How to Rent an Apartment With Bad Credit

A good explanation, big deposit, automatic withdrawals and proof of ample income may help.
Bev O'Shea
Erin El Issa
By Erin El Issa and  Bev O'Shea 
Edited by Hanah Cho
How to Rent an Apartment With Bad Credit-story

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High demand and steep monthly payments aren’t the only things that could come between you and the apartment you want. Another potential obstacle is your credit score. Without good credit, you’re at a disadvantage against other applicants.

But having bad credit doesn’t mean you can’t get a good apartment.

Here are several ways to try to convince a landlord you would be a suitable tenant.

1. Explain your situation

Don’t let a bad credit score surprise a potential landlord. Check your free credit reports before you apply for an apartment. If errors are holding down your score, dispute them. You want your credit report to look as good as it possibly can. If your credit slipped when you had a medical emergency or lost a job, be prepared to explain it.

2. Offer a larger deposit

Knowing there is a larger reserve to draw on if you pay late may help a landlord be more willing to take on a tenant whose score is less than stellar.

3. Offer to set up automatic payments

Landlords want to get paid. A combination of bank statements, verified income and automatic payments can be persuasive.

4. Get someone to vouch for you

Character references can help — and certainly won’t hurt. If you’ve rented before and a former landlord can write a letter of recommendation, so much the better.

5. Get a co-signer

Sometimes rules are rigid and you simply cannot get approved because of your score. If that happens, consider adding a co-signer to your lease. But realize it’s a lot to ask of someone — it obligates them to pay your rent if you do not. If you fail to pay, it could harm their credit and your relationship.

6. Give yourself extra time to look

It could take longer to find a suitable apartment that will accept you as a tenant. You’re looking for a landlord with the flexibility to consider an applicant whose scores may be lower than they typically accept.

7. Verify income

If your income is high enough to easily afford rent payments, showing proof of that might help persuade a landlord you're a better risk than your score indicates.

After you move in

Once you’re settled in your new living space, you can work on building your credit.

Your bad credit may mean you have little access to credit cards. If you don’t qualify for credit cards for bad credit, you may need to start with a secured card. Another good option is taking out a credit-builder loan.

Using both methods can give you a credit history that includes both revolving loans (credit card) and installment loans (equal payments over time) — and that will help boost your score even more.

In any case, the key to better credit over time is paying all your bills — including the rent on your new place — on time and in full. Look into whether you can save money on bills to make paying them a bit easier.