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What Credit Score Do You Need to Rent an Apartment?

March 10, 2022

While finding your dream apartment is an exciting experience, remember that renting an apartment is a business deal. It's up to landlords to ensure that they choose tenants that are a great fit.

That's why tenants can expect a thorough vetting process before signing a lease agreement. Ensuring that a tenant is financially stable and has a positive rental history is one of the crucial metrics of the tenant screening process.

That's where a credit check comes in.

“What is a credit check?”

A summary of your credit history is called a “credit check.” These glimpses into your financial history are conducted by service providers, banks, or lenders and are often used during the prospective tenant application process.

Landlords perform credit checks because they provide essential information regarding debt to previous landlords, on-time payment history, and previous bankruptcies. In short, everything you need to determine whether a prospective tenant is likely to pay rent on time.

The three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, use proprietary methods to determine your Fico credit score. These credit scores give landlords insight into your credit health.

Landlords and property managers often set minimum credit scores that tenants must meet for consideration. However, that number can vary widely. That leaves potential renters scratching their heads, asking themselves,

"What credit score do you need to rent an apartment?"

It can be complicated. Luckily, we've got the answer. Here's everything you need to know about the credit score you need to rent an apartment.

What Credit Score Do You Need to Rent an Apartment?

Generally, a "good" credit score is required for landlords to consider you during the rental application process. Each credit reporting agency has its own range of credit scores they use to describe your credit: poor, fair, good, very good, and exceptional. So, "good" can vary depending on the credit reporting agency. Generally, a higher credit score is ideal.

There aren't any real concrete cutoffs that indicate the difference between credit score ratings. For example, the difference between "good" and "very good" credit can't be determined by a single number.

However, there is a widely-used scale that measures these ranges. It's as follows1:

  • Poor: 300 - 579
  • Fair: 580 - 669
  • Good: 670 - 739
  • Very Good: 740 - 799
  • Exceptional: 800 - 850

Typically, the minimum credit score required to rent is 650, though that number can vary based on the market. Of course, landlords prefer seeing a higher credit score on any application.

If you’re searching for an apartment in a competitive rental market, you may need a higher credit score and a higher income (use our rent calculator to determine how much you should pay monthly).

How to Check Your Credit?

To determine it on your own, check your credit at AnnualCreditReport.com. Other options to check to see if you have a good credit score on your own include accessing any of the major credit reporting agencies such as:

  • Equifax
  • Experian
  • TransUnion

Be sure to check your credit before you apply. That way, you can avoid applying to apartments that you don't qualify for.

Keep in mind landlords are free to choose the credit reporting agency they will pull your score from. Your score can differ between each of the three reports at any given time, sometimes very significantly. So, it's a good idea to ask about the reporting agency your landlord will be checking and plan accordingly.

Why Do You Need a Good Credit Score to Rent an Apartment?

Nick Meyer, a certified financial professional and financial influencer, shared the relationship between a good credit score and the apartment application process.

"Your credit score acts as your financial report card: it's a number that tells banks, landlords, and even employers how likely you are to pay off your debts. The lower this number is, the less likely landlords are to approve your rental applications."

@nicktalksmoney

Reply to @victorgrabru What is a credit score?🤔💳 #credit #creditscore #personalfinance #learnontiktok #money

♬ Monkeys Spinning Monkeys - Kevin MacLeod

So what should you do if you have a low score?

What to Do If You Have a Low Credit Score

Everyone's financial situation is unique, and your credit score will reflect that fact. Whether you're recovering from bankruptcy or building credit for the first time in your life, there's a chance that you may have a sub-650 credit score.

Don't panic! A score below 650 doesn't mean that you'll never be able to rent your dream apartment. However, it’ll take additional effort on your part to make it happen. Here are some tips that will help you rent with bad credit.

Be Honest

Don't make the mistake of trying to hide a poor credit score. Landlords will be performing an extensive screening on an applicant, including a credit check. They'll find out. Being honest with your prospective landlord before the credit check helps to give you a fighting chance.

Explain Your Situation

As stated earlier, everyone's financial situation is unique. Knowing if you have a good credit score and reviewing your credit history means you can explain the blemishes causing your poor score. This tactic can be especially beneficial if these issues stem from mistakes made years in the past.

Come Prepared

Though explaining your credit report's flaws might work to persuade your landlord to allow you to rent with them, it's providing proof that will drive your point home. Show up with paperwork showing proof of employment and proof of income. You can also bring bank statements and pay stubs to show your landlord that you're currently in a much better place financially, whatever your previous faults.

Offer to Pay a Higher Security Deposit

Renting your property to anyone is a significant risk. However, landlords often see renters with sub-650 credit scores as a substantial risk. To mitigate your perception as a high-risk tenant, offer to pay a higher security deposit. As long as you’re timely with rent payments and respect the property, it's a no-risk move on your part since you'll get the deposit back at the end of your lease. Landlords see this as a sign of good faith. Win-win!

Provide Plenty of References

You might be proficient at arguing your case. However, it's more convincing to hear from others who can vouch for you. Friends and bosses are often a good choice. However, the best option is a previous landlord. If you have a good relationship with your previous landlord, ask them to be your reference. Landlord to landlord, their referral will carry more weight.

Use a Cosigner

A cosigner is an excellent option for new renters without credit scores. However, anyone can use it. A cosigner takes on the responsibility of paying rent if you’re unable to pay it. The requirements for a cosigner are generally much more strict. They must have a higher income, credit score, and more.

Do You Need Credit To Rent an Apartment?

Most apartment applicants are required to have at least a 650 credit score to rent an apartment.

However, young adults, those with no credit history, those with low credit scores, or victims of identity theft may not meet the necessary credit score needed to rent an apartment.

No credit check apartments allow applicants to rent with a low credit score or without having an established credit history.

Should You Avoid No-Credit-Check Apartments?

Though it may seem the easiest way to rent with a low credit score, so-called "no credit check" apartments are not good options. Landlords want to ensure that they're getting a high-quality tenant because they care about protecting their income and property.

You wouldn't lend thousands of dollars to someone you don't believe will pay you back. Landlords avoid renting to prospects with poor credit because of the perception that they will default on rent payments. If a landlord is willing to take on that risk, something fishy could be going on.

"No-credit-check" apartments are designed to attract renters who face difficulties or have few to no other options.

Landlords can take advantage of tenants by renting uninhabitable apartments. They may provide little to no maintenance, high fees, and lax security. Though not all "no-credit-check" apartments are scams, a fair chunk of them are. You should avoid them.

Quick Tips for Improving Your Credit Score

A surefire way to increase your chances of renting with a low credit score is to improve it. That said, it's not something that you can do overnight, especially if you have a long-standing history of non-payment or late debt payments. It can take years to repair a credit score fully. However, all hope is not lost.

You can do some things in the short term to improve your credit score. Here are some quick tips for raising your credit score.

Don't Close Old Cards

Closing old cards is often the biggest mistake people make when improving their credit score. Though you may have older cards that you simply do not use, it's better to keep them open. Older cards contribute to the average age of your credit. In many cases, the older your credit card accounts, the better your credit.

Pay What You Can, As Often As You Can

It's unlikely that you'll be able to pay all your credit card balances off at once. Instead, pay as much as you can in small increments and meet the minimum monthly payment for each of your credit card balances.

Call Your Credit Card Issuer

If you can successfully negotiate a higher credit limit with your card issuer, the percentage of credit used can go down significantly. Credit utilization is a huge factor in your credit score, and bumping your credit limit can be the one change you need!

Increase Your Credit

Diversifying your credit can improve your score, and a mix of loans and credit cards is ideal. Sometimes opening another credit card in your name can make a positive impact!

Have a Balanced Credit Mix

When determining your credit score, the major factors include your payment history, credit utilization, length of credit history, and credit mix. To have a balanced credit mix to help boost your score, you will want to have various installment and revolving credit options. Credit mix can account for up to 10% of your credit score.

Only Use Less Than 30% of Your Available Credit

As mentioned, credit utilization also makes up a significant chunk of your credit score, which is the portion of your credit limit that you’re using at any time is your utilization, which you want to aim for 30% or lower.

Limit Your Hard Inquiries

It’s a well-balanced juggle between opening accounts to establish credit and managing your hard inquiries, which will inevitably come with credit applications. While one application at a time won’t be harmful in how it affects your credit scores, having multiples can.

Are Landlords Looking at Credit Scores or the Whole Report?

Credit scores alone can present an unrealistic picture of a prospect's financial status and history. However, by viewing your entire credit report, landlords can take a deep dive into your credit history.

Your credit score is impacted by payment history, the type of accounts you have, recent activity, and the length of time you've had your accounts opened.

Simple things such as opening a new credit account or missing a single payment can damage how it affects your credit scores. On the other hand, your score may increase dramatically over a month.

That said, a low credit score will rarely be enough to altogether remove you from consideration as a prospective tenant. However, the additional information on your credit report must indicate your financial stability and ability to pay your rent on time.

What Landlords Look for on Credit Reports

In addition to your credit score, credit reports contain essential information related to your financial habits and history that landlords may review, including:

Debt to Income Ratio

This metric shows the amount of your monthly pre-tax income that goes toward debt payments.

Credit Card Balances

Landlords will look to see whether you are carrying high credit card balances on your accounts.

Bankruptcies

If you've ever experienced bankruptcy, it will appear on your credit report. Unfortunately, it’s challenging to explain bankruptcy, so it may diminish your chances of renting successfully.

Rental History

Some landlords and rental property managers will report your rent payments to a credit bureau. You can even request this service online. If you have low-to-no credit, this is a great way to demonstrate that you have a history of paying rent on time.

How Does Renting an Apartment Impact Your Credit Score

It’s important to note that rental applications will impact your credit score. When it comes to pulling your credit score, there are two different types of inquiries; soft vs. hard.

Soft Credit Inquiries

Also referred to as soft credit checks or soft pulls, soft credit inquiries allow the interested parties to review your overall credit.

Examples of soft credit inquiries include:

  • Employer credit checks
  • Higher credit limit requests
  • Credit pre-approval offers

Soft credit inquiries will not impact your credit score at all.

Hard Credit Inquiries

Hard credit inquiries, often referred to as hard credit checks or hard pulls, check your creditworthiness and history to see how well you manage your credit accounts.

Common hard credit inquiries include:

  • Utility applications
  • Credit applications
  • Rental applications

These types of inquiries can drop your Fico credit score by a few points, so it’s essential to be mindful of this. Too many hard inquiries affect your credit scores negatively, ultimately impacting your ability to rent an apartment in the future.

Do You Need Credit To Rent an Apartment? Most apartment applicants are required to have at least a 650 credit score to rent an apartment.

However, young adults, those with no credit history, those with low credit scores, or victims of identity theft may not meet the necessary credit score needed to rent an apartment.

No credit check apartments allow applicants to rent with a low credit score or without having an established credit history. How to Find a For Rent By Owner No Credit Apartment To find a for rent by owner no credit check apartment, you will first need to find for rent by owner apartments.

These apartments aren’t too challenging to find, as they are typically located in single or multi-family homes.

If that matches your preferred apartment, start your search on less formal apartment listing websites such as Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. You can also prowl your neighborhood to scope out for rent by owner units.

Once you collect a good bunch of units, reach out to owners individually and discuss your credit situation to determine whether the owner would be willing to consider renting without a credit check. Where to Find No Credit Check Apartments Near Me? Finding a no-credit-check apartment will take some work, as they are in the minority of available units.

You’ll need to spend some time scouring apartment listings and going through the process of elimination that removes apartments that require credit checks, scams, and units that wouldn’t be a good fit for you.

Fortunately, Apartment List makes this easy for you. We match you with units that suit your preferences. From there, you can reach out to your favorite apartment matches to ask about their flexibility around credit checks and explain your credit situation.

To find a for rent by owner no credit check apartment, you will first need to find for rent by owner apartments.

These apartments aren’t too challenging to find, as they are typically located in single or multi-family homes.

If that matches your preferred apartment, start your search on less formal apartment listing websites such as Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. You can also prowl your neighborhood to scope out for rent by owner units.

Once you collect a good bunch of units, reach out to owners individually and discuss your credit situation to determine whether the owner would be willing to consider renting without a credit check.

Where to Find No Credit Check Apartments Near Me?

Finding a no-credit-check apartment will take some work, as they are in the minority of available units.

You’ll need to spend some time scouring apartment listings and going through the process of elimination that removes apartments that require credit checks, scams, and units that wouldn’t be a good fit for you.

Fortunately, Apartment List makes this easy for you. We match you with units that suit your preferences. From there, you can reach out to your favorite apartment matches to ask about their flexibility around credit checks and explain your credit situation.

Final Thoughts

Searching for apartments can often feel like you’re in the middle of a complex hoop-jumping routine. From researching your Fico credit score to determining what you can afford in rent, there's a lot to know before you even get started on your search.

That said, once you make all the necessary preparations, it's time to find your dream apartment. However, finding an apartment that meets all your needs is challenging. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed looking for cheaper rent or a decent apartment in a trendy neighborhood.

When you use Apartment List, you don’t have to spend hours doing the sorting and sifting yourself. We’ll do it for you! Simply enter all the parameters you need your apartment to meet, and hit submit. Start your apartment search using the quiz above!

So what should you do if you have a low score?

Frequently Asked Questions

What are no-credit-check apartments?

No credit check apartments are units that can be rented by anyone regardless of their credit score or history. Landlords and property managers advertising no credit check apartments won’t check your credit during the apartment application process.

How to get an apartment with low credit?

To get an apartment with low credit, you should do one or more of the following:

  • Offer to sign with a guarantor
  • Provide proof of income/ability to pay upfront
  • Discuss your credit situation with your landlord or property manager
  • Choose for rent by owner apartments
  • Postpone your move and use the time to build your credit

How to improve your credit score?

Improving your credit score starts with paying off your debt as quickly and consistently as possible. However, if you have no credit history, you can apply for a secured credit card to establish credit. Additionally, you can improve your credit score by:

  • Checking your credit reports for errors
  • Increasing your credit variety
  • Allowing your credit lines to age
  • Requesting a higher credit limit
  • Limit hard credit inquiries

How to find a no-credit-check apartment?

To find no-credit-check apartments, start by narrowing down a list of potential apartments, reaching out to landlords and property managers regarding the rental process and credit checks. Once you’ve found a good fit, be sure to submit an application quickly!

Can you rent an apartment with no credit score?

Yes, it is possible to rent an apartment with no credit score. However, you may need to narrow your search down to no-credit-check apartments or for-rent-by-owner apartments to increase your chances.

What credit score do you need to rent an apartment?

Typically, the minimum credit score required to rent is 650. However, that number can vary based on the market.

What do landlords look for on credit reports?

They look at your debt to income ratios, credit card balances, bankruptcies, and rental history.

Do apartments check credit scores?

Yes, they do. Typically, the realtor or leasing agent will ask you to provide a credit report, or they'll run a credit check on you.

Can you get an apartment with a credit score of 500?

Typically, tenants need a credit score of 650 or higher. If you have a score of 500, we recommend that you co-sign with someone with higher credit or apply for no credit check apartments.

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DAVINA WARD
Davina Ward is a contributing author at Apartment List and freelance writer specializing in real estate and digital marketing. She received her B. Read More
EMILY KHO
Emily is a professionally trained writer who covers a wide range of topics but specializes in business and hospitality content. With over a decade of professional writing experience in the hospitality industry, Emily comes from a strong background in the field backed with a BS from the world-renowned William F. Read More
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