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What Is a Lease Guarantor? [2023 Guide]

November 28, 2023
A lease guarantor will co-sign your apartment lease with you, but is it necessary? Find out if you need a lease guarantor and how to find one if you do.

In expensive cities with high rent prices, landlords may have steep demands from their applicants. In these places, a lease guarantor or co-signer can provide a bit more financial security for both parties.

If you want to learn more about how lease guarantors work, you’ve come to the right place.

Let's dive in.

A Guide to Lease Guarantors

What Is a Lease Guarantor?

A lease guarantor is someone who co-signs an apartment lease, accepting responsibility for paying a tenant’s rent and any other fees during a leasing period if the tenant cannot pay.

Guarantors are usually parents, family members, or close friends who are willing and financially able to help you out if you can't cover your rent.

Looking for more? Check out this great breakdown from Maverick Law Firm:

Why Would You Need a Lease Guarantor?

A lease guarantor is an added layer of security for a landlord if they're unsure about a prospective tenant. As a renter, here are a few reasons you may want a guarantor on a lease:

  • You do not have a tenant referral
  • You have poor credit
  • You have a history of bankruptcy
  • You have prior evictions
  • You do not have an established income
  • You just started a new job
  • You are a student sharing a living space
  • You have limited income that falls below the requirements
  • You are renting for the first time

Finding a guarantor or co-signer can be helpful for renters. However, it’s important to understand the differences between the two.

Reasons to Consider a Guarantor

Lease Guarantors vs. Co-signers: What’s the Difference

Most landlords use terms like co-signers and guarantors interchangeably. Technically, however, a guarantor is responsible for stepping in and paying rent if it’s unpaid, while a co-signer may be added to the lease as another tenant with the right to occupy the property.

Depending on the city, your landlord may use different terms. For example, San Francisco typically calls any guarantor added to the lease a “co-signer,” but in New York City, landlords call this person the “guarantor” for an apartment.

Is It Better to Have a Co-Signer or Guarantor?

Because co-signers are considered additional tenants, they are legally responsible for rent throughout the length of the agreement. A guarantor is only responsible once the tenant has failed to pay rent on time. Moreover, a co-signer has the same rights to use the property as a tenant. Therefore, which one you choose will depend on your situation, and whether the person signing with you wishes to have the rights (and responsibilities) of a lessee.

Who Can Be a Guarantor?

Anyone can be a guarantor, but they are commonly parents or other family members or close friends. There are also lease guarantor companies you can work with, but be mindful of their requirements should you fail to make rent, and make sure they are well-reviewed, legitimate operations.

Here are some common characteristics of guarantors:

  • Excellent credit history
  • Proof of income
  • Over 21 years of age
  • Separate banking information from the tenant
  • Annual salary 80x the monthly rent

Common Guarantor Requirements

What Does a Guarantor Need to Provide?

Most landlords make it clear what kind of financial guarantee they want from a lease, but just in case, make sure to read the lease's fine print. Here are a few of the common guarantor requirements:

  • Social security number
  • Bank statements
  • Tax returns
  • Pay stubs

Now that you have a basic understanding of guarantor requirements, let’s move on to finding a guarantor.

What Are the Risks of Being a Guarantor?

Being a guarantor means that you are taking financial responsibility for someone's rent payment should they be unable to pay it. A failure to meet that responsibility could mean damage to your credit or even having your assets seized.

If you agree to become a guarantor for someone, make sure you trust them, and make sure that you have the funds to cover their rent payments if they fall short.

How Long Does a Guarantor Stay on the Lease?

Typically, a guarantor will remain on the lease for the full length of the rental agreement.

How to Find a Lease Guarantor

Guarantors usually aren’t casual acquaintances or younger friends at the beginning of their careers. Rather, they are family members, close friends, or understanding employers with good credit scores and hearts of gold to back your lease. When you're looking for a guarantor, choose someone you can trust who also has the ability to help you out if you face any financial setbacks.

A landlord will also likely ask for detailed information about your guarantor's finances, credit history, and willingness to step up and pay rent if necessary. Therefore, everyone must be comfortable with the arrangement.

Alternatives to Finding a Guarantor

Looking to Move Soon?

Ready to move to the city of your dreams but need an apartment lease guarantor? Do your legwork early and use Apartment List to find properties accepting guarantors. Then, make sure to build good faith with your friends and family. Try to build a special emergency fund into your budget to cover your rent in a pinch.

Lease Guarantor FAQs

What are the Pros and Cons of Having a Lease Guarantor?

  • PRO: easier to approve younger tenants without rental history
  • PRO: more security than a security deposit
  • PRO: may help prevent evictions
  • PRO: get the funds needed for back rent
  • CON: does not guarantee a good renter
  • CON: payment recovery process can still be challenging
  • CON: the landlord may need to take two individuals to court for refusal to pay
  • CON: landlords may need to contact two individuals for late payments

What Credit Score Does a Guarantor Need?

There is no minimum credit score requirement for a guarantor, but they typically have very good credit, reflected in a credit score of at least 750 or above.

How Much is a Guarantor Fee?

If you need a guarantor and decide to find one through a company, they usually charge a fee of up to 85 percent of one month's rent.

Does Being a Guarantor Have an Effect on Your Credit Score?

Being a guarantor does not affect your credit score. However, if you fail to cover any missed rental payments, that will have a negative impact on your credit.

Can You Be Your Own Guarantor?

In some rare instances, landlords may allow you to be your own guarantor if you put your assets up. Typically, however, if your landlord wants you to get a guarantor, it’ll be a third party.

Does a Guarantor Sign the Lease?

An apartment lease guarantor will sign the lease as a legally binding document. After providing their guarantor information, the landlord will request their signature on the lease agreement.

What if You Can’t Find a Lease Guarantor or Co-signer?

It's not the end of the world if you can't find a guarantor or co-signer for your lease. There are some companies like willing to act as your lease guarantor or co-signer.

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Dr. Katherine Blake
Dr. Katherine Blake is a content editor with Apartment List, where she helps ensure our renter and rental management content is fresh and informed by the latest data. Read More
Emily Kho
Emily is a professionally trained writer who covers a wide range of topics associated with the rental market and real estate industry. With over a decade of professional writing experience, Emily comes from a strong background in the field backed with a Bachelor of Science from the world-renowned William F. Read More
Tristian Brown
Tristian Brown is a Senior Content Marketing Associate at Apartment List, where he manages high-quality content that helps modern renters find the perfect home. He brings an immense wealth of knowledge to the team, having earned a Bachelor of Arts in Marketing and European Management from the University of San Diego and EM Strasbourg Business School. Read More
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