Although good credit comes in handy, it’s not the only factor that landlords use to decide whether or not to rent to you. To understand how to beat a bad credit rap, you need to understand why landlords check credit in the first place: they want to know if you will pay your rent in a timely fashion. There are other ways to demonstrate your trustworthiness.
If a landlord requires a credit report, ask to provide it yourself. Too many “hard inquiries,” requests for your score from people other than yourself, can lower your score. Additionally, you should attach a letter to your reports, explaining past financial hardship that resulted in a less-than-stellar number, and how those issues have been resolved so they will not affect your current ability to pay rent.
If possible, also attach a letter of recommendation from your previous landlord. In most cases, such a recommendation will mean much more than a simple score. And property managers want conscientious tenants, so the effort of providing extra documentation might win you points.
Know your credit history, and be aware of how it has affected your current score; as the saying goes, forewarned is forearmed. Every year, you’re entitled to one free credit report from the three biggest credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. The TrueCredit 3-in-1 Credit Report will tell you whether these bureaus have reported your scores differently and how each calculates your score. Knowing these numbers ahead of time will prevent any surprise questions from a potential landlord, and may also help you understand how to build good credit going forward.
Another strategy to avoid rejection is to search for apartments whose managers don’t require credit checks. Smaller apartments and single family homes, especially in non-competitive areas, are most likely to rent without a credit score.
Finally, it’s important to remember that most landlords don’t have a particular, deal-breaking score in mind. It might take more time or further explaining, but if you’re proactive about your apartment search, you should be able to rent…even if your credit leaves something to be desired.
Have you been able to secure a rental with less-than-perfect credit? Tell others how–here or on Facebook!