Just because you have bad credit, or even no credit, doesn’t mean you have to slink away from every apartment complex that runs a credit check on potential tenants. Despite a low credit score on your credit report, you can still make a case for yourself to convince a potential landlord or apartment manager that you’ll pay the rent on time.
Here are 11 things you can do to help persuade individual landlords, property management companies or apartment complexes that you’ve got what it takes to be a reliable tenant.
1. Review Your Credit Report.
It’s easy to get a free credit report at annualcreditreport.com. Major credit bureaus TransUnion, Equifax and Experian are also required to provide one credit report annually. Review your credit report for accuracy and dispute any errors that can raise your credit score if corrected or removed.
2. Be Upfront.
Not being honest or trying to hide bad credit creates distrust with the landlord and will likely lead to not getting accepted for the apartment, says Bekka Cirel, a realtor in Newton, MA. “If you are forthcoming, you can come up with a game plan with your agent and present an application that creates context and a more in-depth story about who you are beyond what’s on the standard application.”
3. Provide Other Evidence of Financial Responsibility.
Using “alternate” credit history that’s not on your credit report but shows you pay your bills on time such as cell phone, credit card and utilities payment history. Submit pay stubs with the rental application to prove a stable income.
4. Have Money in a Bank Account.
Sell stuff on Craigslist, get a side hustle, borrow money from your parents or whatever you need to do to scrounge up at least $1,000 (more is better) to show landlords that you have money in a savings or other bank account to cover emergencies that might otherwise keep you from paying monthly rent.
5. Try Smaller Complexes.
Usually, large apartment complexes are more guideline and policy-driven, says realtor and landlord Benjamin Ross.
“Smaller apartment complexes may be managed by the owners or smaller management companies,” says Ross. “These people may be willing to listen to your circumstances regarding your credit.”
6. Shop Around.
Go apartment hunting in neighborhoods that aren’t as trendy or desirable when it comes to location. You’ll have less competition and a better chance of making the cut with a lower credit score.
7. Get a Co-signer or Roommate.
The easiest way to offset your poor credit score is to include someone else on the application who has strong credit, says Logan Allec, a CPA and owner of personal finance site Money Done Right.
“Both scenarios should provide you a financial buffer to rent an apartment, since another person is on the hook for rent,” says Allec.
8. Offer to Pay a Larger Deposit or Prepay Rent.
When you have bad credit, a landlord’s biggest worry is that you won’t make rent payments on time.
“Some landlords may be willing to accept a larger security deposit or two months of pre-paid rent as an assurance you will be able to pay rent,” says Allec.
9. Dress to Impress.
“Let the property manager know you value and take care of yourself,” says Ross.
10. Bring Proof of Good Rental History.
If you’re rented before and paid rent on time, contact former landlords for letters of recommendation that you can submit with your apartment application.
11. Show That You’re Taking Steps to Improve Your Credit Score.
Potential landlords may be more forgiving of bad credit if you prove you’re taking steps to change for the better. Enroll in a free or low-cost money management course offered by a nonprofit consumer credit counseling agency, church or other community resource to show you’re serious about financial responsibility.