Landlords and apartment complexes are among the many businesses that use your credit to decide whether or not let you borrow money or services. Bad credit can cause you to end up homeless, if you're looking in the wrong places.
Different landlords have different credit requirements. Some might deny your rental application if you have blotchy credit, even if you have a spotless rental history and a sizable salary.
If you’re worried that a bad credit history will keep you from finding a place to live, there are other options you can exercise.
Avoid A Credit Check
The best way to get an apartment when you have bad credit is to find a landlord that doesn’t do credit checks. Typically, apartment complexes are owned by large property management companies that require a credit check on all applications. These are the types of apartments that are most likely to turn you down if you have bad credit. So, start your search elsewhere.
Start by looking on Craigslist, an online classified listing. In the housing section of Craiglist, apartment owners advertise rentals (apartments, condos, townhouses, and houses) they have available. Years ago, very few management-owned apartment complexes listed here and it was easier to find individual landlords. Now you'll find all type of rentals in the mix. Landlords still advertise here, but you'll have to sort through lots of listings to find them.
The classified section of your local newspaper (or that of the area you’re interested in moving to) is another place where property owners advertise for rentals. Sunday's paper usually has the most advertisements. Many newspapers have their classified ads listed online, too, so explore this option if you're moving out of town.
Many homeowners, especially those who live out of town, use real estate agents to rent their homes. Check with real estate agents in your area to find an apartment, townhouse, condo, or house to rent.
You can feel out landlords to figure out if they do a credit check. As you inquire about an apartment, ask the landlord what criteria is used to approve tenants for the rental. If credit check isn't one of them, then you have one less thing to worry about. However, if there is a credit check involved, you have some additional options for getting approved.
Getting someone to vouch for your financial responsibility can help dampen the effect of negative entries on your credit report. Contact people with whom you've have a financial relationship – previous landlords, your bank, current/previous employers.
Unpaid past due balances, especially to other landlords or utility companies, are more likely to get you denied. If you have past due accounts on your credit report, pay them off and get the creditor or lender to write a letter stating the account has been paid in full.
Soften the negativity of your credit report with a letter that explains the situation that caused your financial problems to persuade the landlord to rent to you. Divorce, medical bills, and job loss are common situations that lead to bad credit. Make sure your letter describes how you've cleaned up your finances and why you can handle a rent.
Be careful about the situations in which you use letters of recommendation. If a landlord hasn't checked your credit and isn't aware of your credit history he may become unnecessarily suspicious when you hand him a letter explaining your past financial problems. Landlords have to get your permission before checking your credit, so it won't be a surprise when they do.
Have A Co-Signer
Getting someone to co-sign your lease is another option. Your co-signer will need to meet the necessary credit qualifications.
Keep in mind that if you skip out on your rent or get evicted for any reason, the landlord can legally go after the co-signer for the value of the lease. Use other people's credit sparingly and be more careful with it than your own.
It Can Cost More
Whether you're able to get around the credit check altogether or you get approved for an apartment despite your credit history, expect to pay more money upfront. You'll might be required to pay a higher security deposit or several months of rent to move into your new apartment.
If you don’t have the best credit and will be moving in the near future, start setting some money aside and begin looking for a new place as early as possible. The sooner you start looking, the more time you'll have to prepare.
Better Credit For The Future
A bad credit history doesn't mean you won't pay your rent on time. Unfortunately, your credit report and score might tell a different story. Even though you can work around some credit checks, you often end up paying more than you would have otherwise. That's why it's important to take steps to ensure your credit report matches your bill-paying habits.