How to Rent an Apartment with Bad Credit in 7 Simple Steps

finding an apartment with bad creditTrying to find an apartment is hard enough without the burden of bad credit slowing you down.  Because landlords will, more often than not, run a credit check on potential renters, your credit score may play a big part in whether or not your application is accepted.

So what do you do if your credit isn’t stellar?  Can you still find an apartment that will rent to you?  Don’t worry.  It is possible to rent with bad credit.  Here is a step-by-step guide to finding and renting an apartment despite a less-than-perfect credit score.

Step 1: Get all the facts.
Before you even start to try to find an apartment, find out exactly what your credit score is.  Order a free copy of your credit report from the 3 major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.  Once you know your score, you’ll be able to narrow down your options during your apartment search and find an apartment more easily.

Step 2: Work with landlords one-on-one.
When trying to find an apartment, try working directly with the property owner rather than through a larger landlord.  Discussing your situation one-on-one with a landlord or leasing agent can really help.

Step 3: Be honest about your situation.
Even though it may be the last thing you want to do, tell landlord or leasing agent right away about the state of your credit.  Honesty, in this situation, can actually be the best policy.  Be clear about the reasons for your poor credit, and outline the things you are doing to repair your credit.

Step 4: Provide the landlord with your credit score up front.
Because having your credit score pulled multiple times by a variety of landlords during your apartment search can further lower your credit score, consider including a copy of your credit report yourself with your application.

Step 5: Prove your reliability.
When talking with the landlord about your situation, offer proof of your responsibility.  Part of the reason landlords run a credit check is to determine whether or not you will be a reliable, responsible renter.  Provide letters of recommendation from your employer and/or previous landlords, and ask the landlord what they require from renters for proof of stability.

Step 6: Get a co-signer.
For renters who have poor credit or a limited credit history, try opting for a cosigner.  This solution is a good one if you have a relative or friend willing to vouch for your credibility.

Step 7: Offer to pay in advance.
This solution is a little less than desirable, since it might take a considerable chunk of cash.  However, it is a good option if you have the means, especially if you find an apartment that you really love.  If you are able, offer to pay the first 3-6 months’ rent in advance or offer to pay a larger security deposit.  Some apartments are more flexible than others, and if you can find an apartment that is willing to work with you, you may be more likely to secure a lease, even with bad credit.

For more tools to learn about your credit score as a renter, you can visit our Moving Center page.  For more in our series on how to find an apartment and navigate your credit score, check out last week’s post, Apartment Credit Scores 101; and stay tuned for next week’s post about how to improve your credit!