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Winter Slump Getting You Down?


Often, in the winter months we experience the “winter slump.” We will see a string of denied applications. During the this time of year I believe it is common to have people apply and quickly get denied, but why?

Winter is a horrible time to move. It’s cold, probably snowing, and there is limited options available.  How does someone end up nearly homeless a week before Christmas? I’ve asked myself this many times over the years, and I believe that I’ve found the answer.

People moving in the winter months are usually moving for one of two reasons. Either they just got a new job and had to transfer in a hurry, or they waited until the last minute to find a new apartment (or worse, are getting evicted!) Why does one type get approved and the other type get denied? The person moving for a new job isn’t moving because they didn’t plan, they need to for their work. The other person, however, is probably not a lock it in, go-getter type of planner, and that’s why they are stuck moving in December.

Poor planning affects a person’s application more than they realize.  This behavior usually reflects throughout many other aspects of that person’s life. If they are late on their utility bill, or have their cell phone bill sent to collections because they didn’t pay it, this transfers to their credit report. If they didn’t organize and plan ahead for their monthly rental payments, this reflects as poor rental history. If they don’t plan their days properly and lose that higher paying job, they will be left with a lower wage/income. All of those things, as we know, are what affects an application.

This is the trend we see with many denied winter applicants. We receive negative rental histories, and skim through credit reports riddled with debts for basic things such as cable and phone bills. To be truthful, it drives us nuts. We want so badly to get someone approved for that vacant property, and sometimes it takes six or eight tries before someone who meets the qualifications is found and approved. That person you just gave a tour to has a new, higher paying job, they are very friendly, but then you run their credit and are met with disappointment.

So how can we turn this situation around? Unfortunately, it’s mostly out of our hands. We can’t say “You were denied because you’re credit is terrible. You should fix that.”, because of the fair housing/industry laws (plus that would be very rude). Those laws are there to protect people, and are great, but sometimes it feels like they are preventing us from helping prospective tenants.

When someone asks me if they were denied because of credit, I’m not allowed to say so.
What I can say is this, “If you believe that your credit may have affected your application, then I suggest the following; get a print out or digital copy of your credit report from a website you prefer, and take it to your bank. The bank is very useful, and can help you locate any outstanding balances you may have. They will also help you locate the companies holding any possible collections.”

Notice I didn’t give any defined answer, only possibilities. I find this is the best way to help without violating any fair housing rules. Although they were denied, this will let them know that you care and really want them to move in. They will not forget how you tried to help them, and could return later and become a great tenant.

In our industry we must take the good with the bad, no matter what time of year. Don’t let the slump get you down!

We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.