The application process for a rental unit can be stressful. If you've done your job at marketing it correctly you should be receiving interest from a variety of different people and that's where a whole new part of the rental experience begins. After a while of sitting and staring at applications you may have trouble trying to decide how you want to shift through them to find out who you want as your next tenant. The reality of the situation is that you will have to deny some interested parties, but you'll need to be careful so that you do not appear to be discriminating and breaking any of the fair housing laws in the way that you choose that new tenant.
It's always best to have a list of yes's and no's when you start the application process. This helps with the pre-screening process and may help to limit the number of unqualified applicants that you receive. Do you have a minimum credit score that you'll accept? Adding that to the marketing material will be helpful to alert potentially interested parties to if they will qualify or not. Information like pet policies, smoking policies, deposit requirements, and length of the lease will also help to limit the applications you receive to make sure that the people are truly interested.
Next you may wish to check into your local laws so that you are aware as to what they say in regards to charging an application fee. Application fees help to ensure that the applicant truly is interested. If they're willing to pay for the tenant screening to be run then they are likely more interested than someone who is not. You should always run a tenant screening on an applicant. If they do not consent to this, it may be time to move onto the next interested individual.
You may choose not to rent to someone because they smoke, have a pet, or any number of reasons, but there are also many reasons you can't single them out. These are the issues that are covered by the Fair Housing Laws which are meant to try to discourage discrimination. You can't refuse to rent based only on a person's race, sex, or religion, just to name a few. Check your local laws carefully. There are federal and local regulations that may indicate what classes are considered protected. Singling out groups such as families or singles in marketing ads can potentially land you in trouble for breaking these laws and may result in fines.