire for feedback.

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Dr. Katherine Blake
Dr. Katherine Blake is a content editor with Apartment List, where she helps ensure our renter and rental management content is fresh and informed by the latest data. Read More
Tristian Brown
Tristian Brown is a Senior Content Marketing Associate at Apartment List, where he manages high-quality content that helps modern renters find the perfect home. He brings an immense wealth of knowledge to the team, having earned a Bachelor of Arts in Marketing and European Management from the University of San Diego and EM Strasbourg Business School. Read More

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