The Apartment Credit Check: Hard or Soft?

Young woman checking her credit scoreWhatever the size of the apartment you’re applying for—from efficiency to two-bedroom apartments to lofts—you’ll probably have to undergo a credit check when you submit your application. Because landlords are trying to find out whether you would be a reliable renter, they look at your report for things like debt, consistency, predictability, and your previous rental history. But what happens when they actually go to check that report?

What’s the difference between hard and soft credit checks?

Also called “hard inquiries” and “soft inquiries,” these checks are requested by apartments in order to see what your credit is like.

A soft check is a request to pull your credit report for viewing. The only result is that this request will show up on your credit history; it should not affect your FICO score at all.

A hard check happens when someone pulls your credit report because you’re applying for credit with them. So hard checks are usually only done in connection with financial transactions. If you apply for a loan or a credit card, for example, you may be subject to a hard check. A hard check will affect your FICO score.

Which kind of credit check does an apartment request?

Though every apartment community is different, in most cases a landlord will only request a soft check. Because the process may vary between apartment communities, however, it’s best to ask up front what the standard procedure for credit checks is when you turn in your application.

What if the apartment wants to do a hard credit check?

If an apartment is going to do a hard credit pull and you’re concerned about the effect it would have on your credit score, ask the landlord if they will accept a copy of your credit report that you pulled yourself. Pulling your own report doesn’t hurt your rating; in fact, you are entitled to pull your credit history from each credit bureau for free once a year. And keep in mind that you can rent with bad credit in some cases.

Worried about your credit?

If you’re concerned about what a landlord might find when he or she pulls your credit report, keep in mind that a hard inquiries will only affect your score for 12 months, and will only stay on your credit report for 2 years (unlike 7 years for most other negative information on your report). In the meantime, work on improving your credit score so the next apartment you apply for will be easy to land.

Questions about renting with a low credit score? Wondering what else landlords want to know about before signing the lease? Ask ApartmentSearch on Facebook or Twitter.