Apartment Hunting

How to Rent an Apartment with Bad Credit

Life happens. Many potential tenants are in a situation where they are trying to rent an apartment but have bad credit. The pandemic has been a major source of financial hardship for plenty of well-meaning renters who are still trying to dig their way out of the aftermath. Maybe you lost your job or had your hours cut. Perhaps you lost your health insurance and have major medical debt or incurred unexpected massive car repair expenses. Or you just got way out of hand with pandemic-boredom online shopping. To add insult to injury, most property management companies will charge you to perform a credit check before you are even considered for an application. Why pay good money (around $50) just to get rejected? Regardless of the reason why it happened, bad credit can stand in the way of renting an apartment, or can it? Here are some strategies to help you get approved, even if your credit score stinks.

  1. Check your credit score. This initial step can be scary, but it’s important. You can get a free credit report that lists your TransUnion and Equifax (the two major credit reporting agencies) scores. Check the report carefully for any errors. If you find any, contact TransUnion and Equifax to get them resolved. What you can then do is get a letter from these agencies that explains the error and correction to your score.
  2. Find an apartment with no credit check. These opportunities are few and far between. However, if you are renting from an individual instead of a corporation, you might stand a better chance of being accepted as a tenant.
  3. Gather references and proof of income. Get a letter from your workplace verifying your employment. Back this up with copies of pay stubs and bank statements. If you successfully rented an apartment in the past, get a reference letter from your former landlord(s).
  4. Offer to pay more upfront. If the property manager is willing to negotiate, offer to pay a higher security deposit than what is required and/or pay several months’ rent in advance.

Explain your situation to the apartment manager, if your reasons for having bad credit make sense and you are demonstrating a good-faith effort to pay down your debt, you will have a much better chance of being approved. Landlords are human, but they are also business people, but in today’s economy and facing a lot of empty units, they may be more willing to take a chance on a higher-risk tenant. Once you’ve been approved, make sure you pay your rent on time, while at the same time, continuing to pay down your debt. As you work towards improving your track record and credit score as a responsible tenant and debtor, more doors will (literally) open to you in the future!

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