Please excuse the length of this post, but I'm trying to be thorough and make sure I don't leave anything out. My (37/M) friend (27/M)'s job has transferred him to my city, and since my current lease was ending, we made the decision to move in together to save money and upgrade to a nicer home. We had both been living in cramped studio apartments in order to save money and were tired of the lack of space, so we looked for homes with decent square footage that suited our needs in our price range. We fell in love with a 4 br, 3 ba, 3000+ sq ft home in a nice, quiet suburban neighborhood not far from where I was living at the time.
We paid our application fees, submitted our forms, and were told by the property managers after their review that everything looked great. We satisfied all of their requirements on paper. Our combined income is more than 3.5 times the rent (they only asked for 2.5 x), we both have good credit, no debts, no criminal history, and solid rental history with no evictions, bankruptcies, or judgements. All of our landlord and employer references are good. We are quiet non-smokers. The only potential issue was that the listing stated that the owner preferred no pets and we have two cats, but the landlord okayed them (in writing) as long as we agreed to a $500 deposit per cat. She emailed the property managers to request that she meet us in person before having us sign a lease, writing to them that she just needed 15 minutes to get a "quick impression", and finished the email by saying, "if the meeting goes well, they can move in this weekend". This email was forwarded to us by the property managers, and I set a time to meet the landlord through them.
We met at the home a few days later, and I don't think anything about my appearance should have been off-putting (I was well-groomed, wearing smart casual clothes, and my car is extremely clean). She had a negative vibe from the start and I got the impression that she didn't want to rent to us and was looking for me to prove her wrong. She made it clear that she would prefer to rent to a family, and said that she felt the only reason that two single men would want her home was to throw parties (I'm 37, and the landlord is only a year older than I am) or to move in lots of additional tenants. I tried to assuage her fears and explain why we wanted the space and told her what the rooms would be used for (a study, a workout room, a guest room, etc) and she seemed a little more relaxed when we parted ways.
After a few days of hearing nothing, I received an email from the property manager informing me that the homeowner had chosen another applicant to rent the house. I accepted this, but the following day I came across the property listing during my search for another home to rent and saw that it was still active. Out of curiosity, I checked the listing on various broker websites (Zillow, Trulia, etc) as well as the property management company's website every day for the next week, and it stayed up and remained active throughout this time. I know that these websites are sometimes slow to update, but other homes I'd considered during my search were speedily removed when they went off the market so I found this a little odd. At this point, a friend of mine contacted the property manager inquiring about the house and was told that it was still available for rent.
I wonder if some subtle discrimination has occurred here. We are a pair of professional adults, not a group of teens in their first house looking to party. As far as I am aware, it is illegal in California (where we are located) to deny housing to a qualified applicant because of their familial status, marital status, age, or any arbitrary status. I know that small/private landlords may be exempt from fair housing laws at the federal level, but I'm not sure if they are exempt from local and state laws. I am also concerned that some more sinister discrimination might be at play, as my roommate has a Hispanic name and is a legal alien from a South American country. He's lived in the US for most of his life, speaks perfect English, is gainfully employed, and is working on obtaining his citizenship – but I know this is still not enough for some people.
We were told that the home was being held for us until it suddenly wasn't. No offer was made by the property managers to show us other properties or refund our application fees, which they definitely were not obligated to do, but it might have been courteous considering the situation. We're happily in a new home now so I'm no longer interested in renting this property, but I'm still bothered by what happened. Is this a matter that I should pursue further, or do local/state/federal laws entitle a landlord to deny qualified applicants because of their family status and her personal feelings?
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