Which Tenant Would You Choose?

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While the huge number of new of apartments downtown is going to lead to fewer competing applications for the same apartments this year, competition will still exist in trendy neighborhoods outside of the central business district. Some renters think that landlords make knee-jerk decisions on which applicants to choose for apartments based on very simple differences such as who offers more money, who wants to stay longer, or who wants to move in first. Others may think landlords choose their tenants based on illegal data such as race, age or occupation.

The purely financial differences, when they exist, do make it easier to decide between applicants. The latter differences, which are must be excluded from a landlord’s choice per fair housing law, can actually make it much more difficult to decide. The fear of lawsuits (and it is usually the fear of a lawsuit rather than any legitimate support of fair housing practices) may cause landlords to ignore details that would otherwise be critical red flags for high risk renters. Frequently though, the choice depends on neither financial nor protected factors.

To shed a little light on the thought processes a landlord might go through in choosing between multiple applicants, today we have for you four different scenarios. In each scenario you will have two applicants to choose from. Let us know in the comments (either here or on Facebook) which ones you would choose if you were the landlord – there is no right or wrong answer, and in fact the real right answer might be to reject both applicants and wait for someone else.

For all scenarios, assume all factors other than the ones stated are equal. Just to make things more interesting we have included some extra details about some applicants to make things a little more realistic.

Scenario 1: Cramped Quarters

The apartment: Vintage 2 bedroom/1 bath in Avondale. 2nd floor walkup. $1500.
Application #1: Single mother with 4 children ages 2 to 10. Monthly income: $4500. Credit score: 690.
Application #2: Self-employed single web developer, works from home. Monthly income: ranges from $0 – $15,000. Credit score: 700.

Scenario 2: Ivory Tower

The apartment: Basement 3 bedroom/2 bath with a somewhat quirky layout in Hyde Park. $2500.
Application #1: 3 law students entering their second year. One works as a part time clerk, the other two living off of loans. Combined average credit scores: 610.
Application #2: 5 undergrads entering their senior year. None have income, all have out-of-state parental cosigners. All 5 have credit profiles too “thin” to generate FICO scores.

Scenario 3: First Come First Serve?

The apartment: Top floor 1 bedroom/1 bath true loft condo with private roof deck in Ukrainian Village. $3200.
Application #1: Professional lesbian couple, one working in healthcare and the other as a marketing company executive. Combined monthly income $20k, combined average credit scores: 780. Found by apartment locator that would cost you $3200 commission due upon signing, application received on Tuesday.
Application #2: Your boss’s son and his fiancee, both a few months out of college. He’s earning $5000 per month, she’s looking for work in IT. Combined average credit scores: 750. No agency involvement, no commission due. Application received on Thursday.

Scenario 4: Rated R for Rental

The apartment: Studio/1 bath in Uptown near Truman College. $715.
Application #1: Rookie firefighter recently assigned to the Wilson Ave station. Credit score: 510.
Application #2: Concierge and instructor at a private BDSM dungeon in River North. Credit score: 700.

So, what do you think? Who would you choose in each scenario? Let us know in the comments. Next week in a follow up post we will provide our own thoughts on who we would choose, and in fact, since most of these were taken from our own experiences, which ones we did choose in the end.

RentConfident is a Chicago startup that provides renters with the in-depth information they need to choose safe apartments. Help us reach more renters! Like, Share and Retweet us!

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Published by

Kay Cleaves

Founder and owner of RentConfident. She's the primary developer of the website and research engine code. She's spent over 10 years working in the Chicago rental industry and has assisted with over 1200 leases.