Can a Landlord Refuse to Rent to Someone | Reasons of Rejection

The answer to this question is complicated because landlords have the right to choose a renter who makes the most money and is best for their property. In the US, both statutory and common law rights protect tenants from being discriminated against by their landlords. However, there are several reasons why a landlord might refuse to rent to someone, and these reasons do not necessarily have to be illegal.

 In this article, we will explore the different ways a landlord can refuse to rent to someone and the protections in place for tenants.

A landlord is legally entitled to impose any rental restrictions he wants as long as they are reasonable about his business interests and do not violate anti-discrimination laws.

Reasons When Landlords Refuse Someone Renting House

Can a Landlord Refuse to Rent to Someone
  • A landlord may reject you if you have a bad credit history, income that a reasonable business person would consider insufficient to pay the rent
  • Bad references from a former landlord or employer
  • A criminal conviction or a past eviction lawsuit (even one you won).
  • Because smokers and owners of pets are not covered by anti-discrimination legislation, a landlord can refuse to rent to them or prohibit pets.

What Are Some Examples Of Housing Discrimination?

Landlords are prohibited from discriminating against tenants or prospective tenants based on any of the following protected characteristics:

  • Refusing to sell, rent, or lease one’s property.
  • Refusing to enter into a sale, rental, or lease negotiation
  • When housing or an apartment is available for inspection, sale, or renting, it is falsely stated that it is not.
  • Housing accommodations are denied or withheld.
  • Housing arrangements, conditions, privileges, facilities, or substandard services
  • Harassment of a person about their living arrangements.
  • Terminating or canceling a sale or rental arrangement.
  • Providing housing that is segregated or separated.
  • Placing an ad for the rental or sale of any type of housing accommodation denotes any preference or restriction based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, or any other factor.

How Can A Renter Determine If A Rental Ad Is Discriminative?

Discriminatory advertising regulations cover both writing and spoken types of advertising, including brochures, posters, pamphlets, banners, forms for rent, messages, photos, and graphics, and comments made in person or on the telephone to a tenant or potential renter. 100.75 Of the Code of Federal Regulations.

The law also covers online advertisements. Id. A landlord cannot show a preference for or impose a restriction on a renter based on a protected trait such as race, sex, or religion. 

Statements like “no children permitted,” “English speakers only,” “white community,” “able-bodied only,” and “has to be Christian” are discriminatory since they show a bias or restriction for a particular set of individuals.

“No illicit drug use” and “service animals only” are not discriminatory. If the substance in discussion is unlawful, it is permissible to ban a renter from using it. Furthermore, no rules require a tenant to permit a pet other than a service animal as a special consideration for a disabled person.

There are numerous methods for a landlord to discriminate against renters in their marketing, and courts will consider such accusations individually.

The Federal Fair Housing Acts

Can a Landlord Refuse to Rent to Someone

The Federal Fair Housing Act protects people from discrimination in various areas, including housing. If you feel that a landlord has discriminated against you, you can file a complaint with the appropriate authority. The following points come under discrimination under this act and are illegal.

Refusal to rent on the grounds of sex, race, or nationality

Landlords are not allowed to refuse to rent to someone on the grounds of sex, race, or nationality. This law prohibits landlords from discriminating against potential tenants based on sex and/or race. Ignoring some nationalities and welcoming others is completely illegal.

Refusal to rent on the grounds of religion or belief

In the US, it is also unlawful for a landlord to refuse to rent to someone based on their religion or belief. If the renter has different religious beliefs than the landlord, he cannot refuse to rent. Similarly, some religions cannot be preferred over others by the landlord.

Refusal to rent on the grounds of age

While there are no outright laws prohibiting landlords from refusing to rent to someone based on their age, it is still unlawful. So, if you’re a potential tenant and you’re rejected based on your age, you could rightfully take your landlord to court. 

Refusal to rent on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender reassignment

It is also illegal for a landlord to refuse to rent to someone on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender reassignment. 

Refusal to rent on the grounds of relationship status

Landowners do not possess the right to refuse to rent someone their property based on their familial status. How many kids should not be questioned whether the renter has kids or no kids? Similarly, if a couple wants to rent a house, they should not be discriminated against based on their relationship status- they’re being married or not should not be the landlord’s concern.

Refusal to rent on the grounds of disability and addiction issues

Any disability encompassing alcoholism and substance abuse can also not be subjected to discrimination by the landlord.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the proper way to gently deny a rental applicant?

To decline a renter application, write the potential tenant an adverse action letter explaining why their request will not be approved. This letter explains why the renter’s request was rejected and whether their request can be revisited.

When a landlord inquires, what do you say? What can you tell me about yourself?

In a cover letter, present yourself as the ideal tenant to make a good impression on your landlord. Write a few paragraphs about your lifestyle and who you are. If your history isn’t perfect, explain why you’ve had problems in the past and what you did to resolve them.

What qualities do landlords seek in tenants?

Property owners may examine your credit, rental history, wages, and previous convictions to determine the type of renter you would be. Remember that landlords aren’t looking for pristine credit scores, astronomically high salaries, or flawless records.


Landlords in the US are not allowed to refuse to rent to someone based on race, sex, disability, religion or belief, age, sexual orientation, or gender reassignment. If you feel that a landlord has discriminated against you, you may have a case under The Federal Fair Housing Act.

However, this doesn’t mean that all landlords are obliged to rent to anyone who applies. They are allowed to refuse applicants who don’t meet certain criteria, like those who have a poor credit history or are unemployed. As long as the landlord isn’t discriminating against a certain age group, they’re within their rights to refuse tenancy.

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