How to Rent an Apartment with Bad Credit

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Updated: 13th Mar 2021
Written by Meagan Drew
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March 13, 2021
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Renting an apartment with bad credit is not easy, but it is not impossible either. Some landlords will red stamp applications based solely on credit score regardless of salary or rental history.

However, there are plenty of landlords out there who are willing to give renters a chance if they are willing to take a few extra steps to position themselves favorably.

A 620-credit score or better is where you need to be in order to be considered a low-risk applicant. Just because your credit score is under 620 does not mean you have to live in a van down by the river.

You can rent an apartment with bad credit. You just need to be prepared to go the extra mile for your landlord to prove your reliability.

How to Rent an Apartment with Bad Credit (Step-by-Step)

#1. Get Your Credit Report

Knowing your credit score is imperative to knowing where you stand in the eyes of your future landlord. This is not a no news is good news situation.

Landlords will use your credit score to project whether you will pay your bills on time. If you know ahead of time that you are applying at a disadvantage, you can come to the table with mitigating factors and increase your chances of securing a rental.

#2. Review Your Credit Report

Ok, so you know your credit score is less than stellar, but do you know why your credit report is on the low end? Your credit report will tell you not only your score but what contributed to your score.

Were you 60 days late on a payment on your credit card in 2015? Were you evicted from a different rental?

Was there a bill pay mix-up with your car note? You might also see something on your credit score that you do not believe to be true.

For instances like this, you can file a dispute directly with the credit bureau and maybe have that removed.

If it’s an instance you know, you are responsible for- accepting it, and having a plan for how to avoid the same instance in the future will help make you a more desirable candidate to your future landlord.

Again, you cannot address something you don’t know about, so pulling your credit report and familiarizing yourself with it is super important.

#3. Be Honest with Your Landlords

This really goes hand in hand with knowing your score and blemishes on your report. If you can acknowledge your mistakes and have a plan to avoid making them in the future, landlords will consider you more trustworthy.

After all, the credit score only tells a piece of the picture. In the eyes of a landlord, not all missed payments are equal.

Explaining that your low credit score is because you missed a credit card payment but being able to show them that you have no evictions or missed rent payments might help instill confidence in you as a renter.

#4. Offer to Pay More

Not exactly what anyone wants to hear, but you can offer to pay more. This might mean paying a higher security deposit, first and last month’s rent, or maybe 3 months’ rent upfront.

You might need to save for some time before you can plunk down that kind of cash, so building up a fund beforehand to pull from in these circumstances is a great idea.

#5. Find A Co-Signer

A person with a solid credit report who is willing to sign on your lease is another way to go. A co-signer is on the hook for the money if you were to default on your payments, so don’t be surprised if people are not beating down your door to co-sign with you.

If you can secure a co-signer, the landlord will likely take you more seriously because they know they will be able to get their money somehow if you stop making payments.

#6. Shop Around

Just because you do not have desirable credit does not mean that you cannot shop around for the best deal. Some landlords will not even check credit reports.

Some landlords will only care about evictions. Larger property management firms are less likely to take a chance on someone.

Using Craigslist, real estate agent recommendations, even classified ads are more likely to result in success.

#7. Find a Roommate

Finding a roommate when you are trying to rent an apartment with bad credit could be another avenue to approval.

You could either find someone in the apartment already to live with, or you could apply with a roommate to move in with you.

If you are applying with a roommate-choose wisely, make sure that the landlord also pulls their credit.

Having a person on the lease with you who has a stronger credit score can help you get the thumbs up! Landlords want to be sure they will get their money somehow, and having an extra person to be responsible to them is even better.

#8. Show Income

Be ready to whip out 2 to 3 months of pay stubs to prove your income and that your income is stable. You may well be able to offset a bad credit score with proof that you have a stable income that is approximately 3-4 times your rent.

Applications will ask for you to report your income but showing finite proof of your income is even better.

What Do Landlords Look for on a Credit Report?

Landlords are looking for a few things on your credit report beyond just your credit score.

  • Debts: You are going to provide your landlord with proof of your income. Your landlord is going to want to check and make sure that all your money is not already spent by the time you get your check.
  • Rental History: These are probably the most important piece of your credit report to landlords. Landlords will be looking for evictions, unpaid bills, and late payments. If you do have any of these things on your report, you are going to want to clear them up right away.
  • Bankruptcies: Chapter 7 and 13 bankruptcies stay on your credit report for 10 years and 7 years, respectively. Landlords will want to know if there was a rental agreement that you settled during your bankruptcy. Bankruptcies that are completed and paid out with a solid credit history afterwards are more likely to be overlooked than active bankruptcy proceedings with no after bankruptcy habits established.

Bottom Line: How to Rent an Apartment with Bad Credit

Just because you have a bad credit score does not mean you cannot rent an apartment. It may not be as easy for you as it would be for someone with a competitive 620 or higher, but it is not impossible.

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Meagan Drew
Meagan Drew
Meagan Drew is a personal finance writer with 7 years experience in wealth management. As a former Series 7 and 63 certified advisor, Meagan specializes in making financial topics relatable and consumable, no matter the reader’s experience level. Meagan is a veteran, military spouse, and mom of 4 currently living in Colorado Springs.