Are you looking for an apartment but have bad credit?
You’re not alone. Many people are in the same boat as you and need to find a way to rent an apartment with bad credit. The pandemic impacted millions of Americans’ employment causing them to miss several months of rent or bills, and when the bill finally came due, they couldn’t pay it.
Or you could be one of millions of Americans who had financial difficulty due to unexpected medical bills that caused you to fall behind on other financial obligations that impacted your credit.
If you have a poor credit score, it doesn’t mean that all hope is lost when trying to find a place. There are still things that you can do in order to make yourself more appealing as a tenant and increase the chances of being approved by the landlord or property manager. Let us show you how to secure your dream apartment despite having poor scores!
Keeping reading to find out how to get an apartment with bad credit by following these steps.
Credit Score Needed to Rent an Apartment
A potential landlord, property manager or property owners will use your credit score to gauge how much of a risk you are: The higher your score, the lower your tenant risk profile, and vice versa. While there is no specific number, having a score of 650 or higher generally is what is needed.
What may matter more is what’s on your credit report, and how you ended up with the credit score you have. Someone could have excellent scores (a high FICO score), but if they had a late payment that wasn’t their fault or an eviction in their past, it might be harder for them to rent than someone who only makes the minimum payments on time each month and doesn’t have any major red flags on their reports.
That said, there are some private landlord out there who are willing to overlook this information, so if you’re determined enough, you may be able to find a landlord willing to rent you an apartment even if your score is low.
Steps to Renting an Apartment with Bad Credit
Figure Out How Much You Can Afford to Spend on Rent
First things first, decide how much you can afford to spend on rent. You’ll have a pretty good idea of what rental rates are where you live, so take the time to think about this before applying anywhere.
If you realize that you can’t really comfortably afford the monthly rent at most places around you, it’s better to be realistic about what your budget is now. That said, there are still apartments out there that will work with lower budgets or allow pets under certain conditions. So if this is your situation, don’t lose hope! It may just mean taking some extra steps like getting roommates or accepting a less desirable apartment.
By being realistic about what you can afford on rent, it will help you chances on being approved for an apartment as the potential landlord will want to ensure you aren’t overextending yourself and have enough money to pay rent along with life expenses.
Be Willing to Pay More Upfront
Before you even start looking at places, you’ll need to consider how much of a deposit and security fee (aka “last month’s rent”) you can afford. Generally, the larger security deposit this amount is, the better off your chances of being approved will be. If you can afford to pay 3-6 months in advance , that will typically help your case as well.
This is especially true if the apartment requires a rental application fee, which some landlords charge on top of deposits and first month’s rent (just like credit reports, this varies by city).
The important thing to remember here is that you should be honest with what you can afford – don’t just try to “do whatever it takes” to get approved only to find yourself struggling because you’re not able to actually pay for what you’ve applied for.
Include a Co-Signer if Needed
If your score isn’t high enough or you have been turned down, consider having a co-signer such as a family member or close friend join your lease. They’ll be responsible for paying the rent along with you if you can’t.
This will help your chances of being approved for an apartment significantly, but it’s important that the person you get to co-sign with is someone who has a good credit score and isn’t at risk of losing their job anytime soon.
Ideally, they should be financially secure in general – so if they have bad or no credit themselves, this probably won’t work out well!
You can always ask friends or family members for this, but if you don’t know anyone well enough to do it yourself, look into getting a reputable co-signer service.
Provide the Landlord with Documentation
To strengthen your chance of getting approved for an apartment, provide the potential landlord with ample documentation. While your credit score plays a big factor in getting approved, it’s not the only thing that factors into their decision.
Provide your potential landlord with documentation of:
- Income: Demonstrating a history of steady income will help prove that you can afford your rent each month. Employers or other income sources should be verified, so landlords will want to see one or two pay stubs , a letter from an employer (or other income source) on company letterhead , or bank statements that reflect your most recent three months of transactions.
- Job history: Showing that you’ve been employed for at least a year will prove to the landlord that you can be relied on as a tenant. If you don’t have much or any job history, provide references from past landlords and employers.
- Rental History: Letting the prospective landlord know that you’ve had good relationships with previous landlords and have always paid rent on time will help to prove that you can be trusted as a tenant. Any documents they may ask for (e.g., your eviction notice or your three most recent paystubs) should be provided without hesitation, so all their concerns about your ability to pay rent on time can be alleviated.
If you’re still getting declined, provide your potential landlord with references and online reviews. If they know that you’ve been a model tenant in the past, it will give them peace of mind and reassure them that they can trust you to take good care of their property.
And providing positive reviews from a recent past landlord is especially helpful since it’s often hard to find someone who will go on record saying good things about an applicant – so if you have one available, use this as a bargaining tool!
Improving Your Credit Score Before Getting an Apartment
If you have bad credit, it will be important for you to improve your score in advance. You can check your current credit score with Experian so you know what you’re working up against when renting an apartment.
Once you’ve done this, focus on the following ways of improving your score:
Pay all outstanding bills on time: Don’t skip out on paying rent or any other bill such as credit card debt- pay them as often as possible at their due date so that nothing is left over and nothing gets reported late.
Don’t rack up new debt: Consider limiting how much new debt (e.g., buying a computer) that you take on while trying improve your credit score – because the more debt you have, the worse your credit score will be.
Don’t close old accounts: Some accounts will age off of your credit report (e.g., 5 years after they’ve been closed), but closing too many accounts or an account that has a high line of available credit can decrease your overall credit utilization ratio , which is another factor that can drag down your score.
Sign up for Experian Boost: If you sign up for Experian Boost you can potentially increase your score instantly as Experian factors your every day bills such as your cell phone bill or utilities into your score. Click on the button below to learn more about this program.
Dispute negative items on your credit report: Dispute any inaccurate information on your credit report to the credit bureaus so it can be removed from your credit history, freeing up needed space. You can also hire a professional organization like Credit Saint to remove any negative information on your credit report that you feel is not accurate or just ask the bureaus to update their records with accounts that are paid in full.
Credit Saint is a company that specializes in helping those with bad credit to improve their score. They have helped thousands of people remove negative items such as late payments and evictions. They offer a no cost consultation, so you can see if the service is right for you before committing.
What can I do if my score is too low for an apartment?
If you have a low credit score, there are a few options that may help. Start with the most obvious one – talk to your landlord about delivering a letter from their credit check company saying you don’t have a negative history on file.
Some landlords or property managers will still accept this and it’s worth a shot since you won’t be missing out on an opportunity to prove yourself in person or through a reference by a former landlord or employer.
How long does it take to remove negative items on my credit report?
It depends on the severity of the negative items and their source. Negative items can be removed from your credit report completely in as little as 30 days, but sometimes they may take longer than that to disappear all together. If you need it removed quickly, consider hiring a professional such as Credit Saint.
How do I find out if my apartment requires a cosigner?
Contact your potential landlord and ask them about their policy on requiring a cosigner. If you need one, they’ll be able to help you get in contact with someone who can work with you, but if not – this will save everyone the headache of having to talk about something that isn’t necessary.
Do I need a cosigner if my credit score is below 550?
If you have bad credit, your potential landlord may ask for someone with good credit to sign on as a co-signer to your lease or they may outright deny you based on what they see. The best way to get around this is to talk to the landlord in person (or over the phone if they won’t let you do this) and explain your situation.
Some landlords are reasonable and may take your word for it, but others will likely accept letters of recommendation from your previous landlord or an employer that states you’ve never had any negative accounts or issues with paying rent.
What is the process for signing up for an apartment with bad credit?
The same as signing up for a new apartment, but make sure you bring a recent pay stub and bank account statements to prove your ability to sign on a lease. If you have good references from previous landlords or employers, bring those along too! If you have no or a bad credit history, you may need a cosigner if the landlord will require one.
Wrapping it Up
If you have a bad credit score, the items we discussed may help your situation. You can bring in letters from previous landlords to show the future landlord that you never had any issues with rent payments and were a responsible tenant. and this may be all it takes for them to approve of renting out an apartment to you.
Taking a proactive approach on understanding how much rent you can afford, and taking steps to improve your score before searching for an apartment will give you a better chance in getting into the apartment that you want.
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