Bad Credit and Renting an Apartment

Renting an Apartment With Bad Credit

Renting an Apartment if You Have Bad Credit

Columbus is a fast growing real estate rental market, which means finding an apartment can be challenging and a bad credit score can only complicate the search. Landlords are looking for long-term tenants who will pay their bills and fill their vacancies, so a tenant with a bad credit score may be a red flag for a landlord that pulls a credit report. There are many reasons why your credit score is low, like high credit card debt, falling behind on medical bills, not paying bills on time, etc, and unfortunately, when a prospective landlord pulls your credit, they tend to focus on the score rather than the details. 

If you have a bad credit score, it won’t automatically disqualify you from renting, but it can certainly may make it more difficult. The three major credit services — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — consider “bad” credit as falling below about 620, although that can vary. The first step to repairing your credit is knowing your score and making a habit of paying your bills on time, including your rent payment.

Here are some tips to help sway the odds in your favor:

  1. Offer to pay more upfront. Most apartment rentals require a deposit of some sort (i.e. the first or first and last months’ rent) in advance. If your case, offer to pay more, such as 2-3 months’ rent in advance, to demonstrate to the landlord that you are serious and can be trusted as a potential tenant.
  2. Get a co-signer. This can be a risky venture. A relationship with a co-signer, whether it is a family member or friend, has to be built on trust. Your co-signer will be responsible for paying the full amount of your rent if you are unable to or if you break your lease. Needless to say, if this arrangement goes south, it can seriously jeopardize your relationship as your default could adversely affect your cosigner’s credit rating.
  3. Get a roommate. If you can find a roommate with good credit, you might be able to pull this off. Have your roommate apply for the lease and let the management company run their credit report. Then, when the rent comes due, the roommate pays in full and you reimburse them for your share. 
  4. Plead your situation. You can try to explain your poor credit to the landlord. Oftentimes, they will overlook bad credit that is due to a true hardship, such as a medical emergency, as opposed to somebody who is carrying large credit card balances. 
  5. Find an apartment that doesn’t require a credit check. This one might be pretty difficult as most leasing companies automatically run a credit check on all potential renters. You might have better luck if you rent from an individual owner instead of a corporation.
  6. Show good-faith effort. You can present your potential landlord with pay stubs and a letter from your employer that confirms that you have a steady job and can make the rent. Also, if you have been a successful renter at other properties, get letters of reference from your former landlords. You can also submit any documentation you may have that shows that you are working on repairing your credit (e.g., working with a consumer credit counseling association).

The bottom line is that your potential landlord isn’t approving or rejecting lease applications solely on credit scores.  They want some type of reassurance that you are a good long-term tenant risk, you can and will pay your rent on time, and have a history of fiscal responsibility. Hopefully, these tips will help you secure a new apartment and you will be on your way to increasing your credit score.

Learn what you need to move into an apartment

Preparing For Your New Apartment

A Shopping List For Moving into an Apartment

There’s a little more to it than just selecting cool wall art and must-have barware
Your lease is signed, you’ve unpacked and created some ordered chaos out of your new apartment. That’s awesome. While you’re contemplating the fun stuff like how to fill that blank canvas living room wall, or wineglasses with or without stems, there are a few other more practical purchases you need to work into your budget. You’ll be glad you did when you need to open an aluminum can or add some extra torque when assembling furniture. Here are some suggestions on how to fully furnish and equip your new apartment with the basics for daily living. The good news is that none of these items are abhorrently expensive and can be easily sourced online or in a local store, plus you can be as minimal or extravagant as your tastes and budget will allow.

  1. Bathroom. Obviously, you will need to keep a supply of toilet paper and facial tissue handy. You’ll need toilet bowl cleaner and a brush, a plunger and products to clean the sink, tub/shower and other fixtures. A shower curtain in a fun print (don’t forget the liner) can add a nice pop of color to an otherwise tiny and bland room. Most bathrooms don’t have enough storage, so unless your apartment has adequate closet space, you will need to invest in some type of baskets/bins/boxes or shelving units for extra towels, hair styling/grooming products, heat tools, cosmetics, and personal hygiene items. On the topic of bathrooms, it’s also a good idea to stock up on a home first-aid/medicine stash. This will include your OTC pain relief, cough/cold/flu preparations, upset stomach medications, bandages, ointments, thermometer and whatever else you might need.
  2. Kitchen. You probably already have dishware, silverware, drinking glasses and mugs, (and dish soap) so the next thing to think about a set of kitchen knives. You only need three: a paring knife, a chef’s knife and a serrated knife; you can throw in a sharpening steel if you think you’ll use it. For preparing your food, you’ll need a sauté pan, skillet and larger pot for cooking foods like pasta. Round out that collection with some sheet pans for roasting veggies or baking cookies. If you cook or bake a lot, you’ll need measuring cups (both liquid and dry measure), measuring spoons, wooden spoons, and a cutting board. (Your level of culinary interest and expertise can dictate what else you’ll need.) Other miscellaneous items include a dish drainer/board, can opener, bottle opener, a food thermometer and plenty of kitchen/tea towels.
  3. Bedroom. You will need blankets, several sets of sheets, and a laundry basket/hamper for storing dirty items before washing. There are tons of ideas for organizing closets and dresser drawers, but a few “must-haves” include tiers or pouches for storing shoes and some of those multi-tasking hangers that will hold more than one garment. You can also find special hangers that will keep your ties, belts, and scarves easily accessible and tangle-free. If your bedroom closets are dark, you can find really cool motion-detecting LED lights that you can easily install — no tools required. All they need is a periodic recharge.
  4. Cleaning supplies. Starting with the largest items first, you’ll need a good vacuum cleaner. This is not an area to cut back, especially if you have a pet. The initial cost may seem pricey, but over time, you will recoup your investment and more by avoiding repair costs and outright replacement. A high-quality, well-maintained vacuum cleaner will see you through many years of apartments. Next up is a broom and dustpan. There are all types of dustpans available, including those that will clean pet hair out of the broom bristles. For additional floor cleaning, you’ll need cleaning products (based on the type of material used for your flooring) a mop, and possibly, a bucket (having a bucket is just a good idea anyway). Other cleaning products include a surface cleaner that can work in both the bathroom and kitchen, window cleaner, and any other products that you need to clean your furniture and accessories. There’s a plethora of natural-ingredient cleaning formulas out there, as well as good old baking soda and vinegar.
  5. Tools. Every household should have a basic set of tools. This is especially true if you are a DIY-er or much of your newly purchased furnishings and décor requires assembly. You should own a hammer, regular and needle-nose pliers, wire cutters, a level, wall patching medium, self-adhesive hooks/strips for wall hangings, sandpaper or blocks, and a set of screwdrivers. Another good investment is a cordless screwdriver, which can be found at a variety of price points. Most models feature both standard and Phillips-heads and run on a charge or batteries, making furniture assembly much, much easier. If you are putting together a lot of items, consider buying a set of quality Allen wrenches (hex keys) to replace the cheap flimsy ones that come in the box. These sets include wrenches in a selection of diameters, which should be sufficient for almost every need. Again, like with kitchenware, your needs and level of DIY expertise may require you to expand your tool collection.

Moving into a new apartment is a fun and exciting new chapter in your life! Make it a smooth transition by planning ahead. If you follow the guidelines listed above, you can avoid repeated sudden trips to the hardware or big box store and enjoy your new home much sooner!

At Vision Communities, we pride ourselves in the communities that we build. We’ll take care of the maintenance of the facilities and your apartment, but the cleaning and assembly are up to you! With apartment communities near ClintonvilleDowntown Columbus, and Westerville, Vision Communities has the floor plan and amenities that you are looking for. To learn more, browse our Central Ohio communities and find the right floor plan for you and your family. 


Learn the basics of apartment hunting in Ohio on the Vision Communities blog.

Apartment Hunting 101

What to Look for When Touring Apartments

You’ve narrowed your list down to 2-3 apartment complexes. They look great online and have stellar reviews. Your next step is to schedule appointments with the leasing agent for on-site tours. Before you sign a lease or pay a security deposit, there are many aspects of your potential new residence that you need to check out. Not only can some due diligence help you screen out questionable apartments, but it can also alert you to any safety or maintenance issues that may come back to haunt you down the road.

1. Overall appearance of property. Are the grounds well-maintained? Dying grass, overgrown weeds, and trees indicate that curb appeal isn’t a priority. Look at the building exterior and look for paint peeling or foundation or sidewalks cracked, loose shingles, dangling pipes or gutters. When you arrive, look carefully at the parking lot. Look to see if the asphalt cracked and full of potholes? Are parking spaces well-defined? Check out common areas as well for cleanliness, modernization, and utilization. There is also a flip side to this. Some apartment complexes focus on all the capital improvements on the grounds at the expense of the units.

2. Front door. If security is a concern, you will want to know if the apartment has security doors that are accessed by a buzzer or passkey. Is there a doorman or concierge? Is the door sturdy and in good condition? Does it catch securely after being closed?

3. Odors. It’s impossible for a communal living building to be odor-free, but what you smell can make a huge difference. A stale, musty odor, cigarette smoke, and lingering cooking orders are a big turn-off.

4. Apartment unit. The same advice holds true for front and other exit doors. Are they secure? Is there a peephole and deadbolt locks? Do sliding glass doors on patios and balconies have locks in good working order? Check the windows to make sure they are easy to open and close. Do they lock? Are the screens in good condition?

5. Apartment interior.Most apartments are freshly painted after a tenant moves out. However, check for any scratches to the walls or dings/chips in the trim. If you find any, document them, so you are not charged for damage when you move out. Ask if touch-up paint is available for use after you’ve moved in.

6. Carpet. Carpet should be preferably new or have been thoroughly cleaned after the previous tenant left. Check for stains and signs of wear. Again, document any holes or stains.

7. Kitchen. What type of floor is there? Is it easy to clean? What about the countertops and sink? Look for stains, scorches, chips and cracks. Make note of them and ask the landlord if these surfaces can be replaced before you move in. Are the appliances in good working order? Open and close the doors to the fridge and freezer to make sure they seal properly.

8. Bathroom. Is the toilet new? Are there ugly lime/rust stains in the bowl? The same goes for the shower/bathtub. What kind of shower head is used? Is there enough space on the vanity or in the cabinets?

9. Bedrooms. Is there room for your preferred size of bed? How big is the closet compared to your needs? Is there a cable outlet for a TV (if you need one)?

10. Lighting and electrical outlets. Turn on the lights throughout the apartment to see if the lighting is adequate for your needs. Do the light fixtures accommodate energy-saving lightbulbs? Will you need to augment the lighting with your own lamps? Are there enough electrical outlets in the unit? Same with cable outlets.

11. Closets and storage. How big are the closets? Ask if there is additional storage for residents’ use in the basement or elsewhere on the property. That will be a huge consideration in whether not you’ll need to downsize if you move in.

While this seems like a LOT to consider, it will pay off in the long-run. You want to find an apartment where you’ll feel safe, clean and enjoy your living experience. 

At Vision Communities, we pride ourselves in the communities that we build. With apartment communities near ClintonvilleDowntown Columbus, and Westerville, Vision Communities has the floor plan and amenities that you are looking for. To learn more, browse our Central Ohio communities and find the right floor plan for you and your family. 

Apartment living with pets

Needs VS Wants in an Apartment

Apartment Amenities: Needs vs Wants

You are getting ready to go apartment hunting and have determined your monthly rent budget and possible locations. The next step is to schedule on site visits. Sure, you want a comfy place that will hold all of your stuff, but what about the extras? “Extras” are known as “amenities” in apartment lingo. Here are a few of the most common and popular amenities that landlords offer to entice renters. Take a look and see which ones are “musts” and which ones you can live without (and not pay for).

In-unit washer and dryer. Being able to do laundry within one’s home has made it the top of the “need” list of practically every apartment seeker. It’s not only convenient, but a lot cheaper plus, you can do your laundry whenever you want and not be restricted by other tenants’ use or specific laundry room hours.

Energy-efficient appliances. Today’s renters are concerned about the environment and demand appliances that don’t waste resources. Look for appliances that have Energy Star ratings, and ask the landlord what the average utility costs are for the unit you’re interested in.

Online rent payment and maintenance requests. Few people write checks these days and even fewer enjoy the process. Most apartments have a website with a tenant portal for paying rent and submitting maintenance requests. This offers the freedom to pay rent at any time of day or night and not have to play phone tag if you need work done in your apartment.

High-speed internet. Which ISP does the apartment complex use? How reliable is it? Use your phone to check connectivity in the unit for speed and hot spots.

Pets allowed. Believe it or not, some apartment complexes do not allow pets of any kind. If you have a pet, you can cross those places off your list. You will find, however, that more communities are pet-friendly and offer amenities such as fenced dog parks and “doggie stations” throughout the property.

Security doors. Look for secured outer doors that are accessible only by code, key or card offer an extra layer of security, as well as provide a barrier against unwelcome solicitors. Be sure to ask if there is a lock-out policy. Some apartments will charge a fee to tenants who find themselves locked out.

Community amenities. Most apartment complexes have a swimming pool, unless it is located in a climate where it would not be practical. Other popular shared amenities include clubhouses, coffee bars and fitness centers.

Other popular wants vs. needs include:

  • Hardwood floors
  • Balcony or patio
  • Granite countertops
  • Covered parking
  • Package acceptance or package lockers
  • Well maintained pool and grounds

While it’s great to have some little extras in your new home, just be mindful of the cost. Many of these amenities are offered in the form of higher rent. While it may be tempting to have some luxuries in your apartment, be realistic about whether or not you really need them and if they offset the added expense.

At Vision Communities, we are committed to creating the best apartment communities for you and your family. We feature communities with great amenities, with multiple bedroom layouts, in desirable areas such as Westerville, Clintonville, and downtown Columbus. For more information about our communities, contact our team to get started.

Tenants guide to apartment security, pet, and utility deposits.

Guide to Apartment Deposits

You’ve found an apartment that you love, your application was approved and now it’s time to sign the least. Yay! You’re almost there. Before the landlord hands over the keys, there is one more step – cash deposits.

Security deposit. A security deposit is a fee your landlord collects as a guarantee against future payment of rent and/or repairing any damages to the unit after you’ve moved out. Typically, a security deposit is equal to the first month’s rent. In some cases, the landlord may request both the first and last month’s rent in advance. In actuality, a landlord can charge whatever they want as a security deposit, however, most states have limitations. If you break your lease or cause excessive damage to the apartment, you will not get your security deposit back. If the landlord needs to make repairs to the unit and they are less than the amount of your security deposit, they will refund the balance to you.  So taking good care of your apartment while you’re living there is important as is cleaning up and repair any minor damages (like nails holes in the walls) when you move out.

Pet deposit. These days, practically all landlords charge a pet deposit. The amount varies and may be higher if you have more than one pet. The reasoning behind this charge is simple — the money will be applied to fixing any damages caused by your pet. You may also have to pay a monthly rental fee for your pet(s). A rough estimate is approximately $50-$100 a month. Also, regarding pets, most apartments have restrictions on the size of the animal and certain breeds.

Utility deposits. These deposits are usually required by individual utility companies and not a landlord, but they are worth mentioning. If you are renting your first apartment and have no history of paying utilities, you will be asked to pay a deposit for any utilities not included in your monthly rent, such as gas, electricity, water and trash.  The same applies if you have less-than-perfect credit.  Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule and even if you have an established track record with utility companies, you could still be asked to pay a deposit when changing residences.

At Vision Communities, we are committed to creating the best apartment communities for you and your family. We feature multiple, pet-friendly apartment layouts, in desirable communities such as Westerville, Clintonville, and downtown Columbus. For more information about our communities, contact our team to get started.


Finding the Right Apartment Location

Five Key Considerations for an Apartment Location

Maybe you’re looking for your first home away from home or just got a job offer in an exciting new city. How do you choose where to live? While you might be initially tempted to look for an apartment close to where you work, take a step back. Work-life balance is important, so you’ll need to take a look at the big picture of your lifestyle and how your new apartment can fulfill all your needs.

Work. Living close to where you work is a no-brainer. Nobody enjoys a long commute, especially in bad weather. If your job is located in a remote area or in a high rent district, living close to work may not be optimal. If you do have to commute, look for public transportation options, like busing, light rail, or see if there are bike paths between home and work. 

Recreation. If you enjoy an active lifestyle, finding an apartment community that is close to the things you enjoy is important. Sporting events, concerts, and night life are typically located near the city, so an apartment community near downtown may be the best option. If you are a homebody who wants onsite activities, many apartments offer amenities such as CrossFit, movie theaters and onsite happy hours. Finding the right mix for your lifestyle is an important consideration.

Food.  Do you like to eat out a lot or cook at home? Whichever your prefer, it needs to be a consideration when deciding where to live. Make sure that your new apartment is close enough to these eateries that you enjoy or are within the delivery area. If you’re a foodie who likes to cook at home, proximity to a grocery store is important to keep your refrigerator and cupboards stocked.

School. If you’re a student, it makes sense to live near the campus. Choose an apartment that is within easy walking or short commuting distance.  Safety is also a consideration, especially if you are taking night classes. Look for sidewalks in good repair, well-lit walking areas, and dedicated bike paths. Keep these factors in mind if you are taking evening classes or are a full-time student considering living off-campus.

Church. If you are active in your place of worship, then you need to consider this when searching for an apartment. Staying close to your house of worship is important to staying connected to the friends you make. The longer the commute, the less likely you are to stay involved. 

Finding a new place to live can be exciting! Just make sure that you take a holistic view when choosing the best location. Examine all the areas of your life and weigh the pros and cons of how close you live to where you need to go. That way, you can make the best decision about what you need to be close to and where it’s OK to have a little travel time.

At Vision Communities, we are committed to creating the best apartment communities for you and your family. We feature multiple bedroom layouts, in desirable communities such as Westerville, Clintonville, and downtown Columbus. For more information about our communities, contact our team to get started.

How to Ace an Apartment Application Interview

You’ve narrowed down your search to two or three apartments that seem perfect for you. How do you move your selections from your wish list to keys in hand?  There’s nothing more frustrating than showing up for an appointment with your potential landlord only to discover that you’re missing some crucial pieces of information.  Here are a few tips to help you be prepared for a successful meeting.

Credit score. Your potential landlord will likely pull a background check, including your credit history. You can monitor your credit with services like Credit Karma, Experian® and LifeLock®, which are updated weekly. If you are just starting out in your career or don’t have the best credit, don’t despair. Less-than-perfect or zero credit won’t necessarily disqualify you from renting. You may be asked though, to put down a more sizable deposit.

Proof of income.  Bring along recent pay stubs from your job. If you are a new hire, take along a copy of your letter of engagement/acceptance. Be willing to provide contact information for your employer, should the apartment manager ask. That means name, job title, email and phone number.

References. You’ll need references to rent an apartment to verify that in the past, you paid your rent on time, left the unit in good condition, were a good neighbor, etc.  If you are moving from apartment to apartment, a note from your former landlord will suffice. If this is your first apartment, get creative. For example,if you lived in a dorm or other on-campus lodging, check with a residence hall director for a letter of recommendation. 

Form of payment.  Most apartment complexes will charge potential tenants to run a background and credit check, plus an application fee. The average cost of the background and credit check is about $30. Application fees can cost roughly $25-$50. A lot of places prefer these payments by cash or check, so keep that in mind.

You might be thinking that this sounds an awful lot like a job interview. In a way … it is. You are striving to make a good first impression and prove that you would be a trustworthy and responsible tenant. Being prepared when you go on an apartment interview will go a long way in demonstrating your credibility to a future landlord.

At Vision Communities, we are committed to creating the best apartment communities for you and your family. We feature multiple bedroom layouts, in desirable communities such as Westerville, Clintonville, and downtown Columbus. For more information about our communities, contact our team to get started.