Although there’s no minimum credit score needed for an apartment, landlords will give preference to renters with stronger credit.
Still, that doesn’t mean that your credit score has to stand as a barrier to obtaining an affordable, comfortable apartment. Here are some tips for securing an apartment, even if you have low or no credit.
1. Check for Errors in Your Credit Report
First, it might help to ensure that your credit score is accurate. You can receive a free credit report through each of the major credit bureaus once each year without affecting your credit.
An error on your credit report could artificially lower your score, so if you discover an error, contact the credit bureau that issued the report as soon as possible. Errors can linger on your credit history for a few months or even a year, but the sooner you address them, the sooner you can expect your credit to see a boost.
2. Get a Roommate
Landlords may look favorably upon your application if you have a roommate. Your roommate’s credit history doesn’t have to outshine your own (though that may help), and some landlords may simply count on the reliability of two income streams to approve your rental application.
3. Find a Cosigner
If you know someone with a good credit score, they can cosign on the rental agreement. This may help you get the apartment and improve your overall creditworthiness as you build your credit history over time. Getting a cosigner can be a good option for young adults who need a boost from their parents to secure their first apartment.
Be warned, though, that if the renter doesn’t pay their rent, the cosigner will be held liable. Therefore, if you have a poor credit history, it can be difficult to find cosigners who are willing to offer assistance.
4. Provide Documentation of Your Income
Landlords may look more favorably upon your application if you can provide supporting documentation to verify your monthly income. Pay stubs or recent tax returns can demonstrate your current earning power, which can bolster your case even if your credit is low.
Verifying a consistent and extended employment history can also help persuade a landlord that you’ll be a reliable tenant.
5. Offer a Higher Deposit
Traditionally, landlords expect a security deposit equal to a single month’s rent, but if you offer up to two or three months of rent, that can show the landlord that you’re capable of covering the cost. It will also lower your landlord’s risk in approving you since they’ll have the rent money upfront.
6. Commit to a Shorter Lease
The length of a lease agreement varies by the landlord, but a year is quite common. Understandably, landlords are cautious about committing to potentially bad tenants for that long. Offer to commit to a shorter lease — month-to-month, for example — to mitigate the landlord’s risk and improve your chances.
7. Explain Your Current Circumstances
It never hurts to plead your case with a prospective landlord. Explaining your financial history can put past mistakes into perspective that landlords may sympathize with, overlooking a less-than-stellar credit score.
8. Find a Landlord Who Doesn’t Check Your Credit
If all else fails, you can always search for a landlord who doesn’t require a credit check to qualify for an apartment. Generally, smaller apartment owners will be less likely to check your credit score, while larger corporate landlords make this a regular part of the screening process.
9. Improve Your Credit Score
Though it isn’t a short-term solution, you’ll have a better chance of securing future housing by improving your credit score. Consistent, on-time bill payments can be a good start. For a complete guide, read these tips on building your personal credit.