Here are some important things to remember: although good credit is definitely useful as some landlords require credit checks, bad credit does NOT mean you won’t be able to find a place to rent. There is not a magical minimum credit score that will open or close all doors. Apartment landlords consider many factors when deciding whether to rent to you; it comes down to whether you will be able to pay your rent for the duration of your lease. Your credit score is only one piece of evidence in this evaluation. To maximize your likelihood of signing a lease, consider the following suggestions.
Know your credit history
Go into your rental hunt with your eyes open. The three largest credit bureaus, Experian ,Equifax, and TransUnion, are required to give you a free credit report, upon request, each year. You can also get a 3-in-1 Credit Report from TrueCredit, which shows your scores from the three bureaus and allows you to compare and note any discrepancies. You should have all this information before your potential landlord does, to avoid any surprises.
Search for rentals that do not require credit checks
Different landlords have different standards, and many home or apartment rentals can be leased without delving too deeply into credit history. This is especially true for smaller apartment buildings or single-family homes. The less competition for a given rental, the less likely you’ll have to submit your scores. Looking for cheaper apartments for rent might also be a good option.
Ask to provide your credit score yourself
If your report is required, request to submit it yourself. You can attach a statement explaining problems that appear on report. This is your opportunity to demonstrate that despite your score, you will be able to pay your rent on time and until your lease expires. If possible, also attach a letter of recommendation from previous landlord(s). Not only will explanations and letters put the number on your credit report into perspective, it also demonstrates responsibility. Many people have gone through periods of financial hardship—what’s important is that your landlord sees that your current situation is stable, and that you can be trusted.
Avoid too many “hard inquiries”
A “hard inquiry” about credit is one made by someone other than yourself. Too many of these will lower your score. This is another good reason to provide credit reports to landlords yourself, rather than waiting for them to run a check.
A bad credit score does not mean you can never rent again—it just might mean a little extra work. For more information, check out our blog post on Credit Scores and Apartments for Rent.