Can you get an apartment with bad credit?

Many landlords will want a good or excellent credit score before they will lease you an apartment.

Higher credit scores suggest you pose a low risk of late or missed payments, while lower credit scores indicate you are more of a risk.

Some landlords will look at other public information, too, including evictions, bankruptcies and court judgments.

The good news is that none of these factors has to be a deal breaker.

How to find an apartment with bad credit

Colorful old buildings on 10th Street in the East Village of Manhattan in New York City NYC
Ryan DeBerardinis / Shutterstock
Colorful old buildings on 10th Street in the East Village of Manhattan in New York City

If your credit score is working against you, you'll need to find other ways to position yourself as a trustworthy applicant.

Here are some steps you can take to look your best as a potential renter:

1. Check your credit score

The first thing you must do if you think you have bad credit is to check your credit score. You can receive free credit scores from a number of online providers, like Credit Sesame. All you have to do is sign up for the service and you'll get free access to your score along with free credit monitoring.

These online services provide immediate access to a credit score from at least one of the three major credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax — giving you an accurate picture of your credit status.

If you do spot an error on your credit report, like a "late payment" you know you made on time, get it fixed as soon as possible. It may take a little while for the mistake to be rectified, but your credit score may improve.

2. Search for apartments without credit checks

Some landlords don’t operate through a realtor or management company but simply work as an individual. These landlords may be more willing to overlook your bad credit history.

In some cases, they may not even carry out a credit check at all.

Not all management companies require credit checks, either, so do some research and apply to rent their apartments.

3. Start fixing your credit

Debt write-offs, collections and other marks stay on your credit report for up to seven years.

This means you can either wait for them to be removed, or you can take steps to improve your score in the meantime.

Spend a few bucks on a credit card every month and make the payments in full every time. If your credit isn't good enough to access a normal credit card, try taking out a secured credit card.

It’s all about showing your potential landlord and credit bureaus that you’re making an effort to tackle the previous problems and show you can be trusted.

4. Get a reference letter or letter of recommendation

References from a previous or current landlord can act as proof that you pay your rent on time and in full.

If you can get a couple of references or recommendations from a previous landlord or property manager, they present a strong case in your favor.

Past utility bills will help as well.

5. Talk about your bad credit

Don’t put off talking about your bad credit. The landlord will find out anyway, so it’s better that it comes from you first.

Be straightforward and explain how you got into that situation. This includes any debt you’ve racked up.

Most importantly, illustrate what you’re doing to improve.

6. Get a letter of employment

Make a copy of your employment contract and provide it to your landlord as proof you have money coming in.

You may also want to collect pay stubs that date back several months to show that you have a long standing, stable source of income.

It will also help to present your previous year’s tax return, too.

7. Pay more upfront

Most properties require a deposit and the first month’s rent to secure it.

Consider offering to pay a couple months' rent in advance to sweeten the deal.

Advance payments ensure you’re always ahead of schedule, building trust with the landlord that you’re able to make payments.

8. Set up automatic payments

Automatic payments through direct deposit show that you will always pay your rent on time.

Show the landlord that you always have enough in your bank account on that day to make the payment in full every time.

Your proof of income goes a long way to demonstrating this in action. Show them your financial stability rather than your bad credit.

9. Bring in a co-signer

A co-signer lets you use another person’s credit score to apply for an apartment. Adding someone with a better credit history than you to the apartment lease is a good way to make you look more credible.

This could be a roommate, friend or family member.

If you do go down this route, just bear in mind that failing to make payments on time will impact their finances, as well as your own, and may damage your relationship if things don’t go to plan.

About the Author

Alex Denholm

Alex Denholm

Freelance Contributor

Alex Denholm is a freelance contributor to MoneyWise.

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