How to Rent an Apartment with Bad (or No) Credit

Don’t let one financial mistake stop you from renting your dream apartment

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Having bad credit score (below 650) or no credit at all is not the best situation to be in on so many levels because a credit score is a pretty good reflection of how responsible you are with your finances.

Normally, a bad credit score would deter most people from going out to look for new spaces because a landlord would most likely require a credit history report after all.

Thankfully, there are ways to work around it.  

In my experience, I’ve realized that not all landlords require the same documentation. Sure there are pretty standard documents, but a credit history report isn’t typically one of them.

Some landlords I’ve met follow their gut about people after doing basic checks, others make you jump through hoops and do the Macarena before handing you the keys.

Here are a few suggestions that might help with your apartment hunt if your credit score isn’t the best.

Our best tips for renting an apartment with bad credit:

  • Be honest about your situation

  • Get a cosigner

  • Ask for a referral from your previous landlord(s)

  • Offer to pay more rent

  • Prove that you are working towards being financially responsible

  • Have a stable source of income

  • Work with a real estate professional

  • Find a roommate

Be Honest About Your Situation

When reaching out to potential landlords for viewing appointments, it helps to be upfront about your credit situation.

You come across as honest and trustworthy from the get-go and this saves both you and your potential landlord much time.

Related: How to Position Yourself as the Perfect Tenant

Get a Cosigner

Getting a co-signer is a great option. A family member is usually top of the list and some people even manage to convince their friends to cosign their lease.

If you must use a cosigner, make sure their credit score is good (750+) and they can afford to pay your rent after their own expenses should you be strapped for cash in the future.

Ask for a Recommendation from your Previous Landlords

Some potential landlords would like to know your rental history and reaching out to your former landlords to vouch for you and letting them know you paid your rent on time might be helpful.

Offer to Pay More Rent

If the landlord is asking for the first and last month’s rent upfront, offer to pay 3 months in advance.

In some cities, it’s illegal to pay a lot of money upfront (some even frown at paying a full year’s rent upfront) so check what the regulations that guide rental agreements in your city.

If you’re able to, offer to pay a higher rent and you might get the apartment.

Prove that you are Working Towards Being Financially Responsible

We all make bad financial decisions sometimes, but the important thing is to work on changing the situation.

Whether it’s paying your bills on time or getting credit counselling, work towards increasing your credit score and show your potential landlord that you’re being financially responsible.

Have a Stable Source of Income

Credit is just one criteria that is used to make a rental decision. The other major piece is income.

You must have a stable source of income that would cover your monthly rent.

Sometimes, showing you have enough income is enough to get the apartment, as some landlords wouldn’t bother checking your credit.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Apartment Hunting

Work with a Professional

Use an experienced, professional and well-connected real estate broker. If you plan on going this route, be prepared to put down a higher deposit, and have a cosigner with great credit.

Not everyone can afford this service, so another option could be to do the apartment search on your own and stay away from leasing companies and apartment complexes.

Instead, check rental platforms (I have some great recommendations here) to find private landlords that would be willing to accept your situation.

Find a Roommate

As a last resort, you could find someone to rent the apartment with (this person must have good credit).

Having a roommate will save you some money that you can put towards paying off your debt and being more responsible with money.

Related: The Pros and Cons of Having a Roommate

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