How to Rent an Apartment with Bad Credit

Cole Mayer  | 

There’s a plethora of reasons for having bad credit: recently losing a job, a financial setback that was not in your control, medical problems, having your identity stolen – just to name a few. Typically, landlords want renters with credit around the national average, about 680. Renting an apartment with bad credit isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible. Here’s how to get an apartment with bad credit and convince the landlord to hand over the keys.

Find an Apartment That Doesn’t Check Your Credit

This is the simplest method, but is easier said than done. You will probably be out of luck with apartments managed by large property management companies, so your best bet is to find apartments owned by individual landlords. They may not look at your credit score, or they may be willing to take a risk. Property management companies are looking to mitigate risks, and are likely to deny you outright.

For finding individual owners, search Craigslist, the classified section of your local newspaper, or just wander around the prospective neighborhood – the owner may only advertise with a sign on the property.

Know What Landlords Are Looking For

If you can’t find a landlord that doesn’t credit check, fear not. There are other options. But first, it’s important to know what landlords are actually looking for in a credit check – it’s not just your credit score. Some of the bigger concerns include:

  • Poor payment history – especially with utilities
  • Credit collections or garnished wages – meaning you didn’t pay someone else
  • Bankruptcies – showing you may not be good with money
  • Too many credit cards – which can also hurt your credit by itself
  • A high amount of debt – meaning your money is going elsewhere

Be Upfront And Honest

First, explain your problems and be honest. Your bad credit may have extenuating circumstances, and the landlord could be willing to overlook your credit. Showing improvement will also be favorable in a landlord’s eye. Be prepared to show how you are taking steps to improve your credit, showing you are responsible and that the landlord can count on you to pay rent.

Get a Co-Signer on Your Lease or Rental Agreement

Having a co-signer on the rental agreement is the easiest way to skirt around a bad credit score, when checked. It shows the landlord that someone trusts you. The co-signer does not live in the apartment, but agrees to pay the bills should you stop paying and default on your rent. But, that can be the complicated part – finding someone who trusts you to keep paying. Try a parent, relative, or trusted friend who has good credit. Be warned – your relationship, should you stop paying, could take a turn for the worse if the co-signer needs to start paying.

Get a Roommate

If you are willing to share your living space, consider moving in with a roommate. The roommate may be the only person with a name on the lease or renting agreement, but you agree to pay a share with them. As a bonus, this eases your personal financial burden, allowing you to pay off debt and repair your credit faster.

The downside is, if you’re not on the lease your rental history at that location, and any consistent payments associated with it will not be part of your credit history and will do you no favors the next time you look for a new place to live.

Offer a Larger Deposit

You can make yourself more appealing to the landlord by offering a larger security deposit up front. This may not be an option – some rental properties have specific rules for security deposits – but if possible, it’s a sign of good faith to the landlord. Another, similar tactic is offering more upfront in rent. Instead of the typical first and last month’s rent, offer the first three or six months in advance.

Offer Direct Deposit Payment

Much like offering a larger deposit upfront, you can offer to pay by direct deposit – the money is automatically taken out of your bank account and goes into the landlord’s coffers. So long as you have a steady paycheck or money in the bank, they don’t have to worry about being paid. This helps build a history of consistent payment, which will also reflect on your credit score going forward.

Provide Letters of Recommendation

If you have rented in the past and paid on time, with no complaints from previous landlords, ask those landlords to write letters of recommendation. These provide peace of mind, with previous landlords confirming you paid on time and were a good tenant. These can show you are a responsible tenant who will not cause problems, that you have more character than a bad credit score shows.

Pay More

If you need a room immediately, you may just have to take the hit and pay a “risk” fee, increasing your rent. It’s not ideal, but it could get a roof over your head. This is, again, a gesture of good faith to show the landlord you are serious about living on their property.

Having bad credit means it’s harder to convince a landlord to rent you a property – but it can be done with honesty and negotiation. Plus, with many of these strategies, your credit will improve – making it easier the next time you need to rent an apartment.


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Cole Mayer is an online marketing specialist and corporate blog writer. A former newspaper journalist, he spends his free time freelance writing, playing video games, and learning about every subject under the sun. Follow Cole on Twitter: @ColeMayer42

This post was updated April 12, 2017. It was originally published February 27, 2017.