Most people have rented a residence in their lifetime, be it either an apartment, townhouse, or single-family home, etc. Most people have also been denied tenancy for one reason or another at some point. With rent-to-own, it’s no different. You can still be denied! Landlords often have a list of criteria when looking for the perfect tenant. They look for upstanding people they know will pay rent on time and take care of the home.

Luckily, under the Fair Housing Act, tenants are protected from being denied due to uncontrollable circumstances such as gender, disability, religion, color, race, and national origin.

Here are the top five valid reasons landlords often deny a tenant:

The tenant has a prior eviction on record

Put yourself in a landlord’s shoes here: would you want to rent to someone with this history? Certainly, there are eviction situations that come about because of unforeseen circumstances, however, most of the time, they’re unfortunately due to pure negligence for the property or agreement. Having a prior eviction(s) on your record doesn’t put you in the best position.

The tenant has a low credit score

Many people enter rent-to-own agreements based on the fact they have a below average credit score. Companies that facilitate these rent-to-own agreements often advertise they work with low credit scores, which is great! However, even in those cases, they look to determine if your score will be easily reparable within the tenancy term of the agreement. If it’s too low, you might need to work on repairing your credit beforehand.

The tenant gives false information

Nobody likes a liar. Trustworthiness goes a long way when you’re trying to enter a housing agreement. Nothing is more embarrassing than lying about something you thought they wouldn’t check, only to discover later that they did. Giving false information is a surefire way to start the tenant/landlord relationship out on a bad foot, so just be honest!

The tenant smokes or has pets

In most cases these are very unappealing terms to a landlord. Smoking inside is not only a fire hazard, but it can cause a lot of damage to a property. It can coat the walls and permeate everything, making for a headache of a clean-up once you move out or decide you no longer want to stay, such as in the case of a rent-to-own situation. Unfortunately, pets are seen as balls of destruction to a landlord and is why most of the time you’ll have to pay “pet rent.” This is a little extra security for them to cover any possible damages to their property. Neither of these are complete deal breakers if you find the right property with a person willing to negotiate.

The tenant doesn’t make enough

Sometimes it comes down to the simple fact they don’t think you’ll be able to afford it and live comfortably. Most landlords have been in the game long enough to realize when they’d be stretching someone too thin, and this wouldn’t be an ideal situation for anyone. Constantly living with the stress of not knowing where next month’s rent will come from can be a stressor for both you and your landlord. If you’re denied for this reason alone, it’s most likely to your benefit so you can find somewhere else you can afford! It’s best to live well within your means.


Rent-to-own companies look to really help people in adverse situations, but you need to be coachable and willing to change habits that may have gotten you into these messes. Knowing what landlords/sellers look for in a good candidate will only aid in your success.

Additional Resources

More Deniable Reasons

Fair Housing Act