When you lack a credit history or have a lower credit score, you may find yourself wondering whether you can find an apartment rental without submitting to a credit check. While this is possible, there are some important considerations to keep in mind to ensure you’re finding a legitimate and safe living situation.
This article will equip you with the information you need to understand whether a no-credit check apartment is a good option for you and in your market. Plus we share tips on how to build your credit score to make renting or even buying a home easier in the future.
What are no credit check apartments?
A no credit check apartment is an apartment that can be rented by anyone regardless of their credit history. The landlord or property manager does not check your credit report during the application process, instead relying on other information to prove that you can make your rental payments on time.
Apartment rentals that do not require a credit check are rare in most places. Smaller towns with relaxed rental markets are less likely to have credit checks, but hotter rental markets with a ton of demand are far more likely to involve credit and income requirements in the rental application process.
Do you need credit to rent an apartment?
In most places and with most apartments, you’ll need decent credit to rent a home. Homes with higher rental prices, such as a luxury apartment, will almost certainly require you to meet credit requirements. There are ways to work around credit requirements, but remember that in some locations you may be competing with other applicants. The stronger you can make your case, the better.
What credit score do you need to rent an apartment?
The minimum credit score you need will vary depending on the apartment, location, and landlord. However, many landlords will find it difficult to accept scores below 680 when prospective tenants with higher scores are available. Many landlords won’t even consider an applicant with a score below 620.
That being said, the higher your score the better your chances of getting approved for an apartment. A high credit score provides you with many benefits, so there’s really no downside to continually improving your score.
Why do landlords check your credit for an apartment?
Credit checks are an important part of the screening process for landlords. Your credit score isn’t a perfect indicator of tenant-worthiness, but it is useful for landlords trying to gauge whether a tenant will pay their rent on time. In addition to a credit check, most landlords will perform a background check and ask for proof of income.
Landlord’s who promise a no-screening process may not be legitimate. Beware of deals that seem too good to be true or lack pictures or adequate descriptions. These are likely rental scams. You should also be wary of even going to see an apartment with red flags in its listing.
Though a no-credit-check apartment could be legitimate, there are other reasons for concern. A listing that advertises no credit check may have issues, making it less than desirable living conditions.
How to get an apartment with no credit
There are many strategies you can use to get an apartment even when your credit score is less than desirable. Be ready to approach your prospective landlord beforehand, so that you can present your case and yourself professionally. First impressions are very important, especially when they’re coming with some “bad” news.
Get a cosigner
The easiest way to get a lease when you have bad credit is by leasing with the help of a cosigner. A cosigner, sometimes called a guarantor, is a person with great credit and income who can vouch for you. Keep in mind that your cosigner will be responsible for any unpaid rent you leave behind. Most renters work with a parent, guardian, or trusted family member.
Your cosigner will need to meet some basic qualifications, including a minimum credit score and an annual salary of at least 80 times the monthly rent. For example, if your rent is $2,000, most landlords require the guarantor’s income to be at least $160,000 to $200,000.
Show proof of income
Your recent pay stubs plus a year or two of tax returns will show your landlord that you know how to make enough money to pay your rent. In many places, especially places with a competitive rental market, you may also need to show your bank statements. This provides proof that you have sufficient savings to cover you if you hit a rough patch.
Use a reference
Providing a reference, especially an employer who can affirm that you are a valued employee, is a great way to bolster your application. For people hovering around the minimums, a reference can help push your application to the top of the pile. Your reference(s) should provide a short written statement with a phone number so the landlord can follow up if they need to.
Provide a higher security deposit
Another way to sweeten your application is by offering a larger security deposit at the start of your lease. This is earnest money that provides a cushion to your landlord in the event that you don’t pay your rent. Typical renters provide the equivalent of one month’s rent, you can offer two or three months, depending on your savings of course.
But this strategy won’t work everywhere. Some municipalities have strict rules regarding security deposits— both the amount and how the funds are held by the landlord during the term of the lease. Restrictions and the threat of additional administrative work can make this move less appealing to some landlords.
Consider renting from private properties
Working directly with the landlord is generally easier than working with a property manager. The property manager has one goal: rent out properties to well-qualified tenants as soon as possible. Property managers make money on the rent paid, and that’s it.
Landlords, on the other hand, make money off rent but also gain equity and tax breaks through their property. Because their investment is a little more dynamic, they are naturally more open to negotiations. You never know what might make you more appealing, so don’t be afraid to ask. If you have a trade applicable to a landlord, such as carpentry or landscaping, you may also find luck offering to help with projects.
Offer to move in quickly
The faster the turnaround time, the lower the vacancy rate for an apartment. Whether managed by a property manager or the landlord, a quick move in will be valued. You don’t even have to actually be moved into the apartment, so long as you’re paying the rent and utility costs. In some markets, renters offer to pay a week or several weeks in advance of their actual move-in date to secure their apartment.
How to build credit for an apartment
As you may have guessed, getting an apartment with no or poor credit is difficult. It takes planning and preparation to make a strong case for yourself, so start gathering financial statements, recommendations, and additional funding. If you can, consider living at home or with a relative or friend for a discount while you build your savings to a place where you can find a rental more easily.
During this time, you can follow the steps below to ensure you have a strong financial foundation for getting a lease. You may even find yourself capable of buying a starter home if you execute your plans well and have a little luck.
Review your credit report
Begin by taking a full, honest look at your financial situation. There’s no shame here, everyone goes through financial rough patches. Recovering after a difficult financial time takes dedication, but you can do it. So begin by pulling a free copy of your credit report from all three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Make a list of what’s causing your low credit score and needs to be addressed:
- High credit card balances
- Late payments
- Balance in collections
If there are negative marks that seem to be in error, you can contest those errors. Otherwise, make your list and sign up for free credit tracking through your bank or a service such as Credit Karma, assessed such as:
- Lack of credit history
Set a credit score goal
Setting a score goal is a great way to motivate yourself and track your progress. Most landlords and rental agencies are happiest with scores at or above 720. But, many will accept scores as low as 680. Just remember that you may be competing with other prospective renters, so the higher your score the better.
You really don’t have limits here. Reach for the highest credit score you can get, and celebrate your milestones along the way. Great credit scores are built by practicing great financial habits every day. Celebrating milestones gives you time to honor your hard work and boosts your confidence.
Pay off debts
Debt is the number one killer of good credit, and there are three debts that have a big impact on your score:
- Collections debts: unpaid bills that are now with collections agencies
- Credit card debts: unpaid balances on a credit card
- Other loan debt known as “good” debt, such as a student loan
Debts in collections hurt you the most and have the longest-running impact, even after the debt has been paid. Pay these down first. If you have any bills with late payments, you’ll also want to address those as soon as possible.
When your payments are in good standing and your collections are paid off, focus on your “bad” debt – credit card balances. Having a high balance on your credit card drags your score down. Luckily, paying down your balance can boost your credit score quickly, within 30 days of lowering your balance. The lower your balance goes, the higher your score will climb.
Finally, you can also pay down your “good” debt. That includes your student loans or car loans, which can hinder your ability to pay your other bills. Be sure to also take advantage of programs like Income Based Repayment plans if they’re available.
Get a credit card
You need credit to build credit. Getting a secured credit card is a great way to build credit. You may start with a low balance, typically less than $500, that you pay in full beforehand (prepay). After some time, your lender or creditor may offer you a traditional credit card with a revolving line of credit.
Another option is to be added as an authorized user on someone else’s credit card. The good news here is that you don’t ever need to physically possess the card or make a purchase with it to get the benefit of a higher credit score. Just be sure to work with someone who does not keep a balance on their credit card.
Take out a loan
Another way to build credit is by getting an installment loan and paying it off on time every month. You may need to work with a community bank or credit union. And you may need to provide a cash deposit to back your installment loan. For example, you may be asked to open a Certificate of Deposit that you use as collateral for your loan.
Consider living with a roommate
A roommate with better credit can make things easier for you while you continue to build your credit. If you have a high income, you may be able to join forces with someone with a lower income but higher score. You should also find it easier to save money as living expenses tend to be lower with roommates. Just make sure you know how to find a good roommate that fits with your lifestyle.
Make payments on time
A positive payment history is an important part of your credit score. Making payments on time every month is critical in building and maintaining good credit. Late payments become less relevant as they age, and as you continue to make your payments on time. Eventually, late payments will “fall off” your credit history.
Monitor your credit over time
Checking your score at least once a month is a great way to ensure you’re staying on top of your financial obligations and meeting your goals. It’s also important for ensuring that incorrect information stays off your credit report and allows you to catch suspicious activity early. There are many free services that allow you to track your score.