How to Rent an Apartment with Bad Credit

Renting with Poor Credit

Couple in newly rented apartment

Landlords can be like lenders when it comes to renting an apartment or house: They want to know a lot about you before they let you sign a lease.

A lot of the information they gather will come from your credit report so you need to give them some positive signs that you are making an effort to deal with having bad credit.

After all, logic says it’s difficult to rent an apartment to someone with bad credit. You are perceived as a poor risk and what landlord wants that?

But everything is negotiable. Your chances will skyrocket if you do the proper preparation, supply the proper information and adopt a “can-do” attitude about your situation.

Think of it like a job interview. You must show you have what it takes financially to handle the rent and set yourself apart as a dependable candidate.

Bottom line: Landlords don’t want trouble. They want their units occupied and the rent paid in a timely fashion.

You can get an apartment with bad credit, but you may need to offer some incentives or look at the process from a different direction. Some of your best options include:

  • Paying the rent in advance.
  • Finding apartments that don’t do credit checks.
  • Presenting letters of recommendation from an employer or former landlord.
  • Offering to move in immediately.
  • Purchasing renter’s insurance for another layer of security.
  • Getting a co-signer.
  • Finding a roommate with better credit to sign the lease.
  • Paying a larger deposit.
  • Offering to pay higher rent.
  • Exploring family-owned apartments.

Credit Options

Can I rent an apartment with bad credit?

It’s a familiar question and an obvious one for people who struggle to manage their money. The answer, as we will show, is yes. It can be done. It’s useful to not just treat the symptom, but examine the problem as well.

How can I fix my bad credit?

First, everyone wonders what credit score is needed to rent an apartment. Generally, if you have a credit score of 620 or above, few questions will be asked. Dip below that level and it’s time to get creative.

You should consider improving your credit score before looking for the apartment. Taking six months to help erase credit-card debt would make a world of difference in improving your credit score.

Also, make sure that your credit score is being accurately reported to the three major credit reporting bureaus Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. All consumers can get a free copy of their credit reports every 12 months at You can also get a free copy of your report if you were denied credit, insurance or employment within the last 30 days.

If you find a mistake, be sure to submit a dispute letter to the credit reporting bureaus.

  • Explain why you’re disputing the information.
  • Provide copies of documents related to the dispute.
  • Request an investigation.
  • Include a copy of the credit report with the inaccurate items circled. Also contact the company that provided the inaccurate information, so it can be corrected.

The investigation must commence within 30 days. If you win the dispute, the credit reporting bureau must correct your report. It’s wise to suggest the corrected version get sent to anyone who has received the report in the past six months (or two years for prospective employers).

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) said it has handled more than 105,000 credit-reporting complaints, the third-biggest consumer issue since the CFPB was formed in 2008. The most common issue was incorrect information on a credit report (77%).

Always be honest and forthright about your credit situation. If you’ve had trouble paying on time, explain why. Landlords, after all, are human and they could be understanding, particularly if your debt was caused by a medical issue or some other emergency.

Beyond all of that, you will need a carefully crafted strategy.

Here are ways to get an apartment with bad credit.

Find Rentals That Don’t Do A Credit Check

Before you fill out an application, ask the landlord if they do a credit check. Smaller rental properties, especially those run by an individual, don’t always pay to see your credit report, especially if you make a good first impression with them. That gives you an opportunity to overcome financial problems that are on your credit report. Unfortunately, larger rental properties usually are run by management companies who have strict rules that include running credit reports on every applicant. Their guidelines don’t give them much room to consider anyone with bad credit.

Pay Rent In Advance

This is a win-win solution. If a landlord considers you a risky client, offer to pay the rent in advance or even set up an automatic payment that comes directly out of your paycheck.

You establish yourself as a responsible tenant and your landlord will be put at ease.

Presenting Letters Of Recommendation From An Employer Or Former Landlord

When in doubbt, it’s always helpful to present yourself as a salary-earning, respectable, reliable client — especially when offering evidence from the people who know you best.

The letters of recommendation from previous landlords should show:

  • Your track record for paying rent on time.
  • Your respect for the property and neighborhood.
  • How long you resided at each property.
  • The contact information for your previous landlords.

It’s also important to show you are gainfully employed and earning a salary. A letter from your employer will show your ability to cover the monthly rent and pay on time. Plus, an employment verification letter will show how long you have worked for the employer, along with your annual salary.

It’s even more impressive to produce these letters before they are requested. You will look prepared. And your landlord will gain confidence in taking you on.

Offering To Move In Immediately

The two goals of every landlord are to rent every unit and get paid on-time every month.

By offering to move in immediately — particularly with units that have been dormant — you can give incentive for landlords to take on risk.

Be sure to bring some cash and your checkbook when you are inspecting units. By paying on the spot, you could close the deal and really increase your move-in chances.

Purchase Renter’s Insurance

By purchasing renter’s insurance, you provide more security for the landlord, who would have recourse in a worst-case scenario. It’s costly — some fees are 75% of one month’s rent — but it could be the gesture that gets you into an apartment when no one else will rent to you.

Get A Co-signer

It’s a simple concept. By getting a co-signer who has good credit, you basically guarantee that the lease will be paid. If you can’t meet obligations, the co-signer is legally responsible for paying 100% of the rent until the lease expires.

Of course, getting a co-signer can be dicey. It can cause relationships to sour. Sometimes, even the best of friends (or family) will refused to get involved.

Think carefully about this option. After all, you are putting someone else’s good credit at risk in a situation where you should have the ultimate responsibility. Don’t treat it as a get-out-of-jail-free card. Make sure you agree to rental terms that you can afford because you don’t want to actually rely on a co-signer to pay your bills.

Finding A Roommate With Better Credit

If you have a roommate with a better ability to pay … problem solved!

In a financial crunch, it’s always handy to split expenses with a roommate. The roommate with a good credit score can sign the lease — and you can directly sub-lease from them.

Sometimes, you can find someone on a community message board or Craigslist. That person might already be securely on a lease, wanting to just fill up some extra apartment space and get some extra cash.

Generally, it won’t be a formal contractual arrangement to pay the rent to a roommate. It’s incumbent on you to hand over the rent checks on a timely basis. You also should become the ideal tenant — causing no issues and even offering to do more of the cleaning and errands.

Paying A Larger Deposit

By offering a larger deposit — a typical security deposit might consist of two month’s rent — you can display your financial security and make a good-faith gesture to the landlord.

Suggestion: Offer 3-6 month’s rent up front — in addition to the security deposit. Or at the very least, offer a larger security deposit. What landlord would say no to that?

Offering To Pay Higher Rent

If a landlord continues to balk over your poor credit score, you can rely on a tried-and-true method.

Money talks.

Offer to pay a slightly higher figure for rent. There are some laws that prohibit landlords from accepting more than two month’s rent. But a higher monthly rate could work and that figure might be enough to swing a successful deal.

Agreeing To A Shorter Lease

The landlord might be hesitant to accept you on a standard 12-month lease. In that case, you can offer a short term or month-by-month lease for the first few months. With a few months of success, you will be proven as a reliable renter and it should become easier to secure a year-long lease.

Exploring Family-owned Apartments

Larger corporations are sometimes hard-and-fast on their stipulations. If your credit score doesn’t pass muster, there is no opportunity for negotiation.

In that circumstance, it pays to investigate smaller apartment complexes that are family owned or run by private individuals. They will be more flexible.

If you have direct access to a landlord, the chances improve for you to secure a lease with poor credit.


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