Photo: Flickr via pepperlime
Renting an apartment with bad credit may not be easy. Many large apartment complexes owned by corporations now require credit checks and will refuse applicants who do not meet their standards. Even if you have the income to pay for the apartment, you may still be refused if your credit score is too low.
Is Renting an Apartment with Bad Credit Possible?
One way to solve this problem is to bypass the credit issue entirely. Many privately-owned homes and apartment buildings do not look at credit, preferring to find tenants with good references from previous landlords. You can find advertisements for privately-owned rentals in the classified section of your newspaper, on the internet at sites like Craig’s List and Rental.com, as well as through local real estate agents.
Many local homeowners and condo owners rent their houses because they are having trouble selling them in the current real estate market, so you may be able to find a very nice property at a reasonable rate, provided you are a good tenant and are willing to keep the place clean and in order.
However, more and more private owners are looking at credit checks as one way to separate the “good” tenants from the “bad” tenants. If you are forced to deal with the credit issue, you can salvage some of the damage by handling your bad credit report in a proactive way.
How to Get an Apartment with Bad Credit
Step #1: Clean up your credit.
First, get a copy of your credit report and check it carefully. You can get a credit report from your bank or by contacting the “Big 3″ credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. You are entitled to one free copy from each per year; you can also request additional copies at a cost.
Review your credit report carefully and get someone such as a banker or financial manager to go over it with you if you do not understand it. You can also find internet sites which translate the terminology and abbreviations on your report.
Next, dispute any inaccurate information. Sometimes companies report a late payment incorrectly, or you may have been charged for something you did not purchase. If you dispute a transaction, it is up to the lender or seller to prove that you were truly late with your payment or that you did not pay a bill. If the seller or lender cannot prove this, the credit bureau will remove the bad credit from your report.
Step #2: Talk to your potential landlord.
Once your credit report is clean, you are better able to determine if it will be a report that will trigger a “no” with prospective landlords. If you had a few late payments to a hospital five years ago, you are far less likely to be turned down by a landlord than if you had three evictions last year from apartment complexes for non-payment of rent.
Use common sense when analysing your credit report; if you are unsure how something will impact your rental prospects, ask the landlord what type of information they gather when looking at a credit report. Be honest if you have had late payments in the past, and ask the agent or representative of the rental company if this will disqualify you from renting. Surprisingly, in many cases, it won’t.
Step #3: If necessary, find a cosigner.
You can also use the cosigner option. If you have a parent, spouse or friend with good credit who is willing to sign for you, renting an apartment with bad credit is often no problem. Of course, this is because the landlord knows that your cosigner will be on the hook for any rent you do not pay.
This is a terrible option to take if you are unable to pay the rent in a timely manner, because you will not only be hurting your own credit, but that of someone else. If you do know someone willing to cosign, you must commit to making your payments every month, on time.
Step #4: Be prepared to pay up front.
Finally, you may be approved for an apartment rental in spite of bad credit, but have to pay more up front or per month. Some larger corporations have instituted measures whereby those with poor credit can still rent, but have to pay much larger security deposits. Generally, the security deposit is reflective of how much rent you would pay during the time it takes to evict you for non-payment of rent.
For example, suppose you pay $600 a month for your apartment and it takes 90 days to evict a tenant in your state. Expect to pay around $1,800 in additional security money up front, as the landlord will want that money in escrow in case you default on your rental payments.