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Shopping for a new rental is stressful. Once you find the rental of your dreams or at least the rental you hate the least, you will enter into the application process, complete with authorization for the Landlord to pull your credit report.
Landlords use credit checks to assess whether a tenant presents as trustworthy and responsible.
Can a Landlord Run a Credit Check?
Landlords are legally allowed to run a credit check as long as the potential tenant knows that the Landlord is running one and has authorized it by giving their written consent.
Landlords will need to know the tenant’s full name, date of birth, and social security number to pull their credit.
Why Do Landlords Require a Credit Check?
Credit scores are one way that Landlords use to determine the trustworthiness of a potential tenant.
High credit scores generally suggest that the tenant has a good track record of paying their bills on time and does not have an excessive amount of debt.
Lower credit scores could indicate that tenants have a history of not paying their bills on time and maybe a large credit load.
Credit reports also reveal past evictions. Ultimately, the Landlords use the credit report as one tool to predict whether or not the potential tenant will be a good choice.
Are Rental Credit Checks a Hard or Soft Inquiry?
Rental credit checks can be both, but most likely, landlords will want to do “hard” inquiries so they can get the full picture.
Some rental companies will use a 3rd party company to check for criminal records and sex offender information.
If you are concerned about what a hard inquiry will do to your credit score, it is always a good idea to ask the Landlord which type of check they are running.
If the Landlord is planning a “hard” pull, you can offer to provide them with a credit check you have pulled on yourself, which is considered “soft,’ but also still details all the information that they will need to see without impacting your credit score.
What Information Can a Landlord See in a Credit Check?
Because Landlords usually will be doing the “hard” inquiry credit checks, they are privy to all of the information on your credit report.
They are more concerned with a myriad of factors than just the 3-digit credit score. Landlords are looking for credit load, credit mix, payment history specifically. A red flag they are also looking for is prior evictions.
How Do I Pass a Rental Credit Check?
#1. Monitor Your Credit
The best way not to be surprised by what your potential Landlord might find on your credit report is to be familiar with it yourself.
No news is not good news. You can pull credit reports for free from the 3 bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
Ultimately, the Landlord wants to rent to someone they know will pay their bills on time. If you missed a couple of payments a few years ago, you can come to your Landlord with a plan for why this won’t happen again in the future.
Finding out what is on your credit report and having a strategy to correct any missteps will show the Landlord that you are serious about being a solid tenant.
Learn More: Best Credit Monitoring Services
#2. Dispute Inaccurately Reported Items
This goes hand in hand with knowing what is on your report. If you see something that is inaccurate, you can dispute it!
You can dispute the errors directly with each of the credit bureaus. They have 30 days to respond, and if they agree, they will remove the mistake immediately.
#3. Make On-Time Payments
Even if you have a shaky credit history, making on-time payments on all your debts for some time before applying for an apartment can show landlords that you have turned a corner. On-time payments will also positively impact your credit score.
#4. Find a Co-Signer
Finding someone with a strong credit score to sign on the dotted line with you is probably the best way for Landlords to overlook a bad credit score.
Co-signers signing their name on your lease will legally guarantee that the rent gets paid.
This helps put Landlords’ minds at ease.
#5. Show Income
Rental applications will ask for proof of income, but you can provide landlords with proof of income for a few months.
If your credit score leaves something to be desired, showing your Landlord that you not only have income but that you have a steady income could work in your favor.
The Landlord will want to know that you can afford your rent and that your income is at least 3x the proposed rent.
#6. Shop Around
Apartments that are independent and not run by corporations will be more likely to make exceptions in bad credit situations.
What is important to one Landlord may not even be on the radar of another.
Is There a Minimum Credit Score to Rent an Apartment?
Most landlords are looking for credit scores that are at least 620. However, some landlords will want credit scores of at least 700.
Credit scores less than 620 will often require higher deposits, co-signers, or roommates. Market climate can also determine how likely a landlord is to overlook lower credit scores.
If they are having trouble filling the units, they may be more willing to work with tenants with a lower credit score.
Learn More: Minimum Credit Score to Rent an Apartment
How Can I Rent with an Eviction on My Record?
An eviction on your credit record does not equal couch surfer for life. People with evictions will need to work a little harder than people with good credit, but it is not impossible.
Having a co-signer on your rental application is probably the easiest way to have an eviction overlooked. If you cannot find a co-signer, you need to be prepared to pay a larger deposit and have all your financial documents organized and ready.
Proving that you are in a good financial position now with a stable job can help your cause. Also, it cannot hurt to have a bunch of good references or be willing to take on a roommate.
Bottom Line: How to Pass a Rental Credit Check
Being honest with a future landlord about your credit history and any former evictions is the best way to pass a credit check.