How to rent an apartment with not-so-great credit

You may be able to get an apartment with bad credit if you put down a bigger deposit or find a co-signer. IPGGutenbergUKLtd/Getty Images
  • If you have bad or poor credit, i.e. a score somewhere between 300 and 579, you may have trouble renting an apartment if you live in a city where credit checks are a part of the rental process.
  • There are a few things you can do to rent an apartment with bad credit, including paying more up front, finding a co-signer, and showing proof of stable employment that pays well.
  • Sometimes, though, you may just have to work on improving your credit score and wait to move until you’ve raised it.
  • Get help improving your credit score with »

Whether you’re a new US immigrant with no credit or you got into some credit card debt when you were young, low credit scores happen. Unfortunately, having less-than-stellar credit may make it more difficult to get the keys to an apartment if you live in a city where credit scores are part of the rental equation.

If you have bad or poor credit – somewhere between 300 and 579 – it’s not impossible to rent an apartment, it just might take a little more work on your part.

How to rent an apartment with bad credit

1. Check your credit score

It’s best to know what you’re getting into before having a potential landlord deny your apartment application because of your credit score. To check your credit score for free, use Credit Karma, Credit Sesame,, or

2. Look for apartments that don’t require credit checks

Although you’ll likely have fewer options if you go this route, it may be possible to find some listings on places like Craigslist that specifically say whether or not a credit check is required. You’ll want to ensure everything is above-board with places that don’t run credit checks (as you would with any place you’re about to rent), and that there is an actual lease you’ll be signing that makes sense for all parties involved.

3. Be prepared to pay more up front

Just because you have less-than-perfect credit doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be denied an application. You should just be prepared to (or offer to, if you really want the place) pay a little more up front by way of an increased security deposit or a few months’ rent ahead of time to ease any of the landlord’s concerns.

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4. Get yourself a co-signer

Some cities require a co-signer for apartments if you don’t make above a certain income based on the monthly rent charged. But even if your apartment doesn’t require it, getting a co-signer could be the answer to your apartment problems.

A co-signer signs a legal document stating that if you miss a payment, they will be liable to make those payments in your place. This means that any co-signer you get should be someone you trust, and who trusts you, since their credit could be negatively impacted by any mistakes you make with your rent.

5. Prove your worth

Showing up prepared is a great way to impress upon landlords that you are serious about your rental application, even if you don’t quite have the credit to back it up.

Bring some recent financial documents to prove your income for the past few months – especially if you make a good salary – and consider getting some letters of recommendation as well. If you can get letters from a previous landlord stating that you were reliable and dependable, that could work wonders.

6. Sign a lease with someone else

Again, this requires a bit of trust, but if you would be ok with getting an apartment with a roommate – and you can find someone who wants to live with you – you could have the application run with your roommate’s credit score, then you could make your rent payments directly to him or her. This won’t work in every situation, though, since some landlords require all occupants to be on the lease.

7. Offer some concessions

Especially if the apartment has been on the market for a while and the landlord is hoping to rent it out quickly, you might be able to make some negotiations within the lease that make you more desirable as an applicant, despite your low credit.

For example, you could offer to set up automatic payments so the landlord wouldn’t ever have to chase you down for rent.

8. Brag about your savings account

It might help to prove that you’re responsible in other areas of your personal finance, even if you haven’t managed to nab an enviable credit score just yet. For example, if you have enough money in a rainy-day fund to cover a couple months’ worth of rent, be sure to bring those statements as back-up to prove you have the means to pay.

9. Consider waiting

If, at the end of the day, you don’t want to do any of the above, you could always wait to find the apartment of your dreams until you’re able to raise your score. There are plenty of ways to go about raising your score, including paying down debts, keeping your credit-card balances low, and becoming an authorised user on someone else’s account.

See how can help you boost your credit score today »

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