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How to Get an Apartment with Bad Credit (7 Tips)

January 9, 2019

Finding a dream apartment is difficult, and having a low credit score makes it even harder. Landlords look at credit scores, prior evictions, broken lease history, and credit judgments to determine if a renter is reliable. If your credit report has a ding in any of these categories, you will likely have to take extra steps to get your name on a lease.

However, if you follow our tips below, you should improve your chances of renting an apartment with bad credit.

1. Check Your Credit Report

There are three major credit bureaus - Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Get reports from all of them since you never know which one your potential landlord prefers. You can also get free annual credit reports from the major bureaus through AnnualCreditReport.com.

And remember, landlords don't just look at your credit score. Many of them look into eviction history, credit judgments, and outstanding obligations to previous landlords and utility companies. These factors all contribute to a landlord determining if you'd be a reliable tenant.

If you owe money,  pay off your debts and get written confirmations of your payments prior to submitting your rental applications. Check carefully for errors, and if you find any, file a credit report dispute immediately.

2. Look For Apartments With No Credit Checks

Most leasing and property management companies require credit checks. However,  some individual landlords do not. If you decide to rent from such a landlord, we suggest that you carefully verify your landlord before paying any money. The lack of a credit check in the rental process is one of the red flags when it comes to rental fraud.

Of course, this is not always the case. Just be extra cautious.

3. Give Reference Letters to Your Landlord

A bad credit score doesn't always define your trustworthiness or credibility. Sudden health problems, divorce or job loss can result in a poor credit score.

To prove that you are a financially responsible renter, ask your previous landlords, employers, or any other entities with whom you have had a financial relationship to provide reference letters.

4. Show Proof of a Stable Income

Many landlords require a renter’s monthly income to be 2-3 times the monthly rent to be considered. You might not have great credit history, but if you can prove that you have a stable job with an income that allows you to cover rent, your chances will greatly improve. Be sure to have recent pay stubs and bank statements for the landlord.

If you need help determining how much rent you can afford, try using our rent calculator. This will give you a better understanding of your current financial state. Just plug in your household income and the amount of money you would like to save, and we’ll do the calculations for you. Try to spend no more than 30% of your income on rent.

5. Offer to Pay More Upfront

A bad credit history will likely result in you having to put down a higher security deposit. We suggest that you offer to put down more right off the bat to secure the rental. Be prepared to pay up to two to three months of rent as a deposit, as opposed to the usual one month of rent.

6. Get a Roommate

Some landlords might let you move in with a roommate without having your name on the lease. It’s a long shot, but it might be worth trying. Just make sure that your potential roommate has a good credit score and clean rental history without prior evictions.

7. Find a Co-signer

People that don’t have perfect credit often get cosigners when they apply for a mortgage. You can do the same when trying to secure an apartment.

Your cosigner (or lease guarantor) needs to have a stable income and a good credit history. Make sure that you are able to pay the monthly rent on time, or your cosigner will be liable for your debt and it will affect their credit. Cosigning on an apartment list is a heavy ask, so make sure you only ask close friends and family.

While renting with bad credit is certainly possible, you have to be prepared to put more effort into your apartment search and application.

We suggest paying off your debt months before starting your apartment search to establish a good pattern. If your potential landlord sees that you are on the right track, they might be more lenient and willing to look past your prior credit issues.

By: Sania Tran
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