I have had some prospective tenants apply to lease my Philadelphia, PA condo. As I listed the property on Zillow, the official 'application' is on Zillow as well. Zillow only has an 'accept' button for completed applications, but no 'reject' button. How do I respectfully reject a tenant based on their application? Via email? Do I inform them why (low credit score, income, etc...)?

  • 5
    Some advice from a fellow landlord: You should come up with a system for approving/rejecting applications and follow it very consistently. Rejecting candidates for the wrong reasons can put you in legal jeopardy. Usually you are better off just telling them you accepted another candidate and not being too specific. Especially if you aren't going to change your mind. Giving them a reason invites them to negotiate.
    – JohnFx
    Aug 31 '20 at 21:53
  • @JohnFx that certainly makes sense. What do you mean by a 'system'? Here is my current process: 1. Tour; 2. Email screening questions (to avoid forcing people to pay Zillow application fee if I know I won't select them); 3. Zillow application; 4. Email acceptance/rejection; Is this sufficient?
    – Runeaway3
    Aug 31 '20 at 22:31
  • For example, number the applications when they come in and all else being equal always pick the first person that applied. Also don't reject one candidate for a 650 credit score and then accept another with a 550. At least don't do that and state the credit score as the reason for the rejection. Even if you are not being discriminatory at all in your selection process you can be accused of it, and you need to have evidence that your selection process was fair to all applicants including those in protected classes.
    – JohnFx
    Aug 31 '20 at 22:52
  • I don't do tours first, I screen first, saves everyone time unless you're doing open houses. Screen by stating your criteria clearly (No smoking, no pets, gross income requirement is 3x rent, no felony convictions.....) then screening questions to confirm they meet the clearly stated criteria can save you a lot of tours.
    – Hart CO
    Aug 31 '20 at 23:48
  • Generally I wouldn't recommend disclosing the reason to the potential tenant. There is no good reason for you to do so, and if you choose to do so; it could be used against you.
    – nikhil
    Sep 1 '20 at 18:01

Email would be just fine. Even if Zillow had a built-in way to reject applicants, I would send an email. Someone might not have their notifications set up, or have used a burner email for their Zillow account (different then what they put on the application).

Whether you tell them why you rejected the application is up to you. If you have a justifiable reason then it may be helpful for the applicant to know why. They may have even forgot to give you some information (like a secondary income source).

Personally, we rented and then purchased a home that was originally found on Zillow and none of the communication with the landlord/realtor was actually done through the Zillow website other than the initial contact. It was all done through phone and email.

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