Apartment Hunting

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.