Minimum Credit Score to Rent an Apartment: Is There One?

Written by Kim PinnelliUpdated: 22nd Jun 2021
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Everyone needs a place to live, but it can be tough to qualify for apartment rental if your credit score is particularly low.

Since apartment rental requirements vary from place to place, it may be wise to learn whether there’s a minimum credit score to rent an apartment. Let’s break this topic down in detail.

Why Does Credit Matter When Renting an Apartment?

Any landlord or leasing agent has to be careful with who they let live in their residential properties. To ensure that they get stable tenants whom they can rely on to pay their rent on time every month, they check a variety of financial metrics. One of these is your credit score.

Your credit score is a basic summary of your financial creditworthiness. The number stands in as a general rating for how trustworthy you are regarding loans or long-term financial commitments.

Your credit score goes up when you pay bills on time- and take-out credit responsibly, then pay any existing loans back quickly. Your credit score goes down when you fail to pay your bills and use loans irresponsibly.

Landlords and leasing agents will use your credit score to determine whether you’ll likely be a good tenant over the next year.

Learn More: What is a Good Credit Score?

What Credit Score is Needed to Rent an Apartment?

Credit scores are broken up into a few major categories. A score of:

  • 580 or below is “poor”
  • 580 to 669 is “fair”
  • 670 to 739 is “good”
  • 740 to 799 is “very good”
  • 800 and above is “excellent

Most apartment landlords or leasing agents will want you to have at least a “fair” credit score of around 620 or so.

Some landlords may go below this amount, but they may also compromise other factors like apartment quality or maintenance response time.

Try to aim for a credit score of 620 or higher to get into a decent apartment.

Do You Need Good Credit to Rent an Apartment?

You don’t need exceptionally good credit to rent in the apartment. But it’s also true that the better your credit score is, the better the apartments you’ll be approved for.

That’s because those with higher credit usually have more stable incomes and good spending and lending habits.

This makes landlords and leasing agents more comfortable renting out their high-value space. In contrast, they may not trust people with poor credit to pay higher monthly rental costs.

Learn More: What is a Bad Credit Score?

What is the Average Credit Score to Rent an Apartment?

It depends on where you live and the kind of apartment you want to rent. However, recent surveys suggest that the average credit score for approved applicants for average apartments is 650.

Thus, while 620 is a good minimum credit score to shoot for, 650 is even better, and getting over 700 will allow you to move into even better apartments.

How to Rent an Apartment with a Low Credit Score

While good credit is better for apartment qualification, it takes time to build your credit up if it’s already low. Fortunately, there are ways you can still rent an apartment, even if you have a low credit score.

#1. Proof of On-Time Payments

Landlords care about whether your rent payments are prompt and of the right amount more than anything else.

Therefore, if you show a landlord or property manager proof of six or more on-time rent payments from the last year, they may still approve you for apartment rental even if your credit score is low. Use bank statements or images of your previous rent checks as proof.

#2. Letter of Recommendation

You might also have a good relationship with your previous landlord. Ask them to write you a letter of recommendation to your prospective apartment landlord and explain that you always pay your rent on time and are a good tenant.

#3. Use a Co-Signer

Co-signers are individuals with better credit that agree to take financial responsibility for your loan or, in this case, your apartment rental payments if you default on your part of the agreement.

Co-signers can be anyone you know, ranging from family members to friends. Just be sure that they have a higher credit score than you do.

#4. Pay More Upfront

Some landlords may be willing to overlook a low credit score if you pay a bigger lump sum upfront. Most landlords automatically charge both first and last month’s rent in addition to a security deposit. Pay another month or two in addition to this, and certain landlords might still approve you for rental.

#5. Explain Why Your Credit Score is Low

Sometimes bad things happen to good people, and your credit score may be low due to nothing but bad luck.

It may be helpful to write to or have a conversation with your prospective landlord and explain why your credit score is low.

If you can convince them that your credit score is on the mend and that you’ll be a good tenant regardless, they might still let you rent from them.

4 Quick Tips to Build credit

Even with the above strategies, building credit is the best way to qualify for better apartments over the long-term. Here are some ways you can build credit progressively.

#1. Pay off Your Debt

Refocus your financial strategies to pay off any debts that are still hanging around your credit report.

Old debts drag your credit score down every month and tie up your income. Eliminating these will free up your finances and boost your credit score.

#2. Apply for a Secured Credit Card

Secured credit cards report to all three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion).

This means that, provided you use the card well, your credit score will improve with all three bureaus equally quickly.

#3. Consider a Credit Builder Loan

A credit builder loan is a type of small loan used to help you take out credit for purchases and immediately pay the loan back. This will grow your credit score over time by adding incremental but positive line items to your credit report.

Need to Improve Your Credit Score? Here is what to do

Let’s break down some more advanced credit score boosting strategies.

#1. Optimize Your Credit Utilization

Firstly, be sure to optimize how your credit is being used. Make sure that you don’t have any negative items on your credit report that you aren’t responsible for and that you don’t regularly take-out unnecessary loans or debts.

Remember, your credit utilization accounts for 30% of your credit score. It is important to understand what impacts your rate and what you can do to optimize it.

#2. Monitor Your Credit Report

It’s always a good idea to keep a sharp eye on your credit report so you can immediately jump on any dips, particularly those that may be due to a reporting error from a store or vendor.

Related: Best Credit Monitoring Services

#3. Try a Credit Repair Company

Lastly, consider trying a credit repair company. Credit repair companies can contact the major credit bureaus and advocate on your behalf, as well as convince vendors and credit furnishers to eliminate or explain negative charges that were their faults, not yours.

Want to Learn More? Read our full Credit Saint Review


Can I Rent an Apartment with a 600 Credit Score?

Sometimes. A credit score of 600 isn’t particularly good, and you may need to follow one of the low-credit apartment rental strategies mentioned above.

Can I Get an Apartment with a 550 Credit Score?

A credit score of 550 is even worse. You may only qualify for subpar apartments in bad parts of town. Try to use the credit building strategies mentioned above to get your score at least about 600.

Bottom Line: Minimum Credit Score to Rent an Apartment

All in all, renting an apartment typically requires a minimum credit score of between 620 and 650. The higher you go, the better the apartments will be able to rent.

But even if you have low credit, you might qualify for certain apartment rentals by implementing some smart strategies.

More Credit Resources:

Kim Pinnelli
Kim Pinnelli

Kim Pinnelli is a Senior Writer, Editor, & Product Analyst with a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has been a professional financial writer for over 15 years, and has appeared in a myriad of industry leading financial media outlets. Leveraging her personal experience, Kim is committed to helping people take charge of their personal finances and make simple financial decisions.