Generally speaking, you need a credit score of 620 or higher to rent an apartment. Every landlord and property manager sets their own criteria for approving a rental applicant, but a higher credit score will make you appear less risky. A high credit score will also distinguish you among other applicants if you’re competing for a popular rental property.
A rental is a source of income for landlords, and they don’t want to jeopardize it with tenants who won’t be able to pay rent on time. Your credit score is a good indicator of how good of a renter you’ll be.
How Landlords and Property Managers Check Credit
Here are three common ways a landlord can check your credit before approving you for an apartment. They can:
Run a credit check: Landlords ask potential tenants to fill out an application and provide a signature to approve a credit report check.
Once they have your authorization, they can request a tenant screening and credit report from one of the three credit bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion or Experian. Running a credit check may result in a fee passed on to you.
- Use a tenant screening service: A landlord registers an account with the service, and the service prompts you to order a credit report the landlord can then view. Using this service may also result in a fee passed on to you.
Use a copy provided by the applicant: If you’re applying for more than one rental, you can obtain your own credit report, make copies and ask the landlord to accept it.
This is helpful if you want to avoid fees from the other two methods. Keep in mind that they’re not obligated to accept your copy.
Credit-Related Red Flags for Renters
Even if your credit score is fair, certain marks on your credit report are big red flags for potential landlords and property managers.
They indicate a history of mismanaged finances and raise the concern that you may not pay your rent on time. Small marks, such as one late payment on a loan, are less worrisome to landlords.
The following items on your credit report could be a red flag for landlords:
- Charged off credit cards
- Unpaid items
- Late payments
That being said, a credit report doesn’t always tell the whole story. Be prepared to explain the reason behind any negative marks. Sometimes a simple explanation can make a difference, especially if you have a genuinely compelling reason for why there are delinquencies. If a landlord rejects your application based on a finding in your credit report, they must provide you with a copy of the report that was viewed so you can see the mark(s) that influenced their decision.
How to Rent With No Credit
If you don’t have credit, there are still ways a landlord can approve you for a rental. If you don’t have time to build your credit history before applying for an apartment, here are some ways you can rent without credit:
- Have a friend or family member with good credit co-sign a lease.
- Offer several months of rent upfront if you have the money on hand.
- Bring records of positive payment history, such as cell phone or utility bills to show your ability to pay on time.
- Provide a bank statement if you have a healthy account.
- Provide proof of employment.
- Start building your credit now to improve your credit profile.
Once you’re approved for a lease, you can begin having your rent payments reported to the credit bureaus in order to help build your credit. Note that only some credit reporting models count these payments towards your score and you may have to make this request to your landlord.
Also, keep in mind that you should be strategic with rental applications. Credit inquiries from landlords are considered “hard inquiries,” which negatively impact your credit score.
How to Rent with Bad Credit
If your credit is subpar, it can be challenging to find a landlord willing to take a chance on renting to you. However, they may be willing to look past a low credit score if there are extenuating circumstances such as a layoff or unexpected medical bills.
Even with poor credit, there are still steps you can take to get your rental application approved. Putting down a larger security deposit, finding a co-signer, offering to move in immediately or providing letters of reference are possible solutions to renting with bad credit.
How to Improve Your Credit Score for Your Rental Application: Know Your Credit History
If you’re concerned that your low credit score will prevent you from getting the keys to a new apartment, there are a few steps you can take.
The first is to take a thorough look at your credit report yourself. Contrary to popular belief, looking at your own credit history won’t lower your credit score, so don’t be afraid to request a credit report.
If there are potential red-flag items in your credit report, familiarize yourself with them and be prepared to discuss them with your potential landlord.
It’s possible that your credit report may contain errors that could unfairly prevent you from being approved for an apartment. If you need professional assistance finding and disputing errors in your credit history, you can reach out to a credit repair service like Lexington Law Firm.
Lexington Law can help remove inaccurate and unsubstantiated items on your credit report. Contact us today to learn how our team can help you through the credit repair process.