How to Get an Apartment With Bad Credit

There’s no doubt landlords have a real fondness for tenants who pay their rent on time, and finding apartments that don’t check credit at all or are A-OK with a low credit score is rare. In fact, most landlords want to delve deep into your financial past, so if you’ve had a complicated relationship with credit cards and on-time bill paying, listen up! You can score an apartment despite your low credit score, but it’ll take some effort and patience.

How to get an apartment with bad credit

Basically, a landlord will check your credit score, which sums up how well you’ve paid off past debts. So what if your credit score is less than stellar, due to a few late or missed payments, or worse?

Never fear—a poor credit report doesn’t mean you’re destined to live on the streets. Even if you flunk the credit check, there are apartments out there that accept tenants with a less-than-stellar credit score. Just check out these steps on how to rent an apartment with bad credit.

1. Check your credit report

Before you begin apartment hunting, your first step toward getting a rental (with bad credit or not) should be to check your credit report. You’re entitled to a free copy at

You want to do a credit check before you start poking around for apartments, advises Marin King, a New York attorney and real estate agent at Keller Williams NYC who specializes in rental properties.

“The worst thing you can do is go through the entire process of applying for a lease and then you don’t get approved because you had no clue you had bad credit,” King says.

But if you’re not in the “good credit” range, there are still ways to get approved for apartments even if you’re plagued by a flawed credit report.

Here’s how to make your rental application more attractive even if your credit history isn’t so pretty.

2. Plead your case

If you’re applying to a leasing building, apartment complex, or property management company, there may not be a lot of wiggle room in terms of credit score requirements, says King.

Most management companies will check credit, and they’ll be firm. But if you’re applying to an individual landlord, you might be able to get your poor credit overlooked.

King recommends writing a letter to the landlord explaining your financial situation; be sure to include what steps you’re taking to repair your credit (you’ve already started paying your credit card balance in full every month, right?). That can help swing the landlord and convince him to let you rent with bad credit. Think of this as campaigning to convince your future landlord that you’ve got the chops to be a reliable renter, despite your credit history.

3. Use a co-signer

Renters with subpar credit scores often get help from a co-signer (also called a guarantor). If you use one, that person’s credit score is taken into consideration, which helps compensate for your lower score. But before you ask Mom or Dad to co-sign, make sure they understand the risk involved.

“If you can’t pay rent, for whatever reason, your co-signer is going to be liable for the money,” King says. Make sure you can assure your co-signer she won’t be left paying your rent.

4. Pay rent in advance

If you have poor credit, one way to strengthen your apartment application is by offering to pay several months of rent upfront, because it gives the landlord more assurance that you’re going to be a responsible tenant.

“Landlords don’t say ‘no’ to money,” so this could be your in to a low credit score apartment, King says. It may seem like a frustrating and expensive solution, but think of it as another step toward minimizing your credit obstacles and proving yourself financially trustworthy.

5. Beef up your security deposit

Similar to paying rent in advance, upping your security deposit gives the landlord financial incentive to approve your application for a rental. Consider doubling or tripling the requested security deposit, King suggests.

6. Include written recommendations from past landlords

To demonstrate you’ll be a good tenant, provide positive letters from previous landlords. These should specify that you paid rent on time, respected neighbors, and kept the property in good shape.

7. Get buy-in from your employer

Many landlords will contact your boss to verify income, and this is especially true if you’re making a case that you should rent an apartment with bad credit in your past. Understandably, they want to make sure you have a solid income.

Take an extra step and get your manager or human resources department to write a letter to the landlord.

“Have them speak to the fact that you’re a valued employee,” says King. Doing so will demonstrate to the landlord that you have job stability—a compelling factor for every rental applicant that may just give you the edge to get an apartment despite your bad credit.

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